Tips For Running Your First Ultra Marathon

June 23rd 2020
By: Coach Maleia Tumolo

Tips For Running Your First Ultra Marathon

I run……A LOT!  Most days, I’m hitting the trails or pavement for hours at a time.  Trying to log miles for my next Ultra.  But I wasn’t always an ultra runner.  Actually, until a few years ago, most of the races I have done didn’t last over an hour and were triathlons.  But because of those triathlons, I found a love for being on trails.  I soon realized that I also loved climbing mountains and putting one foot in front of the other for many miles. My ultra journey has been quite an adventure. I’ve trained months for some races and signed up just days before others. However, each and every one has been an adventure and a learning experience. Below, I have compiled a list of tips that I have learned through the years. I believe these are important for those wanting to run their first Ultra. 

  1. Commitment: Commit to training. Commit to starting. Commit to doing all the preparation needed to finish.  Race day will be hard, tedious, uncomfortable, and the day will be long but your commitments will keep you in constant forward movement. 
  2. Don’t push your pace: It is not a sprint and it’s not a marathon.  For most it’s a long jog in the woods.  So start easy, take your time, make good choices and if you want to speed up later there are plenty of miles at the end. 
  3. Food…….and more food!: There is a little chance of you making it across the finish line of an ultra marathon, let alone doing so feeling strong, if you don’t nail your fueling strategy.  By the time you reach the starting line you should have an understanding of what you can stomach during a race. Keep in mind fueling is very specific to the individual racer. 
  4. Cheers: My best advice is drink before you’re actually thirsty.  Since Ultras last several hours it’s critical to stay hydrated.  Carrying a hand held or a hydration vest is beneficial since aid stations are few and far between. 
  5. Pick things up and put them down:  Cross training is an important component of your ultra training.  Working your muscles in different ways is one of the best ways to prevent overuse injuries. 
  6. Everyone walks and that’s ok:   Even the very best ultra runners hike during hilly races, so it makes sense to train for this.  In the words of  Dean Karnazes “run when you can, walk if you have, crawl if you must”…it all counts as moving closer to the finish line! 
  7. Use your poles!: If you are up against a really long distance or technical mountains, poles can be your best friend, but you must practice with them prior……A lot!  There is an art to running with poles and it would be wise to master that before race day. 
  8. You need skills:  Nearly all ultras are run on trails which means steep inclines and declines, rocky footing, and a variety of surfaces to cross. Naturally, the best way to prepare for the variety of terrain is to practice so I recommend getting on the trails as much as possible. Ideally on the same type of terrain as your race.
  9. Be positive!: Remember it’s supposed to BE FUN!  Sure there may be some low points but you’ll have to dig deep.  Just a small amount of positivity and self love can get you through the rough patches and across the finish line that much faster.

So who is ready to start this new chapter in their running and in their lives….Test the limits of the human body and mind?