How to transition from marathoner to ultra runner?
Running an ultra marathon is a huge physical challenge. And for the first timer is a very big challenge. Believe me if you successfully complete the distance of 42.198 km, your journey can go ahead beyond that limit also. Once you begin training, it will feel like a similar yet slightly altered training program of a normal marathon.
However, this is an intense transition for runners as it requires both an increase in the perseverance as well as the determination required to be put into the race as a whole. To help ease this seemingly intense transition, here are some of the necessary tips that one can use to make it through this arduous journey;
- Training Plan
The first and foremost aspect which you have to keep in mind before you begin physical training for the ultra marathon is the mental training that is required for it. It is important to keep pushing the limits of your mental space in order to prepare yourself for this intense transition.
Mental preparation will get you sorted for the physical training that you have to undergo. Start off your training with long runs of 10 to 15 miles and couple of shorter runs of about 6 to 10 miles. Your mileage ranges should be from 25 to 30 miles per week. Follow the standard recommendation of adding not more than 10 percent a week, with regards to the distance .Give yourself enough time to incrementally increase your mileage. Once you have achieved enough stamina and mileage, practice back to back long runs once a week. Run with your hydration bag to get used to. Train in the terrain where you will the race will be taking place, in order to get accustomed to the same.
- Strength Training:
Core exercise and cross training will help you to increase your body strength.
Tripped Out Fact: Core exercise essentially involves building up and strengthening of the 29 muscles which form the core of the body. These include strengthening the hips, pelvic as well as your lower back muscles. Strengthening is just one half of the core strengthening process, the second half of which is the aspect of stabilizing. There has to be a balance between the two in order to ensure a stable and strong core.
Building core strength helps with climbing, ascents/descents and tricky technical trails. Yoga is one of the best core exercises along with other exercises which include cross training practices like swimming or cycling.
If you are running an ultra marathon, you have to load more carbs and fibers the night before the race. Ensure that you indulge in meals which are heavy in carbohydrate content. Another important aspect is to ensure that you have a high intake of protein to build your muscles and repair damaged tissue. In short, the uptake of proteins, carbs and fluids has to be double than that a normal marathon runner would be consuming, as the extent, frequency as well as the intensity of training is much more.
Choosing the right gear for you is extremely important. On the other hand, it is also important to ensure that you do not get obsessed by gear, which could lead to dependence on the same. Practice a few long runs in the gear which you would wear on the race day, in order to get you more comfortable in the same. You need shoes for long distance, a bit larger than usual because your feet will expand a little from long effort. The outfits that you choose during your training as well as the race has to be comfortable as well as durable, as you will be out in the open much longer than a marathon and weather is often less predictable in the woods or mountains. Aid stations in ultra marathons are often several miles apart, and when out running for multiple hours at a time it is imperative that you carry a hydration bag or bottle with you. Another important aspect to ensure is that you have protective gear such as a bandana, face cover and/or a headband to protect you from the intense conditions which are prominent in most ultra marathons. Other essential items that one should carry include a sweat sponge, bandage, hat/cap and proper running socks, all essential to protect you from the harsh physical strain that your body will endure during an ultra marathon.
- Race Recovery:
With regards to the immense distance and conditions that one encounters during an ultra marathon, it is very important that you get at least one day of recovery before returning to hard training or racing again. Over burdening yourself with excessive training, especially during the novice stage, can result in near fatal health complications. It is essential to push oneself for these types of races, but it is also equally important you give your body enough time to recuperate and adjust to the intense conditions.
Tripped Out Tip: Make sure that you use compression socks during training as well as running. These will help you speed recovery as well as decrease inherent wear and tear in your muscles during the run, making you more adept for the intense task ahead.
- No Excuses:
You are training for an ultra marathon, keep repeating this to yourself in your head. This itself has to be a good enough reason for you to cut any and all excuses to slack off. There is a high possibility of injury and pain during the race and the training period. The only way you can keep moving forward is to have faith in yourself and test yourself in terms of how many hits you can actually take and keep going. If that’s your goal, you have to decide you are going to do whatever it takes to get through.
- A feeling of Community:
Long distance running is a great opportunity for one to become socially active. You have the chance to run in cheerful, almost festive-environments, where you can meet old friends and make new ones. You can easily relate to other runners and share your experiences, fostering a sense of community among everyone.
Ultra marathons have given me lot of strength and confidence to conquer almost impossible terrains and persevere in relentless weather. Any time I feel excruciating pain while running long distances as my body yearns for a silent moment of recluse, I use this pain to initiate a sense of determination. In this way, pain can be your ally if you understand the essential way of channelizing it for your own good.
Keep yourself motivated and do not stop running.