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How to train for an Ultra Marathon - Guest Blog by Gemma Scott

How to train for an Ultra Marathon -  Guest Blog By Gemma Scott

My ultra-marathon journey started by raising money for charity, and with the increase of people running marathons I felt I had to push myself even harder to encourage people to donate so I entered a 69-mile ultra-marathon for the following June.

I began training in the winter by building up to the distance. I had a base level of running, but for those of you who are starting out the key to success is to build slow no more than 10% in a week to help prevent injury.

During the week aim to run 2-3 times over a short distance of no more than 6 miles each session and this pace should be comfortable but a lot quicker than your anticipated ultra-marathon pace. We call these speed sessions as they help build stamina which will get you to the finish line.

So an example of this would be if your target pace is 10 minute miles, but you can comfortably run 9 minute miles over shorter distances, aim to run 2-3 x 6 mile runs under 9-minute mile pace. You will find the further you get into your training you will get faster because you are becoming fitter. Ensure you keep pushing your speed during these runs and maybe to add some mix to your training you could enter a local 10k race or half marathon to give you some variety and test your training.

Then at the weekend aim to do a long run which this pace should be the targeted pace you are hoping to run at. This is also the opportunity to try different nutrition to see what sits well with you. No person is the same as what might work for one, doesn’t always work for another. Nutrition is the final key to your success. If you fuel right you will succeed. This is also a good time to train in the kit you will be using for race day to help prevent any necessary chafing or wardrobe malfunctions. Most Ultras have a mandatory kit list, so ensure you can run with these by training with them. 

As you get closer to your challenge I would recommend running no further than 70% of the total distance and this should be done in a time frame that allows your body to recover before the event e.g. I did 35 miles 6 weeks before the race and 45 miles 3 weeks before the race.

Depending on the distance of ultra you are doing you could maybe enter a marathon and use this as one of your long runs to add a bit of race experience into your training.

Once you have completed your longest run, rest and recovery is key. This is called tapering and I can assure you this is the hardest part of training, but the most beneficial. You should knock the miles right down on your long runs but still incorporate the short mid-week runs. Aim to run a maximum of 13 miles on your long run 2 weeks before and the week before no more than 10 miles on your long run to tick the legs over.
You will develop “maranoia”, this is a paranoia state of mind where the lack of training develops niggles and you believe you have damaged muscles. It is perfectly normal and sadly a lot of the time it is in your head so don’t panic. You have done all the training and you will finish your ultra marathon.
Ensure you hydrate well in the week leading up to the race and eat regularly only food you normally eat. This is not the week to be trying new foods or drinks. Aim to sleep early the night before and ensure you eat foods you have tried in your training the day before and also for your breakfast on race day.

Finally, & most importantly, don’t be afraid to miss sessions if you feel tired. Your body will thank you for it and you will not lose any fitness, trust me.


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