Ultramarathon events are a great leveller. There’s no room for ego after 8 hours of solid running, and there’s something wonderful about overcoming the challenges along with your comrades in arms.
Doing an ultra-marathon is an incredible journey of self-discovery, self-mastery, challenge and achievement. Having got a few under our belt in the Grn team, we did a quick whip round the office to get some top tips for anyone considering their first foray over 26.2 miles.
- Know your route: Some races will be fully signed but a lot of them will be self-navigated. The very best option is to recce the full course so you don’t lose valuable minutes on the day through a wrong-turn. Failing that invest in or hire a good GPS running device and always carry maps and a compass as backup (and make sure you know how to use them!)
- Nail the nutrition. This is very person-specific, and what works for one might not work for everyone else. A good plan is to alternate between solid foods (flapjacks, crisps, bananas, etc) and electrolyte drinks. We’ve just been introduced to Tailwind and it’s been great so far (tummy problems from gels are very common so we steer clear of these for long distance events)
- Take the right kit. It’s absolutely critical to stay hydrated (drink little and often, before you feel thirsty) so take bottles or a hydration bladder. Make sure you’ve got all the safety equipment stipulated in the race rules, and take lightweight range of layers to account for unexpected changes in the weather. We’ve just run the 45 mile Green Man Ultra in our new Grn Gilet. It’s an innovative new Italian fabric (100% recyclable and compostable!) which is waterproof to 20,000mm and highly breathable. Trail shoes are an absolute must if you’re going off-road.
- Choose the right support team. Well, in reality they’ll choose you but it’s a huge lift to see your family or best buddies waiting at the feed station (or even better just out on the route). And at some point during an ultramarathon you can guarantee you’ll be needing a huge lift.
- Make friends on the course. If you’re running alone there’s a great sense of camaraderie between ultra runners and you’re bound to find someone at a similar pace who is only too happy to chat to you. Nothing makes the lows lower than the voice in your head so if you can find a friendly voice of another runner instead it will make everyone’s race that much more pleasant!! Runners are generally a really friendly, supportive community – use it to power you all the way to the finish line!
- Get inspired: books like ‘born to run’ by Chris McDougall, and ‘feet in the clouds’ or ‘today we die a little’ by Richard Askwith are incredible stories of the grit, joy, humility, endurance of running and capture perfectly the quiet hero that chooses to live their life as a runner. Inspirational stuff to remember the world wide community you are a part of.
- Enjoy it! Don’t forget to look around – you have a lot of hours to get through and often ultra marathons are set in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Don’t forget to look around and really notice the world you are moving through. And at the end of the race be sure to enjoy a well deserved pint!!