Essential Ultrarunning Tips

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For most runners, there are six core tips that are critical to running an ultramarathon. Each of these tips is (or will be) covered in more detail in other pages.

  • Hydration. (Practical Hydration and The Science Of Hydration) Getting hydration right is critical to ultrarunning, and getting it wrong can be very dangerous. In many ways, hydration should be easier in ultras because there is more time to hydrate correctly. Hydration problems in ultras are often due to other underlying issues:
    • Bad planning, which results in insufficient fluids being available between Aid Stations can cause hydration problems.
    • Any errors in fueling can cause problems with digestion, which in turn prevents adequate hydration.
    • Failure to reduce running intensity in hot weather can cause the core body temperature to rise, which causes nausea, which prevents hydration.
    • Getting the salt intake wrong will cause hydration problems. Taking insufficient salt will cause thirst, but anything you drink will tend to increase urine output without reducing the thirst. (Too much salt can cause nausea and bloating. Excessive salt seems to be related to Electrolyte Capsules.)
  • Fueling. Most runners require some type of calorie intake for the marathon distance. For ultra distances, fueling becomes critical. You must learn what your body likes, as this tends to vary for each individual. As noted above, getting fueling wrong will lead to digestive problems (nausea/vomiting) which can then cause hydration problems. The other common problem is that lack of fuel can lead to a drop in blood sugar. This is particularly problematic as the brain needs the sugar to work correctly. The lack of blood sugar then causes poor judgment and also a feeling of depression. See Fueling in an Ultra
  • Run/Walk. In any race, you have to know what pace you can maintain. Getting this wrong in an ultra can lead to a lot more misery than other distances, and can result in a DNF (Did Not Finish). Part of the correct pacing for an ultramarathon is taking Walking Breaks. The Walking Breaks allow the chance for the muscles to recovery, the opportunity to eat and the Heart Rate to lower, allowing for digestion. See Walking Breaks
  • Blisters. Blisters become an increasing problem as the distance becomes greater and/or the running surface becomes more hostile. Runners should not have a problem with blisters in a road marathon. Longer races, especially the 100 mile, causes blisters to be a significant issue for many runners. Additionally, hostile surface, such as very rocky or very hot can create problems at shorter distances. Follow the advice at Blister Prevention, but remember that in long races, your feet are likely to swell. This means that changing to larger Shoes, or thinner socks, may be required.
  • Fortitude. For most runners, the marathon distance is quite painful. The longer distances of ultramarathons test the boundaries of both physical and mental endurance. The ability to keep moving forward in the face of extreme pain, fatigue, physical damage and sometimes emotional despair is critical. See Mental fortitude for more details.

See Also