Performance Training and Hints for Ultra Marathon Running, Part 1.

If you are into long distance running there are a lot of places and people where you can get advice from. The best piece of advice I got was to run with your heart. Don't worry how far you have gone or have to go, just enjoy yourself and stay happy. Below are some other ideas for inspiration, competing or training for an ultra.

  • One of the best ways to prepare for an ultra is to crew for someone who is competing in a similar event. You learn a lot about what is involved: the ins and outs of the race, the emotional ups and downs and how to solve different problems.
  • Can't get motivated to get out the door. Just head out for a time rather than distance or a common loop you do. A friend mentioned to me once they manage to go out running when they don't feel like it by convincing themselves they will run until they see three cats or run until three purple cars pass by etc. Remember though this can backfire and you can end up going longer than you wanted to in the first place!
  • A big part of preparation for any race, especially an ultra is to train when you don’t feel like it. The mind will come up with all sorts of reasons why you should relax: tiredness, a niggle here or feeling sore there etc. Getting out the door, a lot of mental banter drops away. If you can overcome doubts in training it will stand you in good stead for a race. It's the great thing about running, you have to overcome so many hurdles you are forced to become a better person.
  • If you are going to carbo load before a race make sure you test it out before hand in training. Find out what food works best for you and how long before a race your stomach can handle it. For some people it’s the night before. Others can eat big meals on the same day. Remember eating the right food for your long training runs is almost important as nutrition on race day. If you have no fuel you can’t exert yourself enough to gain the fitness benefits. More nutrition tips to follow in another article.
  • Sometimes in a trail race, ultra or multi-day you have to be creative in dealing with injuries. A folded up piece of paper or cardboard under an insole can often relieve pressure on Achilles and heel injuries, allowing you to keep going. I haven’t tried it but I am sure a thick leaf would do the same thing. Soft paper towel in the correct place, can help chafe by preventing rubbing between the skin and running shorts. 
  • All of us have commitments which take away training time. Run everywhere you can to overcome this. Run to return a DVD, with the kids as they ride to school, to a meal, to work and so on. Often the journey time isn't much longer than driving and it all adds to your weekly mileage.
  • Learn different methods of motivation while you are training and apply them in a race. Is it music that picks you up while you are down? Motivational quotes or aphorisms? Changing your gait? Sweet foods? Breathing techniques or mantras? Find out what works for you and draw on different solutions to get you through another mile!

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Based in Australia, Grahak Cunningham ( is a motivational speaker and business speaker and four time finisher and 2012 winner of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race, which is the world’s longest ultra-marathon. All article photos courtesy Prabhakar Street, Jowan Gauthier


© 2012 Grahak Cunningham all rights reserved