Sports & Wellness
How to Train for an Ultramarathon the Right Way
If 26 miles seems too short for your liking then, you should train for an ultra marathon. Learn where to start and how to finish with success here.
Is this the year that you'll take your running goals to the next level? If you've completed a marathon in the past, then you might have your sights set on an ultramarathon.
This is one of the most prestigious, yet demanding, sporting events in the world, and it requires thoughtful planning. With the right preparation, you can enter your race with confidence and clarity, ready to cross the finish line in triumph.
Today, we're sharing how to train for your ultramarathon the right way to avoid injury, get your nutrition on track, and build your mental and physical stamina.
What Is an Ultramarathon?
Before we dive into the ultimate ultramarathon training plan, let's answer a basic question. What exactly does one entail?
Put simply, an ultramarathon is defined as any race that exceeds 26.2 miles, which is the standard distance for a traditional marathon. Most of these races cover around 50k (31 miles), though you can find plenty that start at 100k (62.1 miles) and above.
Interested in going a little further? There are also 50-mile and 100-mile ultramarathons, and even some longer than 200 miles. The longest ultramarathon in the U.K. is the Monarch's Way Ultra, which covers 615 miles over 14 days!
Step-by-Step Running Plan
It's unwise (and unsafe) to jump right into an ultramarathon without any type of training. Let's take a look at the steps to follow before the Big Day.
Step 1. Sign Up for a Race
Ideally, it's best to allow yourself at least six months to train for an ultramarathon. Yet, you may require even more time to prepare based on your personal running experience.
Take note of the dates when you're reviewing ultramarathon races. Look for one that will allow you plenty of time to get in peak physical performance before you approach the starting line.
Step 2. Build Your Baseline
It's easy to over-train for an ultramarathon at the beginning, which can exhaust your body and could even lead to injury. Instead of tacking dozens of miles onto your current running plan, start small and build your way up.
Try to increase your total mileage by around 5% to 10% each week, and nothing more. This is another reason why it's smart to schedule a race that's a few months out.
Step 3. Vary Your Terrain
When you first begin training for an ultramarathon, your goal should be to comfortably build up your mileage. Keep the runs relatively easy, but long. This not only helps fine-tune your movements and execution but also builds your confidence!
After about two months, you can slowly begin incorporating more strenuous terrain into your workout. Again, start comfortably slow. Add one moderate hill per week, as well as one faster-paced run to build your stamina.
After about a month of those moderations, take a closer look at the terrain you'll encounter in your actual race. Will you be running mostly on pavement, or will it be on a trail? Try to add in a few runs per week on paths that mimic that type of topography as closely as possible.
Step 4. Build in Long Runs
About two months before Race Day, start adding back-to-back long runs into your routine. To calculate how long each run should be, think about how long it will take you to finish the ultramarathon. Then, break that time over the course of two days.
For instance, if you anticipate finishing in six hours, then you can run for three hours on Day 1 and three hours on Day 2. Or, you can mix it up and run two hours on Day 1 and four hours on Day 2, etc. The goal is to simply run the full race over two days.
Try to complete at least three or four of these long runs before your event. If you can't complete the full distance in the beginning, then slowly work your way up to it. By the time your race draws near, you should be able to run as close to the exact mileage as possible.
Not only does this give you a taste of what's to come, but it also gives you a chance to try out some of your nutrition and hydration techniques so you know what works and what doesn't.
Build Your Strength and Flexibility
Yes, an ultramarathon does require a significant amount of running. Yet, it's also a full-body workout. It's important to properly train your entire body, not just your legs.
In addition to leg workouts, also incorporate strength training exercises, such as squats, lunges, and crunches. These will build your core, which makes it easier to run long distances with proper form. To avoid burnout and injury, break up these workouts into short, 15-minute sessions a few times a week.
In addition, don't forget to focus on stretching. Workout routines that focus on improving your flexibility and stamina, such as yoga and pilates, are excellent for ultramarathoners. These can help your muscles safely warm up before a run, which also helps safeguard them against sprains, strains, and tears.
Optimize Your Nutrition
Finally, let's talk nutrition and hydration. What you eat and drink before and during your ultramarathon can directly impact your overall performance.
Take the time to try a few different approaches early on, varying them until you strike a balance that keeps you feeling great for the entirety of your race. In addition to solid foods, you can also find energy gels, sports drinks, and other products designed to bolster your energy while you run.
Everyone's stomach is different, and a meal plan that works well for one ultramarathoner might not work with you. Experiment with different variations as you perform your practice runs to discover what you prefer. For instance, you might find that you run best when you stick with liquid energy sources at the beginning of the race and slowly transition to solid foods.
Of course, throughout your entire training plan, it's smart to avoid over-indulging in anything that can throw your nutrition off track, such as too many sweets or too much alcohol. By sticking to lean proteins, colourful fruits and vegetables, and healthy carbs, you can fuel your body the right way.
Approach Your Ultramarathon With Confidence
Deciding to sign up for an ultramarathon can be both exciting and a little nerve-wracking. This is a major event that will require dedication and focus at every turn.
With these tips above, you can approach the training process the right way. By the time you're ready to take off, you'll be strong, confident, and prepared to tackle the miles ahead.
Looking for a sports coach who can create a custom training plan for your ultramarathon? We can help you connect with a local expert to guide you in every aspect of this journey. Learn more about our running coaches today!