RunUltra is a global community of ultra runners with more than 700,000 ultra runners from 226 countries. In this article from RunUltra, Robbie Britton gives you top tips on how to choose, train for and even enjoy your first ultra. This article was first published in April 2019.
Everyone is running ultra marathons now, it’s the cool thing to do. Lots are even skipping the initial marathon and jumping straight to the long stuff, but what should you think about before tackling your first ultra?
Often the running media gives an unbalanced view of the running world. The biggest kudos is given to those running the longest and if you tell someone you ran 100 miles they won’t care about the time, but will be more impressed than with a 14 minute 5k time for sure.
So rightly or wrongly, we’re all going long. Ultra running isn’t easy, but it is accessible to the masses. One of the biggest lies ever told was that you had to be superhuman to run an ultra, which is simply not true. Anyone can run an ultra, if they want to.
Choosing your first ultra
If you want to tackle your first ultra then possibly the hardest aspect is picking the right race. There are so many options these days and the variation is huge. From 50km to 200 miles, with mountains, towpath, road or smooth trails to choose from picking the event that is right for you is key.
It’s not a decision to rush. Remember the races are annual and if you can’t find one on the weekend you want, then there will be another the week after. Starting with a 50-60km race is the sensible option and can be the start of your ultra journey, rather than your only soiree into the discipline.
A good way to inspect an event is to look at the times from previous years. Distance alone can be misleading as trails can be rocky, on the fells or super-fast. Not all miles are created equal and the 42km UTMB MCC in the Alps is a lot tougher than the Stort 30 miler on British canals. Maybe ask on Facebook or the RunUltra forums if people have finished a race before and what they thought.
Your own strengths and weaknesses are key as well. If you struggle in the heat then don’t go straight to the desert and if you get cold on a summer’s evening don’t tackle the Artic Ultra on your first go.
About RunUltra: If you’re looking for your next race, RunUltra offers more than 2,800 ultra races with runner reviews. It offers high value training articles and comprehensive kit reviews from running shoes to gels. Join their community – membership is free – and have access to great content, exclusive offers, runner forums and exciting competitions.
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