10 quick tips for running an ultramarathon

Man running over hills in ultramarathon
Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

Ultramarathons are becoming more and more popular (and more achievable than ever). Run Deep ultra expert Helena Stroud rounds up her best quick tips to help you when taking on your first or next ultra-distance event.

1. Start slow, get slower

The golden rule of ultramarathon running. This ain’t a 5K! Your race should be paced for endurance, so expect to run really very slowly indeed, and to walk bits of it, or you’ll blow up and DNF.

2. Not just any ultra…

If you’re running an ultra, it’s going to take a lot of training – often more than a marathon. So find a race that interests and inspires you. You’ll be more invested in your training, and in finishing.

3. Expert advice

Try and find someone who’s run the race and get their tips for the day. What’s the course like? Are there any tricky bits? What shoes are best for the terrain? These kinds of tips can be invaluable.

4. Walk the ups, jog the flats, run the downs

You’ll end up walking a fair bit during the race, so plan to walk the steep parts, maintain a steady jog over flat bits, and coast down the hills. Don’t try and run up hills, or you’ll push your heart rate too high and blow up.

5. Recce it, Ralph!

Unless you’re running a very well-marked course, it’s often a good idea to recce the route beforehand. If it’s night and you’ve been running for 10 hours, you won’t be functioning at 100%, so minimise your chances of getting lost!

6. Don’t be de-feeted

You’re going to be spending a lot of time on your feet, so look after them! Experiment with anti-chafe creams and Vaseline, file down big callouses, and treat your feet like the superstars they are.

7. Practice makes perfect

You’re going to need to eat and drink on the hop, so practice nutrition and hydration strategies on your long runs. Try to include ‘real’ food. You’ll get really sick of jelly babies after a while, but you need to know if cheese sarnies are going to agree with you…

8. All in the mind

Ultramarathon running is a mental game. It’s inevitable that you will hurt, so you need to be able to push yourself through mental blocks. Make a list of the excuses you might find to pull yourself out of the race, then write down the answers to why you should carry on. Learn them by heart, so they become second nature and you won’t use up precious mental energy in the race arguing with yourself about whether or not you should continue.

9. Testing, testing…

Does your race have a mandatory kit list? Make sure you have everything on it, and that each item is thoroughly tested before you get to start line. This is not the time to find out that your headtorch only has 3 hours of battery life.

10. Have fun!

Yes, it will hurt. But remember why you chose to do this in the first place! This is an incredible adventure, and a huge physical feat. Enjoy the race, marvel at the scenery, chat to the other lovely runners, and soak in every last drop of the experience.