The main ultra-marathon season will soon be here, and you may be plotting an ultra PB in the coming months. Here’s what you need to know now in order to go after that new PB.
In SA, there are many ultras on the calendar, with distances going from just over the marathon distance of 42.2km all the way up to several hundred kilometres. We also have 24-hour races, multi-day or multi-stage events, and informal races limited only by the imagination, with runners taking on challenges like 50 marathons in 50 days, running across the country, or the Sahara, or even 10 Comrades in 10 days.
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 ultra best.
1. 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.
2. 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 are the entry criteria for my target race? (Because these days many races sell out early!)
• What do I need to do differently this year?
3. 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 paces that are preparing you for a marathon, or worse, something even shorter and faster.
4. Get going: Once you’ve chosen your target ultra for the PB attempt, stick to your training programme and make it happen. Only you can train for and achieve that PB, nobody can do it for you, so go get it.