Pretty much every major town through the UK has organised long-distance run events. Half and full marathons are now commonplace and the supply of races is comfortably met with demand. Most of the higher-profile events like The London Marathon have to turn keen, regular and even sometimes high-profile runners away.
For those who have completed marathons more than once, new challenges are emerging. Under the banner of the ultramarathon, (sometimes called ultra distance and also ultra running) these events are those that go more than the extra mile. The ultramarathon banner covers multiple marathons back-to-back, 24-hour races on running tracks and endurance running on treadmills for distances as great as 100k.
If that kind of competition appeals to you, the training required demands time, dedication and variety. But if you’re moderately fit and mildly mad we reckon you can do it if you follow these simple steps.
Get the right shoes
Generic cross-trainers are not going to give you the support you need for long distance running. You’ll need to grab yourself a proper pair of running shoes. Consider a trail option if you’re planning on running offroad and tackling some more rugged routes.
If budget allows, once you find the shoes for you it’s worth getting more than one pair and alternating their use. Giving your shoes a break prolongs the life of both as they’ll be able to dry out properly between each use.
Have a look at the running shoes department in our online store here where we have loads of great offers from the top brands, which you can filter as per your requirements.
Invest in some wearable tech
There are a huge range of smart watches on the market now and investing in one that monitors your heart rate, runs, training sessions and sleep patterns is a great asset to the ultramarathon runner.
There are a growing number of apps suited to ultramarathon runners which will sync with your watch and enable you to monitor, plan and adapt your training programme in the build up to every event.
If training short is time, add resistance with a running vest
Realistically very few people can dedicate a full 24 hours to training on a regular basis so you need to find other ways of getting more from your running sessions.
Do this easily with a running vest, which enables you to add, and in some cases vary, the weight. So on days when your time to run is short, add load with a vest to challenge your body.
Keep your strength up
Newcomers to long-distance running often suffer with weak glutes and cores and many have to retire from the race because of back ache before fatigue sets in. The best way to prevent this is to build one targeted strength training session into your weekly programme each week.
A set of kettlebells is probably the best investment you can make for this – they’re easy to use, take up very little space and there are a wide range of exercises that will target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back to give you the stability and strength to see you through an ultra-running session.
HIIT to get Ultramarathon fit
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is also a must for the ultra-athlete. It will stimulate the cardio vascular system to the max and over time improve your physiological reactions to all stages of exercise – setting off, keeping going and recovery.
Add variety of movement and increase the intensity of your HIIT exercises with a skipping rope, a floor ladder (or a treadmill!) to make for short but extreme sessions.
Sustain your stability
The mechanics of running are simple in that you turn from the hip and bend through the knees and ankles. But if your posture is poor, pelvic stability suffers making you move less efficiently which means you’re using more energy overall.
For shorter distances this inefficiency is close to negligible. For an ultra-event, however, it means the earlier onset of fatigue may take you out of the game as well as presenting a higher risk of pain and injury.
So, just as you should include strength training from the outset, stability training is a must for the ultra crew. Pilates is a great discipline, Swiss balls are fantastic tools and if you can access a suspension training tool the resulting core strength will have you moving like a fine-tuned machine before you know it.
Rest, recover and mentally prepare
Finally, the work required for an ultramarathon is massive and the demands it places on the body are great. You must, therefore, counterbalance all that hard work with well-earned rest days.
If your budget stretches to a regular sports massage then do treat yourself. Otherwise a good soak in the tub and a gentle walk round the block will help the muscles recover and realign.
Resting the body is also the perfect time to focus the mind. Try to visualise your up-coming sessions and events during these times and you should find your determination and focus improve.