UP top 5 tips for ultramarathons
In association with my fuel sponsor Pursu, here are 5 top ultramarathon tips that I have learned so far. There are many, but these have been particularly helpful for me running distances beyond the marathon; so over 26.2 miles.
1. Be curious
People often ask why. However, the answer is not straightforward and each person will have their own reasons why they run for hours and hours, and hours. So you need to be curious about yourself and what you can achieve — what is under your hood? One thing for sure, is that you get to know more about who you are, especially during the long sections when you maybe running alone.
This somewhat blends with your purpose. Some will run for a cause or charity, mine being Understand Pain. This I have written about in the marathon tips blog and the keeping going blog. For the inevitable tough moments that make you and the event, we need strategies to continue putting one foot in front of the other. This ranges from dogged determination to using visualisation. Be curious about how you approach them, what you think, what you do, and how you steer yourself onward.
2. Look after your feet
Running the Isle of Wight Challenge recently, I was surprised at how many people left their foot care until when the blisters had caused them to stop. Some were in a really bad state — agonising. I am sure a number of such folk would have dropped out having done all that preparation. That must be so disappointing, especially when that degree of injury was preventable.
Of course this includes choosing the right footwear. I recently made a mistake that I am now recovering from. Excitedly I selected a pair of road shoes that had too much stability, meaning that I was taking extra strain around my hips, pelvis and lower abdomen. Over months and many miles sensitivity built up — I am sensitive, resulting in feeling sensations and emotions more richly, and frequently aware of bodily sensations. On going for a closer examination of the fitting of my runners, I am now in a neutral shoe and half a size up. Heaven!
On feeling the familiar tingle that warns of a blister coming, be quick to take action. If you are out on a long run, you can dry your foot and apply a dressing such as a Compeed, perhaps even taping it for added security. Choosing good running socks is important as they pull the moisture away from the skin. However, sometimes even with the best care, the sheer number of steps, the temperature and ground conditions cause rubbing and blisters. We just need to minimise the risk and take care early. A further preventative measure is to apply an anti-blister stick to vulnerable areas before running.
Getting fuelled up before, during and afterwards is vital for these longer runs. Each person must find their own way according to individual needs and tolerances. Some ultra runners eat pizza and burrito at lunch. I can’t stomach that kind of food, instead opt for the stuff my body needs. Working out a plan and trying different foods is part of your training. Don’t leave it to discover on the day that you cannot digest certain things and then find yourself running with a bag of cement in your stomach. Or worse…
Read up on what you need nutritionally and then choose your foods. My basic routine is this: lots of protein and fibre in the week before (chicken, tuna steaks, veg, fruit, flaxseed, nuts, seeds, beetroot); carbs the two days building up to the event (pasta mainly), especially spaghetti bolognese the night before (that’s a tradition now) with extra spaghetti; porridge on the morning of the run with at least one proper coffee, water, Pursu bar, banana and maybe a handful of nuts.
During the run I will sip water and an energy drink (2 bottles in my chest pack). Mostly at the rest stops I take on a banana (potassium), wet fruit (e.g./ melon), cookies, salt and vinegar crisps (salt), shot of coffee (especially in the morning), coke (flat) and water. I carry gels that I use as needed whilst on the go.
Afterwards I usually crave pizza, coke (cold and fizzy), and anything else that is in my path….
4. Enjoy the ride
Typically the longer runs are along scenic routes. I make a point of taking it all in as I am trotting along. One of the privileges of running is being able to see things you would not otherwise see.
Life appears to go by so quickly. My sense of time always shifts dramatically when I am out running for hours. I lose track, and it’s wonderful.
On the IOW Challenge there were long periods of running alone. I like that, but it is also great when you come across and fellow participant. Sometimes you run together for a while and chat. There’s an immediate connection because you are both doing something mad.
5. Look after your body (your whole self)
Not that your body is separate from your embodied mind — the body keeps the score of all your experiences. Regular readers of my blogs about overcoming pain will know that I firmly believe in the notion of the whole person.
That said, the conditioning behind the scenes is an important part of the training programme. In brief, the main components should include strength, body control (balance work) and flexibility (yoga, stretching). Often I speak to amateur runners, even those who are accomplished, and they pay little attention to conditioning their body. There are two primary risks of this approach: (1) injury (2) not reaching your potential.
Day to day behind the scenes routines make the difference: diet, sleep, how you manage your life, regular movement (especially if you have a sedentary job), how you roll with the inevitable ups and downs of life. The race is just the tip of the iceberg; the reward if you like. This depends upon the running training but also how you look after yourself. With athletes, I spend time with them looking at ways that they can improve their outcomes by best managing all these areas of life that are inseparable, much as mind and body are inseparable. You are a whole person, on a timeline when nothing happens in isolation.
For more on this, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org