Ultra running is a sport of the mind as well as the body. Months of preparation go into training your body to cope with the demands of competing over many hours of racing. But to be able to successfully complete an ultra marathon you need to be more than just fit. Knowing your own race strategy, nutrition plan as well as having the robustness to cope with changing conditions and challenging environments will make the difference in your race outcome. Here are some top tips to help you on your ultra marathon journey
1. Race the course
Your primary goal in any ultra-distance race is completion; do not worry about what other runners are doing and avoid chasing the clock as perhaps you might in a road race (but check if there are any time-cut-offs).
2. Take it one step at a time
Break the race into small chunks to make the distance less daunting. Use landmarks, checkpoints or places you will see your supporters and gradually tick them off. A friendly face or some warm food can transform how you feel. Take a map or table of checkpoint distances so you know the distance to your next milestone.
3. An army marches on its stomach
For ultra-distance, systematic fuelling and hydration becomes critical. You should aim for 2-300 calories per hour and ensure you have a strategy for what you’re going to eat and whether you’re carrying it or using checkpoints, I recommend a bit of both. So long as you keep the fuel going in, you’ll be surprised at how good the body is at physically keeping going. Adjust your hydration strategy based on conditions.
4. Admin matters
Attention to detail is important and will make for a much better race. Make sure you have a kit list and pack your bag logically – think about what you’ll need whilst you’re running (e.g. food) as opposed to items you can stash for emergencies. Look after your body – too warm, too cold, too wet can all have a big impact on your race.
5. Embrace the 3 degrees of fun
1st degree – enjoying the moment; 2nd degree – enjoying something straight afterwards (e.g. when you cross the finish line); 3rd degree – looking back sometime later after the trauma has subsided and enjoying the experience. You will go through a bit of all three, but the feeling when you cross the line will make it all worth it!
Tom is an ultra runner and has competed in numerous of the world’s toughest events, including: the Marathon des Sables, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, Ultra Trail Mt Fuji and the Western States 100. In 2016, Tom won the Addo Elephant 100 mile trail run and placed 2nd in the 100k ultra trail Cape Town and the 400k Cape Wrath Ultra. In March 2017 Tom retained his title by again winning the Addo Elephant 100.