I don’t consider myself to be an ultra runner (yet) but I am working towards it. I started running from couch to 5k 3.5 years ago. This is hardly enough time for a sufficient running base to develop let alone to consider myself as an ultra runner! Yes, I’ve completed ultras but I have only been dipping my toe into the ultra world.
My 1st ultra was the White Rose Ultra in November 2015. A 30 miler across mixed terrain. It was this even that made me realise that distance running is something I wanted to explore more (thanks to Howard for planting the idea into my head). Since then I’ve completed:
- Canalathon – 50k
- Gritstone Grind – 35 miles
- Dukeries 40 – 40.8 miles
- Gower 50 – 51.8 miles (due to getting lost)
- Hardmoors Roseberry – 30.2 miles
- Salisbury 54321 – 31.3 miles
- Thunderrun x 2 (2015 & 2016)
- Supporting Two Saints Way challenge (30 miles + 20 miles)
Although I have done a few events, I haven’t really aimed for anything specific. Occasionally I have mentioned a time I wanted but as soon as the event starts, I get carried away with the atmosphere and thoughts of a finish time soon seem irrelevant – which is good.
So after the latest adventure of Two Saints way, listening to all the different experiences of new and established ultra runners, I reflected back on my experiences and here’s what I have learnt:
- Wear sunscreen
- Base mileage is a must! Getting used to doing hours upon hours of run/walk is needed. If you read blogs/books of the established runners, you see that many have developed a base over a few years….not a few months!
- I think I am moving into the phase where my base mileage is becoming engrained. When you can complete 40 or so miles with relative ease a few times over, for me, I think my base mileage is getting to the beginning end of being developed. This has taken 18 months.
- You have to train your body to fuel on the go. It’s the only way I can complete a long distance event. For me, this took at least 6 months to do. Even after 6 months I could only stomach the basics. As time went by, I kept training my stomach. Now I can eat pretty much anything on the go! Hot dogs, sandwiches, cheese-filled oatcakes, chocolate, cola…anything put in front of me 😀
- Eating little and often is key. My stomach can’t handle large chunks of food. It takes a lot of body effort to consume and utilise food. Little and often (from mile 3) usually means the food isn’t rejected.
- Exactly the same for fluids too!
- Good quality socks are a must. For me that’s injini. I have only had 2 blisters, one from new shoes on a trail marathon and one from a mud run. Never had a lost/black toe nail
- Look after your feet! This means at least one pedicure a week for me. I spend at least one hour a week taking care of my feet. Yes some may say this is excessive but as ugly as feet are, mine don’t look too bad. 😉
- Don’t be afraid to have toilet breaks outside. Embrace nature folks
- Ladies, strengthen those pelvic floor muscles. If you’re out running for several hours, the last thing you want is a bit of leakage 😉
- Slow the F*** down. This is not a road marathon! Don’t treat it like one either. I start off easy and I usually overtake many in the last half of the event.
- Get used to taking walk breaks. But what ever you do, don’t stop unless you absolutely must. Grab your fuel from the aid station and keep on moving. Eat and drink whilst walking. It can be piggin’ tough to get those legs moving again once you stop. You may as well walk slowly and cover a bit of extra distance
- Walk up hills and let gravity take you down the hills. Run the flat.
- Include power walking in your training programme, preferably on hilly, technical terrain. You use your muscles in different ways on these walks and this can really help power through tough sections where others are failing.
- You may as well get used to running through nettles/brambles/cow sh*t.
- Use climbing over stiles as a good opportunity to stretch those aching muscles
- Never underestimate the amount of kit you need, especially if running in mountainous areas. Personally, the minimum I take an emergency bag, waterproofs, 1st aid kit, map/compass, money, gloves, buff/hat, spare top.
- Learn to f*****g navigate! Seriously, go on a course and learn to use a map and compass.
- Strength train
- Following on, do your long training runs with your kit. No one gives a sh*t what you look like carrying full kit on a local trail. And frankly, why would you care what they think of you?
- Eat as soon as you can afterwards whether you want food or not. For me, it makes a big difference to long term recovery.
- Read ultra runner blogs. Advice is based on experience. Some will be useful, others will not. It is only your experiences that will determine what is useful to you.
Finally, in the words of Baz Luhrmann:
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen‘