As you follow your passion for running, you will be tempted to run more and more distances with every long run you complete. This is a completely natural thing, and the desire to perform better should always stay with you. Now that you have probably ran a marathon, you would like to believe that a marathon is the ultimate test of a runner’s endurance. Wrong. Ultramarathons or races longer than 26.2 miles (roughly translated into 50 km) are getting increasingly popular these days. If you want to know how to become an ultra runner, this is just for you.
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How to Become an Ultra Runner: Preparing for The Race
Ultrarunning isn’t a joke and requires mental grit as well as lots of physical training. However, confidence is the first step in the beginner's guide to ultra running.With proper training and practice, any runner can successfully complete an ultra marathon. The most important requirements are dedication and willingness to learn.If you are looking forward to taking the next leap in running, this article will be very useful for you.
If you have decided to take up ultra running, it is vital for you to understand that it is not a short-term training. Runners often devote a lot of their time learning how to become an ultra runner.
Let us get started on the first step towards your goal and look at some pre-requisites:
1. Believe That You Can Do It
For making the leap from a marathoner to an ultramarathoner, the first step is to believe that you can do it. All successful ultrarunners vouch for this fact. Mental challenges for running an ultramarathon are just as important as physical challenges, and when you decide that you have to start your ultramarathon training, you get a head start.
2. Don’t Rush
Haste makes waste. Remember this during your training. It is very tempting to attempt an ultramarathon as soon as you feel you can complete it. But we strongly advise you to devote ample of time to practice for one before attempting. If you happen to injure yourself because of lack of practice, it might take you months to recover. This wastage of time is detrimental to your practice and your goals.
In addition to the above-mentioned basic training conditions, you must ensure that you can run not only on the road but also on trails. Because an ultra runner will definitely encounter trails on the course, you should make sure that you start running on such trails already during your practice sessions. This will familiarise you with the strategy that works for this kind of running. As a result, the likelihood of you spraining your ankle on such a trail is lesser, and it will be easier for you to learn how to become an ultra runner.
3. Practice Slow Running
One of the biggest differences between running a marathon and running an ultramarathon is your pace. This difference is the basis of many ultramarathon tips. In order to successfully complete ultramarathons, being consistent is far more important than being fast. If you constantly train your body to run slower but longer, you will surely be able to become a successful ultra runner.
4. Practice Running on Challenging Courses
Ultramarathons are as much a mental game as physical. Therefore, you must start practicing running on courses that are specific for running ultra marathons. Different part of the trail will involve a different running style, and you need to train yourself to judge these parts and perform well.
Let us look at some of the course-specific features that you will face during your run.
Because the run spans over such a great distance, training for this kind of run should invariably include running over hills. The incline of the hills will give your training the right start. If you want to know how to become an ultra runner, you should study the elevation charts of the terrain that you use for practice.
Ultramarathons are characterized by difficult and challenging terrain. Sometimes, the run will involve very high altitude. Therefore, in order to be able to cover this part of the course, your ultramarathon training should include practice runs at high elevation.
Because ultramarathons are really long races, you will encounter varying temperature during the run. If you start early in the morning, you will experience cooler surroundings compared to your mid-day run. Thus, you should practice running at a different temperature.
Night Time Running
Many ultramarathons extend well beyond sunset. This is why you should be adept at running at night time. Including this in your practice sessions will go a long way to ensure that your body and mind are not fazed by night time running.
5. Understand Your Racing Nutritional Needs
Unlike marathons, running an ultramarathon will require you to run at different paces for a considerable portion of a day. Therefore, the calorie requirements of your body will much more. Many ultramarathon training programs make it clear that your body needs 200 – 400 calories per hour of running. These calories may come from any source- solid food, energy bars or gels. Of course, you also have to understand the optimal hydration level of your body.
6. Train Under Proper Guidance
Perhaps the most important point on your ‘how to become an ultra runner’ quest is to find a trainer to guide you. Finding someone who has experience in this type of running is beneficial for your goal.
How to Become an Ultra Runner: Making the Transition
So, you have gone ahead with the tips mentioned above and started your ultramarathon training. As your big day approaches, there is a magic word to focus on: taper. Just as tapering is crucial before a marathon, it is also recommended before an ultramarathon. If you want to know what is an ultra runner tapering schedule, you should refer to our detailed article on marathon tapering. Here, you will find the detailed tapering schedule before a marathon. The same should be followed before an ultramarathon too. You should definitely focus on resting and pay attention to prepare your body for the big day.
Spend time with loved ones, give yourself a pat on your back for being devoted and dedicated towards ultrarunning. Find inspiration by reading success stories of ultra runners and remind yourself that you always wanted to know how to become an ultra runner.
The Race Day
As you are about to start your first ultramarathon, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious. You must not worry about the outcome of the run. What you should focus on instead, is the running strategy and remember the efforts you have put into the ultramarathon training. Here are few tips:
- Start easy and steady, making sure that your intake of about 100 calories every half an hour is maintained.
- Remember to take salt tablets every 90 minutes.
- Don’t run on steep inclines and try to walk over these stretches.
- It is absolutely OK to walk for short stretches in between your race. In fact, a running: walking ratio of 15 minutes:1 minute is a great way to maintain our stamina during the run.
- Take the help of pacers who run with you for motivating you. You could ask your best friend or a fit family member to be your pacer for some portion of the track, especially towards the end.
Post Race Routine
Once you experience the magical moment of completing the race, allow yourself to breathe. It is important to recover your body post marathon event. Congratulate yourself and your grit for completing a rather difficult task. These moments of happiness and exhilaration would soon be replaced with a feeling of soreness in your muscles and general fatigue. Refuel your body and do a few stretches immediately as you finish the race. Hydrate yourself well and treat yourself to your favourite hot meal. Take it easy for about a week before resuming your routine running routine.
How to Become an Ultra Runner: Final Verdict
You should remember that running an ultramarathon is not for the faint-hearted. If you are sure that you will be able to devote time and channelize your efforts in the right direction for this training, only then should you try how to become an ultra runner. Successful completion of an ultramarathon is as much a mental game as physical. Staying happy and positive during your training is a key factor that determines your success.