Welcome to ultramarathon running: ten quick tips to help you go the distance

Last updated: 21-Aug-18

By Andy Mouncey

1 The Distance

Remember – it’s never the distance on its own which will kill you. What the distance does is compound the cumulative stuff you have to deal with. There’s always more than one thing happening and it will happen time and time again. This means that the stuff you found easy to deal with in the first two hours become game-changers 10 hours later.

2 Your Feet 

Learn to love your feet. Cut nails straight across and file smooth, file down callouses, and keep the skin flexible. Preventative care beats emergency action every time!

3 Rubbing and Chafing

Sort out which bits chafe on what combination of gear at a particular level of effort in different weathers – if not, it will seriously ruin your day. The only way to do that? Experiment.

4 Hype

Don’t believe the hype No 1. Just because it says ‘3 gels an hour’ doesn’t mean you’ll need ’em. Remember who wrote that: that’s right – the gel manufacturers.

5 Lighten Up

Travel light: just because you have a big shiny new rucksack doesn’t mean you have to fill it with gear. (And it’s very easy to because, boy, is there lots of lovely gear to choose from these days). Switch to a bumbag and hand-held bottle for that light, speedy feeling.

6 Give Back, Feel Good 

A great way to get your mind off your stuff is to hook up with someone a little slower / newer than you and help ’em through the race or through a section.

7 If It’s A Faff, You Won’t Do It

The ‘faff’ factor. Pack your kit so you can reach the stuff you need to reach when you need to reach it. Supplementary pouches, pockets, loops are all great. Sort out which bits flap and fix ’em. Little irritants become big downers very quickly over the long stuff – and you’ll need all of your sense of humour.

8 Hype Again

Don’t believe the hype No 2. Everyone on a start line has either not trained enough, is injured, or is just planning to ‘take it easy’. And if you believe that…

9 Take The Lead

Never assume the person in front of you knows where they are going. Take responsibility for getting the route notes in a format that makes it easy for you to use. And if that means copying, highlighting, reducing / enlarging and laminating in the days before the race, then do it.

10 Feet Up

It’s absolutely OK to not run at all for the last 10 days before a 100 mile race after spraining your ankle ligaments during your final key training session. Believe me, I know.

Andy specializes in coaching ultra-marathon runners and triathletes in person and by telephone so that their training has balance and their race performance becomes more consistent. Andy is also the resident running coach on Alpine Oasis trail running camps, which run in the UK and France. For more information please visit.

Read Andy’s other articles on Run Ultra:

10 Things you need to know about ultramarathon running.

Another 10 things you need to know about ultramarathon running.

Harness your emotions.

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Global - Virtual

Elevation

A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Elevation

An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Brutal

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Expert

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Advanced

Elevation

Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Intermediate

Elevation

Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Beginner

Elevation

Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.