Go Get That ULTRA PB!


The main ultra-marathon season is just about behind us, with thousands of runners building to peak fitness for the Comrades Marathon, but you may be plotting a personal best (PB) at another ultra distance event in the coming months. Here’s what you need to know now in order to go after that new PB. – BY RAY ORCHISON

In SA, the huge ultra-running community revolves around two main events: The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and the Comrades Marathon. Of course, there are several other ultras on the calendar for the months to come, and this would be the ideal time to take your Comrades fitness to the next level by building up to an even longer event, or perhaps a PB attempt at another ultra (or even the marathon distance).

For example, you could try a 50km classic at the City2City in Gauteng in September, a 100km at the Hewat Festival of Running in Cape Town (also September), or a 100 Miler (161km) at the Washie in July in the Border area. If circuit racing sounds like fun, you could opt for the ORAK 12-hour in the Cape in July, or choose between the Jannas 9-hour/18-hour and the Gold Reef 100 mile/12-hour – both in Central Gauteng in October.

However, keep in mind that the ultra is there to challenge us, both mentally and physically, and anyone who thinks that an ultra is simply going to roll over and hand out PB’s is horribly mistaken! So here are some essential tips to follow when chasing that new best beyond the 42km mark.


1. Get going:

One of the biggest mistakes runners make is to go into hibernation for four or five months (and sometimes longer) after Comrades, and by the time you get back onto the road you have to rebuild from scratch. The better approach is to give yourself enough rest – anything from two to six weeks – and then get going again. The benefit is that you’re able to use that base that you’ve built as a stepping stone to become a stronger and faster ultra-runner, and that stronger base will push you to that PB.

2. Get your head in the game:

This doesn’t require hours on the couch talking to your shrink. Start by committing 100% to your goal. Make sure it’s realistic but challenging, and start believing that you can achieve it.

3. Planning is crucial:

The difficulty with an ultra is that because of the toll it places on the body and the amount of recovery required post-race, you only have one bite at the cherry. If you build up and train to run a fast 10km and things don’t work out on race day, picking another race the following week is not a problem, but if things don’t quite go according to plan in an ultra, you can’t simply choose to run another one soon thereafter. This makes planning a crucial part of success, and you’ll need to answer these questions when doing your planning:

•   What do I need to do to achieve my goal?

•   Do I have enough time to build up injury-free?

•   Which races am I going to do between now and then that will help me reach my goal?

•   What do I need to do differently this year?

4. Adapt:

Training is all about adapting the body physically, metabolically and biomechanically in order to achieve your goals. Make sure that you’re training for your goal race and nothing else. If you’re training for an ultra, then you need to be running at paces that will best prepare you for it, and not training at a pace that will prepare you for a marathon, or an even faster pace for shorter distances.