Taking On Your First Ultra? Where To Start?


Making the jump to ultras can be a daunting task for anyone. The key is not to overthink the transition. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for taking on your first ultra.

  1. DO: Choose a distance that you are comfortable completing. The logical and recommended distance to take on as your first ultra is a 50K. At just 5 miles longer than a marathon, it is the easiest to fathom and resembles a distance that you are familiar with. A 50K also requires little change in your normal marathon training plan, only needing you to increase your long run distance slightly. DON’T: Make the decision to transition too far too quickly. You must respect the distance. Don’t jump into a 50 Mile or 100K race straight out of the gate. Take it easy and respect the distance and build up from there.
  1. DO: Pace yourself. Run at a pace that feels comfortable. You know your marathon pace and effort level. Aim to hit 10-15 minutes slower through the marathon mark to ensure you have adequate energy and the legs left to complete the distance. DON’T: Race at your marathon pace. You don’t need to go out and set a PR in the marathon only to drag yourself through the final stretch as you slowly fall apart. It’s easy to go out too hard and think you’ll be fine for the entire race until you hit a wall and wish you had picked a smarter strategy.
  1. DO: Plan out your race and nutrition/hydration strategy. An ultra is much tougher to complete than a normal race. You must prepare more than your typical 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon. Do your research on the website of the race you’re running and intimately know the elevation profile, aid station mileages and when/where/what you’ll be consuming to fuel yourself to the finish. DON’T: Go into an ultra underprepared. In a marathon you might be able to get away without carrying anything and little to no preparation. For most people this is not the case in an ultra. Being unprepared will make the experience one that you’ll quickly want to forget.

What other Do’s an Don’ts do you have for someone deciding to run their first ultra? Share yours in the comments section.




8 thoughts on “Taking On Your First Ultra? Where To Start?

  1. Excellent advice. I can think of one more DO: Be prepared for the different terrain. A 50K is only 5 more miles, but road marathons typically don’t have singletrack, quick and steep elevation changes, and rocks and roots that can send you sprawling. To me a trail 50K requires much more focus and awareness of my surroundings. On the flip side, those surroundings are often very beautiful.

    @hayleylyons – Just sign up for one and do it! You won’t regret it.



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