Ultrarunning For Beginners

7 tips to run your first ultra and enjoy it!

  • Author: Sandra Randall
  • Date Posted: 12 November 2021

7 tips to run your first ultra and enjoy it

Many runners consider marathons to be the pinnacle of running, however, ultras have become more popular in recent years, catering for all abilities.

An ultra is anything more than 26.2 miles, though traditional distances are 50km, 50 miles, 100km, 100 miles and increasingly greater distances such as 200km. To run them successfully requires planning and strategy, especially if you want to enjoy (and survive!) the experience.

1. Set a goal and create a training plan

Be realistic. You can’t decide to run 100 kilometres and run it next month. Pick an event that is at least six months away and create a training plan. You should already be running at least 60 kilometres a week and be ready to steadily increase your distance. It’s a big commitment and will take a lot of time.

2. Run mostly long, slow miles

Most ultra-runners focus on endurance and run slow, steady miles. 80% of your training will be easy runs so you can recover more easily. Learning to power walk is a great skill to learn, as on longer distances walking up hills and on tricky terrain is common.

3. Incorporate hills and some speed

The final 20% of your training should be anaerobic in nature with a combination of some hills and threshold or speed training. If the terrain of your chosen race is undulating, hill training will be essential so that your legs become accustomed to them.

4. Strength training

To help your body with the stress of longer distances it’s important to do some training to strengthen your muscles to avoid injury. Focus on your core, legs and stability.

5. Back-to-back long runs

In marathon running the long run is once a week, but in ultras it’s good practice to do two longer back-to-back runs rather than one long run, so that you can recover more easily and get used to running on tired legs. For example, doing a 40km run one day and 25km the next day.

6. Nutrition – learn to eat and drink on the run

Eating during ultras can be challenging, as some runners find it difficult to digest food after a while. Ultras are known for their smorgasbord of food, and it can be tempting to stop and eat everything. However, whilst training you should practice eating whilst on the go (the perfect time to walk) and learn what foods you tolerate best. Real food is often easier to digest than gels.


7. Sleep

To successfully train for an ultra you need to get enough sleep. This is the foundation for recovery and staying healthy.

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