Ultrarunning: Experiences From 100-mile Trail Races
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Ultrarunning is defined as running anything longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). But ultraruns are commonly 50- or 100-mile races, and are often run on trails and in mountainous terrain.
One hundred-milers don't require running that distance during training. The key is to get to the starting line fresh and injury free. Logging 50-60 miles a week in the 6 months before the race is enough. Try to include 6-7 runs in excess of 6 hours and at least one 50-miler about 2 months before the race. Getting used to being on your feet for extended periods of time is important. Train wearing the equipment you plan to wear during the race, such as a fuel belt or pack that will hold water bottles and items such as nutrition bars and blister remedies.
Only the most elite runners will run the entire course. A strong walker can rest muscle groups while losing little time. Many a walker has passed a struggling runner late in a race.
Eating and Drinking
Runners should determine what food and drink works in training and then make sure that it will be at medical/supply checkpoints along the course. Options should include water, sports drinks, energy bars, and energy gels.
Consider cross-training using weights and incorporating other activities, such as swimming or biking. The weight training can help maintain technique even during the late stages of a race when the miles and hours have affected pace, form, and resolve.
Even the most talented and well-conditioned runner can fall victim to the trail, the weather, and the distance. Understand that every race has elements that may be out of your control.
Using a Pacer
Most races allow pacer runners from about 50 miles on. The pacer provides company, encouragement, and protection from the often treacherous terrain through the long night.
Even average runners can meet the hundred mile challenge, given a determined commitment to develop an proper ultrarunning base, a willingness to maintain a positive attitude during training and competition, and the tenacity to endure the tough situations that always arise during a race.
American Ultrarunning Association
International Association of Athletics Federation
Public Health Agency of Canada
Greenwood E. The newcomers guide to running an ultra. Ultrarunning Magazine website. Available at:https://ultrarunning.com/featured/the-newcomers-guide-to-running-an-ultra. Accessed July 10, 2017.
Medinger J. A primer for the beginning ultra runner: Keep it simple. Ultrarunning Magazine website. Available at:https://ultrarunning.com/features/a-primer-for-the-beginning-ultra-runner-keep-it-simple. Accessed July 10, 2017.
Ultrarunning. International Association of Athletics Federation website. Available at:
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Accessed July 10, 2017.
Last reviewed June 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 7/10/2017
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