Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So You Want To Run An Ultramarathon

You have running in your blood. You enjoy spending hours and hours on the trail. You cringe whenever a Gloria Estefan song comes on the radio (not necessarily required for ultramarathons, but essential to be a decent human being). You want to see what sort of craziness exists beyond 26.2 miles. Maybe you want to go for the whole enchilada = a 100 miler. Bring. On. An. Ultramarathon!

Compared to marathons, there is definitely less information about preparing for your first ultra, let alone a 100 miler. I’m far from being an expert on the topic and I still have lots to learn. My experience comes from completing two 100 milers - the Javelina Jundred (race report HERE) and Zion 100 (race report HERE) along with some shorter ultras. Here is a list of resources I have found to be very helpful in my ultrarunning with plenty of links where you can find the info:

Ultra Runner Podcast - I have listened to each of these hour-ish interviews and they have kept me occupied for many long runs. Guests include elite runners, doctors, nutritionists, and Average Joe ultrarunners. Some of my favorites are Errol Jones, Lee McKinley, and Sunny Blende. I highly recommend downloading all their podcasts. – I have read everything on this website countless times. It has suggestions and answers for anything you could ever want to know about ultramarathons, including training, hydration, heat acclimatization, race strategy, and injury prevention.

UltraRunning Magazine – This is the ultra version of Runner’s World. The magazine is full of informative articles, cool pictures, and race reports from people who show how fun ultramarathons can be. I was honored to have one of my pictures from the Javelina Jundred in this month’s issue: – The website is chock full of interviews, gear reviews, and articles. It’s a community gathering place for fellow runners.

Books – There are a bunch of great books about ultrarunning. Some of my favorites are Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, And Then The Vulture Eats You by John L. Parker, Running Through The Wall by Neil Jamison, and of course the old standby Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

Training Plans – There are training resources in the book Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell. There are also training plans HERE and HERE. To see a graph of my four months of training leading up to my first 100 click HERE.

And a few other tips I’d suggest based on my experience:

1) Run some longer races to build up to 100. I know it’s easy to get excited about ultras and want to go right to 100 miles, but I would definitely recommend running a 50 miler first. Although it’s not critical, I think having the experience of running 50 miles is a huge advantage before trying to tackle 100.

2) Practice nutrition and hydration during training. These issues really need to be nailed down because it’s near impossible to finish 100 miles if things go wrong here. (Yep, learned this one the hard way.)

3) No matter what, change the station if you hear a song by Gloria Estefan, Pat Benetar, or Celine Dion. Listening to this garbage will invite bad trail karma. (No, I have not learned this the hard way.)

 4) Make your training runs race-specific – run on trails that are similar to your upcoming race. If you’re doing a mountain race with lots of climbing, you better make sure you tackle plenty of hills in training.

5) Just my personal soap box, but ultra training shouldn’t come at the expense of family. Do as much of your training at a time that won’t interrupt with family time. Yep. This will mean some early morning or late night miles. But oh well. A belt buckle or medal isn’t more valuable than a relationship with my wife and kids.

So in conclusion: just click the “Register” button. Making that commitment is definitely the scariest part of the race. But once you register, you can get down to the business of figuring out how you’re going to achieve your goal. Can't wait to welcome you to the > 26.2 club!


  1. Although at this point I have no desire to run an ultra, you make some great points and excellent suggestions. My favorite was not running at the expense of family. That's hard to do when training for an Ironman too!

  2. Awesome! I have just posted the first post about my Comrades preparation this year. Ultras rock!

  3. Thank you!! I'm planning my first 50k this spring, this is a great resource!

  4. We are young, heartache to heartache we stand. No promises, no demands. Love Is A Battlefield.

  5. I agree - that sort of music is not trail appropriate! I love the sound of nature anyway.
    Thanks for all the links - although I'm nowhere near running an ultra, I love reading about it and there's always the future!

  6. So far I am still trying to talk myself into another marathon.

  7. I have to admit, I have no desire to run an ultra. Just regular marathons make me think that listening to My Heart Will Go On for three hours will be easier. I have managed to make it through a few marathons, and I've never listened to that song even repeated twice, so maybe not.

    Great list! If I ever DO decide to do an ultra, I'm looking to you for advice! (Although after my "ultra" ragnar of 41 miles in 24 hours I am pretty sure I won't ever do one.)

  8. I'm reading Born To Run at the moment and loving it. But I still don't want to run an ultra. Don't know that I ever will.

  9. Agree with it all...except maybe the Pat Benetar...she can really belt it out, Man! ;)

    Your take on family time is bang on....when I trail run, my trail buddy & I put her kids on the bus (hers leave later than mine) & hit the trail getting in as many miles of fun as we can until that bus gets back! Love it when one of her boys hops off the bus and asks if we saw any bears that day!

  10. Great resources Cory - I will check them all out, thanks! Feel the beat of the rhythm of the ultra.

  11. Thank you so much for the links to all the resources!

  12. Do you listen to Endurance Planet? Super good stuff on there too!

    You need to come out and do Leadville with me this summer (50...if I do it), I'd love the company! :)

  13. Loved this! Thanks for the links. I'm thinking of doing a 50k next year and then going up slowly from there.

    1. I'm still new to running, April 2013 started. Worked up to the intimating marathon Nov.2014, but after that what challenges were left? Ultras! Yep, at 63 years old, I trained for an ultra and completed that and 5 more(50 K's and one 100 K). I'm training now for a 100 miler in 6 months. I read on here some people don't want to run an ultra, fine, marathons are a big challenge also but I want to know my limitations

  14. Hey Cory, I am half way through your book and I am enjoying it tremendously! I've been running for a few years but got into trail running this year and I am preparing for my first 50K. I love your book because you make it sound easy while keeping a respect for the distance and the trails. Thanks!