Ultra Marathon runner Keith Whyte shares his top tips for training for an ultra-endurance event.
For some running a marathon is a once in a lifetime achievement. Something to tick off the bucket list. For others however it’s just the beginning…. Not satisfied with the pain of running 26.2 miles,there are those who yearn to run beyond the classic distance.
50k,50miles,100k,100miles and even 24 hour runs and longer…. Yes that right!!
Welcome to the world of ultra running…
I have been running ultra marathons since early 2011 and up until now I have represented Ireland 7 times at senior level at World,European and Home Nations championships. The main championship distance in ultra running is 100k.
So for anyone who has ran a few marathons and are looking to challenge themselves further and take the plunge,here are my top tips for training for your first ultra marathon……
#1 Preparation.... Research the race you are training for and be sure you know everything there is to know with regards the route,terrain,course profile,typical weather conditions,appropriate kit etc…. Leave nothing to chance!
#2 Fuelling/hydration…. The months of training in the lead up to your event should be used to experiment with the various types of foods,drinks and gels which may or may not agree with you. Through trial and error you will find out what works best for you on your long runs so that come race day you have a solid plan which you can execute without any problems and there are no taking risks with un trialled foods!
#3 Be race specific….This one is fairly obvious but one which a lot of runners are guilty of! Your training should be specific to the event at which you intend racing. If you plan on racing at altitude then obviously training at sea level isn’t gonna be much good to you! If you plan on racing MDS (marathon des sables) then training at the North Pole isn’t gonna help your cause! You get the idea !!!
#4 Always have a back up plan… Ultra marathons being such extreme events and long in duration always throw up the chance of an upset somewhere along the line. Always go into any race with a plan B and even plan C!! Having a strategy or coping mechanism to allow you to deal with any mid race blips will ensure that you can easily adjust your goals when things aren’t going to plan and let you continue without too much drama. Always expect the unexpected!!
#5 Keep moving forward… Whether you are a seasoned endurance athlete or you are running an ultra for the first time there may come a time in a race where things don’t go to plan and you don’t feel so good and start to slow. Rather than coming to a complete stop it’s always better to keep moving forward even if that means having to take walk breaks. The more you keep moving forward no matter how slow it may seem that finish line is getting closer with every step!
#6 Trust your Crew… When you’ve been running for hours on end your body and mind become depleted of their energy stores , your mind can play tricks on you. Your support crew are continuously monitoring your progress as the race goes on. They know how much you’ve drank and eaten. They know if you are low on electrolytes and will start to notice changes in your behaviour and any signs of dehydration before you do! That’s where a good support crew intervenes and takes control making vital decisions for you that you may be unable to make for yourself.
#7 Pacing….So many times in races I have seen guys take off from the gun as if it’s a 5k!! Most of us who have ran marathons have at some stage experienced “the wall”! That feeling you get around mile 18-20 when all life is just sucked out of you and you can hardly put one foot in front of the other!
Pacing is something which should be practiced and perfected in training. Always use the first few miles as a warm up to loosen out and gradually ease your way into race pace. There are no prizes for being the leader of a 100k race at the halfway point. The race only begins at 80km – it’s then that you want to be passing people not in the first few miles!
#8 Ultras Hurt!!!
There’s nothing easy about running 50 miles or 100 miles not should there be! Ultra marathons are a test of the body and mind being stretched to their limits!
Before you decide to undertake such an event you need to accept the fact that this will NOT be easy and will most likely be the toughest thing you will ever have to do in your lifetime.
Completing an ultra marathon is a massive achievement and achieving great things doesn’t come easy. There is no short cut on the journey to success…..
Catch Keith at the the ‘Keith Whyte Waterfront Ultra Marathon’ in 10 days time on July 25th !