Super long distance running requires courage and quality training. And, although it is not easy to participate in ultramarathons, they are available to everyone who has the time and desire to train.

An ultramarathon is any competition longer than a marathon distance.

The most common races are considered to be 50 and 100 kilometers, but there are other distances.

Although the distance can vary, and the terrain is very varied – from smooth asphalt to difficult mountain trails, similar training principles apply to any ultramarathon distance.

How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the distance of which passes through the territory of France, Italy and Switzerland

1. Build a “base”

Preparing for an ultramarathon requires a constant increase in “base” kilometers while simultaneously incorporating speed and interval training.

It is recommended that you set aside at least 6 months to get ready, but depending on your running experience it may take longer.

To start preparing for an ultramarathon, you must be able to run continuously for an hour at a so-called conversational pace, gradually increasing your weekly mileage.

For the first two months, focus on increasing mileage with light, long runs. Beginners in long distance running need to run at a slower pace than they are used to.

After two months, it is worth adding more terrain workouts that mimic the terrain of the selected race, especially if it is an ultra trail marathon. The transition to running with uneven terrain and elevation changes may require a change in pace.

Do not be alarmed if you feel very slow at first – in basic runs, the main thing is not the pace, but the ability to quickly recover.
How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Oldest Comrades Marathon in South Africa

2. Focus on long runs

Since ultramarathons are 50 km or more, running the entire distance in training is usually difficult. Instead, to train on tired legs, ultramarathon runners prefer to break a long run into 2 days: for example, on the first day, cover 32 km, and on the second day – another 16.

You can also break your runs not by kilometers, but by hours: for example, if you plan to finish the ultra marathon in about 6 hours, run 3 hours on Saturday and 3 on Sunday, or 4 hours on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday, or 5 hours and 1 hour the next day – you can mix it as you like. Running on Sunday will be tough at first, but it will get easier as you get warmer.

You must run the entire distance (combining days in a row) at least 3 or 4 times before running.

In the early stages of preparation, do one long run per week, gradually increasing the distance you run on the second day, until about the total mileage of the two runs is close to the distance equal to your ultramarathon.

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How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Western States Endurance Run in the USA

3. Simulate competitive conditions as much as possible

Many ultra marathon races take place on trails that cut through the mountains, which means steep climbs and descents, rocky ground and possible difficult weather conditions, such as running in snow or mud. Naturally, the best way to prepare for the diversity of the terrain is through practice.

Long runs should simulate competition conditions as much as possible. Run on a hilly road if there are significant elevation differences on the track. Try to run trail crosses at least once a week. If this is not possible, you can set up a special mode with different incline angles on the treadmill.

Hill workouts are ideal for building endurance and strength in the early stages of training. In fact, the benefits of hill running are so obvious that this type of training is usually included in many marathon and ultra marathon preparation plans.

When exercising on hills, climb slowly, trying to keep your heart rate within the lactate threshold.

If you start at 6 a.m., go for long runs at 6 a.m. and practice getting up early to eat.

Due to the length of time, changing weather and terrain, most ultra marathons have the required equipment roster. This usually includes warm clothes, a rain cover, spare batteries for your headlamp, power, and a water tank. It’s a good idea to train with this equipment on at least some of your runs to get used to the extra weight.

How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Ultra X Jordan in Jordan

4. Test Your Power Scheme

During long workouts and competitions, it is important to sign your body with energy. After a couple of hours of running, the limited reserves of glycogen in the body run out, and the runner meets the “wall” – when the body switches to getting energy from fats, the pace drops sharply. To avoid this, athletes are “fueled” with fast-acting carbohydrate sources such as energy gels and bars.

Use long runs to improve your nutrition and hydration pattern over the course of a distance. Then on the day of the competition you will clearly know how often, how much and what to eat and drink. Try a variety of gels, sports drinks, and solid foods.

