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5 Things You Need to Know About Running Ultramarathons

Marathon runs used to be a challenge few dared tackle; now, it seems like more and more people are braving a 26.2-mile run and looking for new heights to scale. Enter the ultramarathon!

Ultramarathons are any races longer than 26.2 miles, with some up to 50 or 100 miles of running at a time. These races present a very broad range of challenges — from fitness to hydration to nutrition to planning—and should never be attempted casually. Below are a few things you need to know about running ultramarathons:

1. You don’t need to train for the full race

A lot of ultramarathoners will tell you that there’s no need to run the full 50 or 100 miles of the race during your training sessions. Many ultra runners will barely run more than a marathon training session, between 20 and 25 miles at a time. Others will run two days in a row, each with 15-mile courses, to help them get accustomed to being on their feet for very long hours. Doing this will help you feel what it’s like to run the ultra-long distances without pushing your body too hard too quickly.

2. Pace yourself

This is one of the most important pieces of advice given by ultramarathoners. Many runners start hot out of the gate, only to find that they run out of steam as they draw near the finish line. If you want to have any hope of hitting the 30, 50, or 100-mile mark, you’ll have to go slow and really pace yourself to conserve energy.

3. Always be ready to refuel

You need to know exactly how you’re going to hydrate and eat on race day well in advance. If you wait until your body tells you you’re thirsty or hungry, you’re far closer to fatigue and dehydration than you want to be. Make sure to spend a few weeks getting your refueling practices down solid and everything set up in advance so you can focus on running come race day.

4. Prepare to walk

This is a secret a lot of ultramarathoners don’t tell you! Seeing as you’re running very long distances, you have to find ways to conserve your energy. Walking reduces your energy usage and helps to preserve your muscles, especially when it comes to uphills. Though the terrain is usually gentle and fairly flat, be prepared to walk up any serious hills you find. Even just walk to take a break. You’re going to be running for 5 plus hours, and no one is going to fault you for slowing down.

5. Know your course in advance

It’s worth taking a few hours driving around the course your race will take just to get a feel for the terrain. You need to know if there are any serious obstacles (hills, primarily) along the way or any stretches that might be harder than average. A bit of prep time will help you to be ready for the race you’re about to run.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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