How to Get Into Ultra Running: Things to Consider Before Starting Out

Whether you’re an avid exerciser, or you spend most of your days as a couch potato, you might’ve heard of ultrarunning at one point or another. That said, even if you’ve heard of it, you might not really know what Ultra Running is.

So what is ultrarunning? In essence, it’s the competitive running of long distances, sometimes also called ultramarathoning.

You might be wondering, just how far are these long distances? Generally, anything that goes beyond the standard 26.2 miles of a marathon is considered an ultrarunning event. However, any ultrarunner could tell you that the shortest distance they run competitively is 50 kilometers or 31.07 miles.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, keep reading below! We’ll go over exactly how you can get into ultrarunning with relative ease.

How to Get Into Ultra Running

Unfortunately, unless you’re an athletic marvel, ultrarunning isn’t something someone can just start doing. Running a minimum distance of 31.07 miles is not easy, and some serious training has to be done in order to ensure you’ll be able to complete the race without injury.


Check With Your Doctor

Before attempting any ultra running training, check with your doctor. You need to make sure there are not underlying conditions. Additionally, its imperative to get a baseline and have a support team because ultra running can take an extreme toll on your body. Your doctor may be able to guide you on recovery and what to watch for while ultra running.

In fact, choosing to ultra run is a trade off of health gains vs. health risk. A-fib and other conditions are at a higher risk of occurring due to extreme and constant pressure on the heart. Conversely, your immune system will be one of the best around. Weigh these risks carefully, as you don’t want long term damage to your health.


Develop and enact a training plan

While coming up with a training plan might sound like a daunting task, you don’t need to pull one out of thin air. In fact, there are a ton of online resources that you can start out with, and then modify to fit your personal preferences and requirements.

Some important aspects you’ll want to include in your training plan include:

  • Hill training
  • Pace and tempo work
  • Speed work utilizing intervals
  • long, easy or moderate runs

Find the proper gear

As stated above, ultrarunning isn’t something you can just start doing at the drop of a hat. You’ll need to find some good gear to keep you safe and secure during training and racing.

Some of that gear includes:

  • Running pack or vest. You’ll want one that can hold a water bottle or contains a bladder pack you can fill with water, and anything you’ll need for fuel (like energy gels or granola bars).
  • Lightweight rain jacket. This is especially important if you live in an area that is prone to rainfall.
  • Gloves. Again, especially important if you live in a cold or wet climate
  • Lightweight visor or hat. You’ll need it to keep the sun out of your face and eyes
  • Headlamp. This is only necessary if you’re planning to run in the dark
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Find a way to make your runs fun

Running 31.07 miles is a daunting task, but running a 100-mile ultrarunning race is a different beast entirely. Finding a way to keep yourself entertained can be the difference between sticking with the task and quitting halfway through.

To do this, you can try running in places that are pretty or interesting to look at. Many hiking trails are a great place to practice ultrarunning, and you don’t have to run the whole time. Walk up the hills when you need, and run them when you can.


Always have your goals in the back of your mind

Goals will always look different depending on the person who is setting them. Whether your goal is to be able to run for an hour without stopping, or to finish your first ultrarunning race, having that goal in mind while training will motivate you through the toughest parts.

This way, when you finally achieve your goal, you’ll be able to celebrate all the steps you took to get there. And, additionally, you’ll be able to set a new goal to work toward.


Bring a buddy or Join a Ultramarathoning Club!

Running by yourself can be a good way to clear your mind, but going for an extended number of miles all alone can get boring… and may not be safe! Bringing friends on your ultrarunning excursions is a great way to make your training more fun and less tedious.

Additionally, you can let your friends know about your goals, and have them help you stay honest during training. If you don’t have very many athletically inclined friends, you can probably from some local ultrarunning groups to join!


Fuel for success

Having the right fuel for your body is important for all physical activities, but especially long-distance running. Whether training or racing, you’ll have to find good foods that your stomach can handle while exercising.

The same is true with water. Making sure you’re hydrated is one of the most important steps for any ultrarunner. You lose a lot of water and electrolytes through sweat, whether it’s sunny or freezing cold, so make sure you’re putting in as many fluids as you’re letting out.


Don’t let it get boring

One of the hardest parts of ultrarunning is that it can get repetitive. Running mile after mile with no break is a great way to burn yourself out. Instead, you can implement other types of exercise into your training regiment to ward off boredom.

Cross-training options can include biking, swimming, and pretty much anything else that will help develop your leg muscles or endurance. Just remember that, before you jump into anything new, you’ll want to do your research and take it slow so you don’t hurt yourself.

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Don’t forget to take days off

Ultrarunning is not easy, and that’s something that any ultrarunner will tell you. It’s important to listen to your body and, if it is crying out for a day off, take a rest day!

Don’t worry: you won’t lose all of your physical progress just by taking a day to rest. Plus, you can use it to catch up on anything that’s fallen to the wayside during your training. Errands, housework, and even hanging out with friends are all great ways to spend your time off!


Conclusion

Ultrarunning is not for everyone. It takes some of the most mentally and physically tough athletes and makes mincemeat out of them. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not for you! If you implement the tips included in this guide and keep yourself mentally and physically fortified, you can get into ultra running and see for yourself the benefits of this awesome and grueling sport.

Get into Ultrarunning
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