Many ultra-long distance runners advise using liquid energy sources at the start and switching to solid foods later in the race. Remember to replenish electrolyte stores that you lose in sweat.

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How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Eiger Ultra Trail in Switzerland

5. Engage in strength training

An ultramarathon requires more than just a lot of mileage in preparation. You need your body to be strong, enduring, and if your race is off-road, be ready to cope with the ever-changing terrain.

When it comes to injury prevention for ultra-long distance runners, strength training is the first recommendation. In addition to enhancing skeletal support and neuromuscular coordination, strength training also increases testosterone and human growth hormone levels in the blood. These hormones help the body repair muscle damage and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Exercising your core, legs, and arms is important not only for building strength in your body, but also for helping you stay in shape during your most challenging last kilometers. When your running technique is impaired (which usually happens after several hours of continuous running), you become more vulnerable to injury. But the stronger your muscles, the longer and faster you can run without feeling very tired.

How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Chile Atacama Crossing in Chile

How to choose a preparation plan

There are many different training plans you can find in running books or on the internet. Here’s what a quality plan should include.

6 months before the start:

  • one long run per week
  • supplement it with light jogging at a conversational pace
  • increase your mileage gradually, keeping in mind the 10% rule

4 months before the start:

  • keep doing a few light runs and one long run per week. Be sure to run the next day after a long one.
  • add a hilly workout once a week
  • add one speed workout – tempo or interval, once a week. Speed ​​is not the main quality of an ultramarathon runner, but such training helps to improve endurance, develop neuromuscular coordination and add self-confidence.

2 months before the start:

  • add trail long runs if you’re going to run an ultra trail
  • practice 2 long runs in a row

21-14 days before the start:

  • Liner: Reduce your weekly mileage by 25-30% to rest after months of high stress, make recovery a priority. At this stage, it is already difficult to improve something or catch up with what has been missed, so relax and rest without pangs of conscience.
  • the mileage of long runs should also be reduced by 25-50%, speed training remains, but the number of repetitions should be reduced.
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Pay special attention to getting enough sleep a few days before starting. Perhaps, on the prelaunch night, due to excitement, it will not be possible to fall asleep.

How to prepare for your first ultramarathon
Ultra trail australia

A few tips at the start

Start slowly it’s a long run and you have nowhere to rush.

Breathe correctly: breaths should be deep and relaxed. If your breathing is jerky and panting, this is a sign that you need to slow down.

If there are very steep climbs on the route, it is better to enter them with a brisk pace than to run, especially in the first half of the distance. This way you will not waste a lot of time and save valuable energy for later.

If someone tries to overtake you – skip ahead. It is very likely that in the second half of the distance you will see each other again, only you will overtake.

Remember to eat and drink in the same mode as you did on long workouts.

Come up with your supportive mantra. She will definitely be needed.

Don’t think about the entire distance at once. Run to the nearest checkpoint, before going downhill after a hard climb, etc.

At some point, the body will start to ache, and you have no choice but to accept it. Remember the quote from Lance Armstrong: “Pain is temporary. Retirement is eternal. ”

After the race

After an ultramarathon, it is important to give your body time to fully recover. Most ultramarathon runners rest for about a month before returning to regular running. More experienced runners can feel ready faster.

However, recovery is not only about the couch warrior position, where light activities such as cycling, swimming or yoga will be more effective. If you don’t feel like being active (and this is absolutely normal!), Use the rest time to pamper yourself, for example, go for a massage or a sauna.

It’s okay to indulge in a burger and beer at the finish line, but choose healthy food during your recovery period. Eat antioxidant-rich foods (blueberries, green vegetables, nuts, fish) to get the nutrients you need for faster recovery.

Replenish the “sleep debt” – most likely, you have had days when, due to too high physical and mental stress, the quality of sleep suffered. Sleep is a powerful restorative force for the entire body, and the more you get it, the faster you will feel better.

Photo: from the websites of the organizers

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