1 - Acknowledge the commitment and start training early!
Training for an ultra-marathon is a huge commitment, which will take a large chunk of your time over a relatively long period (probably many months). The successful ultra-runner acknowledges this and plans backwards from Race Day, making sure there is adequate time to honestly get ready without rushing or short-cuts, and starts training early so as to build steadily and avoid injury.
2 - Get the correct footwear and gear
This is crucial! Get your foot posture and running gait analysed and choose trainers, rucksacks and water carriers that support, don’t chafe, rub or aggravate. A slight niggle can turn into total agony with the addition of distance and time on your feet!
3 – Start slow, Build, be Consistent
One of the secrets to achieving any physical goal is adherence. Never voluntarily miss a run! You must be consistent with your training, and build gently. The body responds best to constant and regularly increasing stimulation followed by recovery. You should factor in a rest-week every 3-4 weeks, where you ease up on the mileage before building again. Consistent training gives your entire system the best chance to get used to the rigours ahead.
4 – The importance of recovery
The body gets stronger during the rest phase of training, therefore it’s important to allow yourself rest-days, where you give your body the chance to repair itself and grow back stronger, in anticipation of the next stimulation. Neglect of proper recovery almost always results in injury.
5 – Strength Training
Appropriate strength training is invaluable, as a strong body is more efficient, more robust and potentially quicker. The advantages of holding good posture, form and correct angles at the key joints during running are clear, but easily and often neglected in training. A session or two of some running specific resistance drills per week can really make all the difference in terms of finishing strong, fast and in good shape.
6 – Back to back runs
At some stage it is normally a good idea to introduce back-to-back-runs, that is, long-steady-distance styli runs done 2 days in-a-row. The shortened rest time between the two runs gives your system and confidence a real boost in terms of building up and coping with consistent mileage.
7 – Train your pace, but occasionally mix things up
You will need to determine what your likely pace will be on race day, and make sure that you train at that pace for a good proportion of your long steady running. Do vary your pace and if possible, running surface and incline. Factor in a session of cruise intervals, or some free variable training at least once a week. The body responds well to new stimulus and doing something new and fresh every so often is good for both body and mind.
8 – Vary your routes vary your soundtrack
Boredom and over-familiarity are your enemies! If you always run to music, try an audiobook or comedy! If you stick to the pavement, occasionally go to the park! If you prefer to run on the flat, challenge yourself every now and then by going up and down a hill a few times… your legs will thank you (afterwards…)
9 – Positive mental attitude
…is the key to successful running… you are certain to be out on your feet for long periods of time… long enough to dwell on things which can slow you down… working on strategies to keep any potential dark thoughts away, focusing on the positives will stand you in good stead when the going gets tough!
10 – Enjoy the race, plan your recovery
Once you’ve done your training, focus on enjoying the race! Be sure to plan your recovery week(s) with treats, time away with loved ones etc, so that you have something good fill the natural void that all that training will leave!