September 19, 2014 at 4:25
Posted by Rachael Woolston
Ever thought about running an ‘ultra’? Growing fast in popularity, ultra running offers an incredible experience and stunning scenery. Here Fitbitch ultra coach, Sarah Perkins reveals her top ten insider tips to ultra running..
Ultra running is one of the few sports where age and gender don’t matter. Infact, being female and slightly older can be an advantage.
Because women have more body fat, we have more energy for longer races. And while we usually lose speed over short distances as we age, our endurance capability gets stronger with the right training. So, the longer the race, the small the gender gap in terms of performance. It is not uncommon for women to be the outright winner of ultras, including the 2012 Grand Union Canal race of 145 miles.
Ultra running is incredibly therapeutic and you will learn things about yourself that may surprise and/or disappoint you. Whichever way, you’ll gain a better understanding of yourself, both weaknesses and strengths. Celebrate these new insights and work to change what you don’t like.
What to eat
How much to eat, what to choose and how to avoid an upset stomach quickly becomes a hot topic amongst ultra runners. Some runners do best on real food, such as sandwiches, cheese and nuts while others happily run on gels, Haribos and energy drinks.
I’ve found that eating lots of carbohydrates early on in an ultra can easily make me crash. I prefer to nibble on fatty foods which provide me with a steady supply of energy without a sugar spike. Either way, it‘s vital to try out what works for you on training runs and not during a race.
Friends for life
Runners are naturally a friendly bunch but there is something about the challenge of an ultra which is incredibly bonding. You will never meet a friendlier bunch of people. Compared to the other sports I have done, ultra runners are the most down to earth, friendly, humble, inspiring, and cheerful people.
Get used to hearing ‘Don’t over do it’
You may have turned from an overweight, smoking, lazy, alcoholic coach potato into a fit, healthy runner capable of running great distances, yet for some reason, people will be more worried about your health than ever before. Don’t be put off by people trying to put you off.
You start with a 30 mile race, and before you know it, you are signing up for 100+mile events and planning all your family, social and other commitments around it. A clear sign that it has become the norm is when your kids start measuring distances in marathon units. “How many marathons is your race on Saturday, Mum?”
Get ready to dive into a whole new world of chafing in places you never thought possible. Not to worry as you will soon be experimenting with an equal number of lubricating products, and the pre-race session of rubbing, smearing and rolling the products onto various body parts will become an entertaining but essential part of the routine.
Don’t get too attached to your toe nails. Expect to lose one, two, three or even more. This will be rewarded with a great level of respect from other runners and photos of said nail-free toes, raw feet, blistered faces, chafed backs and broken limbs get high viewings and earn kudos on social media. And don’t worry, your toe nails will grow back.
Worrying about where to go to the toilet on a race is something that preoccupies lots of people. On an ultra, you don’t need to worry because there is so much space and not as many runners.
Expect an incredibly scenic experience, although you may have to use what nature has to offer instead of toilet roll. Some races do have portable toilets but I would always choose a flowering shrub over a smelly plastic toilet.
Running a marathons hurts, so running twice, three times, or even more than that distance is going to be painful. Your feet may hurt, your head, legs, back and more besides but it is all worth it. The euphoric feeling of crossing that finish line and the wonderful afterglow that stays with you for weeks makes all the effort worthwhile. Even if can’t get down the stairs without assistance for a few days.