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8 Things I Wish People Had Told Me Before I Started Doing Ultras

I think I’ve run around 25 ultra marathons now. That doesn’t make me a pro or a great ultra runner – I’m neither. But I do feel I’m getting my head around things now.

The more you run ultras, the more you learn about yourself – your body, your legs and your mind. It’s an ongoing journey of learning and discovery. And one I love.

That said, below are the things I wish I’d known (or been told multiple times) that I think are super important:

  1. Strength training is vital – you don’t have to be doing intense weight workouts all the time or anything. But if you want to reduce injury and make your races slightly easier, then regular strength training is the way to go.
    A resistance band and a couple of kettlebells and some YouTube videos = winning
  2. Think about carbs not just calories – you’ve probably read that 300 calories per hour is good. What I didn’t know for ages is that carbs is important to. There’s tons of food and fuel which can give you calories but if the carb count is low you’re going to struggle. I just did a 50 last weekend and got 80g of carbs per hour in and felt well fuelled throughout
  3. Don’t be surprised when it hurts. Any ultra is hard work but when you’re doing longer ones like 100k or 100miles then there will inevitably be periods of the race where you feel mentally and physically like sh*t. Don’t be surprised or downhearted – these will happen and they will pass.
  4. Rest is super important. I used to stress about sleeping the night before an ultra, before I accepted that is tricky to do, given how nerves and energy is so high. I see the night before now as ‘rest’ – worse case I get little sleep but I’ve just laid there chilling out. Best case because I’m not pressuring myself about sleeping, I end up getting a good sleep!
  5. Take photos – the longer the ultra, the less stopping here and there for a moment is going to impact your overall time. Over the course of a day, or 24 hours, you’re going to see daybreak, sunset, beautiful countryside and so much more. Take a moment to grab a photo or even just stand there for a minute taking it in – you earned it!
  6. For 100milers – have a backup plan for hotels if you need to drop mid-race.. If you DNF in the middle of the night it’s bloody hard to find a hotel. A good way to hedge your bets is book something way in advance that’s super cheap (e.g. Travelodge, Premier Inn).
  7. Don’t whinge (or at least reduce the whinging!). Yes ultras are hard, yes you will think about quitting, yes races will go to sh*t – but you signed up for it and trained for it. Be grateful you have the health and faculties to do this kind of thing. And smile!
  8. Cut out fibre the day (or two days) before the race – your stomach will thank you for it!!