I’m not exactly an ultramarathon expert, but in my minimal experience in trail ultramarathons-both running them, and crewing for them-I’ve picked up on some tips. Trail racing and ultramarathons are a different breed of racing, and since I’m prepping to pace my friend as she runs her first double marathon, I wanted to write down what I’ve learned-mostly to hep myself remember.
1. Establish a run/walk plan. If you’re running a trail race longer than a marathon, most likely you wont be able to run the whole way. Some people try and do a time-based run/walk plan. They’ll run 10 minutes, and walk 1 minute, ect. I typically do a more flexible plan: walking the uphills and steep downhills, and running everything else. This works out well unless you have a completely flat race (which never happens)
2. Carry some type of water with you. Trail races have aid stations a lot further apart than road races. You’ll need to drink something in between. I usually use a water belt, but hydration packs or handheld water bottles are good options too. Some ultra runners choose to carry a handheld bottle in each hand so if they trip and fall, the bottle takes the impact-not their wrist.
3. Have a headlamp or flashlight. Most likely if you’re doing an ultramarathon, you’re going to be running some portion of the course in dim or no daylight. You’ll want to be able to light your way so you don’t trip and get injured.
4. Bring extras of everything. Extra clothes (in case it’s rainy weather), extra socks for if they get muddy, even extra shoes! If you’re running longer than a 50k, your feet will start to KILL from wearing the same shoes. Also, if it’s muddy, your shoes will take on a lot of water and mud and become heavier. It’s a nice trick half-way through your race, to switch to a fresh pair of shoes. There’s also a fair chance you’ll want to throw your shoes away after the race if they get super muddy.
5. Establish a nutrition plan. Especially during hot weather, when running an ultramarathon, if you don’t hydrate and eat well enough, your stomach will start to reject food and feel full. If you have more than a couple miles left in your race when this happens, you’re doomed. Figure out what you need to eat and drink, and how often PRIOR to your race, and STICK to it during your race.
I’m sure there’s a lot of other great tips, so those of you more experienced ultramarathoners can feel free to comment with your tips!