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Training for your first ultra
In general it is best not to aim to run an ultra unless you have run at least a couple of marathons and have several years of regular running under your belt, although there are always exceptions. Training plans are very individual things, what works for some people does not necessarily for others. However, for a first ultra it is worth following some general principles. If you want training plans then look at http://www.ultramarathonrunning.com/training/index.html where you will find links to a variety of plans.
Get some miles in
Training for ultras up to about 100km (62 miles) is very similar to marathon training, except the length of the long run is generally longer and the overall weekly mileage is greater. The increase in weekly mileage and the length of the long run should be gradual and consistent. Sudden large increases can result in injuries or ill health. As a general rule an increase of 10% a week is considered to be suitable. Just like marathon training aim for a long run or two a few weeks before the event of about two thirds of the race distance. These long training runs should be run at a fairly gentle pace or they may end up having a negative effect rather than a positive one.
Some people consider runs over marathon distance to be unnecessary while others find that having run a long distance in training gives them the psychological boost they need to feel confident about tackling their first ultra.
For the first ultra it is probably a good idea to put the long runs in then experiment for other ultra events if you find ultra running is for you.
Donít ditch speedwork
It is important not to ignore speed work if you do not want to turn into a slow long distance runner. So still put in some interval training and hill work.
Rest and recovery is an important part of ultra training. It is during this time that the body adapts to the heavy training load to get fitter and stronger. As well as having at least one rest day in the week consider reducing the weekly mileage one week in four. Many people find that they need a little more sleep when the weekly mileage gets bigger. It is also important to eat well and stay hydrated.
During the race and during the longer training runs you will need to refuel. Energy bars and gels will see you through a short ultra, however for longer events most runners prefer to take something solid on board such as bananas, jaffa cakes, sweets, rice pudding, potatoes, etc. Long training runs are just the thing for finding out what suits you, when to start eating and how much.
Finally taper well before the race, ease down on the mileage over the last three weeks, but not the intensity of the runs. Three weeks before the race reduce mileage to 75% of normal then 50% and 25% during the last week.
Fitting the training around work, family commitments and a social life is difficult. Whatever ultra event you enter it will be tough and there will be times when you want to give up. You will be surprised at how many good reasons to give up your brain will come up with. Having a mental strategy to keep going will see you through these difficult times. Think of all the reasons why you should keep going well before you reach the start line so that you can counter negative thoughts during the event. One method is to recall how it felt when you finished your first marathon, what it looked like, sounded like Ö use all your senses then imagine it doubled when you finish the ultra.