Are you looking to go ahead and make the bold decision to sign up for an ultramarathon? First things first, cheer you for going on this rollercoaster experience.
With this new challenge comes excitement, and anxiety but worry not! I have compiled all about what is an ultra marathon?
From its benefits to a few friendly training tips, you get it all right here.
Although many of you might have participated in a marathon, however, an ultramarathon is not the same. It is more challenging, and you need to train harder for endurance and a win.
Having said that, let’s get into what is an ultra marathon?
Any race that is longer than the usual marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 km) is considered an ultramarathon.
Runners have a plethora of options when it comes to ultramarathons. However, they must all follow a few basic guidelines to achieve the title, such as running more than the usual marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
Ultramarathons can be run on the road or a trail, but the latter is far more popular.
What Are The Types Of Ultramarathons?
When it comes to the variety of challenges you can take up, ultramarathon has it for you. There are typically two types of ultra marathons:
1. Distance Ultramarathon
In a distance-based ultramarathon, you will need to run a certain distance to win the marathon. The most popular ultramarathon distance ranges from 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 kilometers, and 100 miles.
However, the ultramarathons can cover more distance. According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, the official world record is currently at 100 kilometers.
2. Timed Ultramarathon
As the name suggests, a time-based ultramarathon is outlined by the number of hours rather than the distance. These races are typically run in three time periods:
- Six hours
- Twelve hours
- Twenty-four hours.
Timed ultramarathons are similar to distance runs where the runners cover a certain distance in a short amount of time. However, most timed ultramarathons feature a loop course that ranges from a few miles to several miles. The runners can stop at the end of the loop for fueling or resting and then resuming the race.
What Are The Benefits Of An Ultramarathon?
The thought of running an ultramarathon can be intimidating; however, there are several benefits of taking part in one, as the high-intensity training will build your endurance and help you be more healthy and active.
- Keeps Diseases Away
The high-intensity running that you need for this ultramarathon has proven to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Although to reap these benefits, you don’t have to jump right to the intense training. If you are just a beginner, some regular running can also get you these benefits.
- Promotes Better Mental Health
Look, I know ultramarathons can cause a level of psychological stress, but that is not entirely true. When you train for this, you build up both physically and mentally.
Moreover, this sport is not just about competition. It is also about that ecstatic feeling you get with the endorphin rush, which can reduce stress, anxiety and can even act as an antidepressant.
- Weight loss
Generally, people take up running as their daily workout to lose a few pounds, and it has proven to show results.
Although the calories you burn will depend on your weight, height, and other factors, the intense training for the ultramarathon will help you lose weight either way. This will make you a lot fitter and get in shape (if you aren’t already).
Ultramarathon challenges your body as well as your mind. When you run an ultramarathon, you grow and learn as well. And winning one is one of the biggest personal achievements that you can have.
Is There Any Risk in Ultramarathons?
An ultramarathon is a thrilling experience that gives you several benefits and improves your overall health and strength, but there might be some risks that you should know about before you sign yourself up for this.
- Risks of RSI
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), more commonly known as an Overuse injury, can be prevalent among runners.
When you plan to run an ultramarathon, you put yourself at risk for these injuries. The strain your body is put under when you increase the length, or your pace can change your posture and internal muscle. No matter how high your fitness level or your body’s ability to recover from injuries is, you can still suffer from overuse injuries. However, to reduce the risk of these injuries, I would suggest you use a training plan that includes a gradual increase in your pace of running.
- Cardiovascular Health Risk
The cardiovascular health of an individual who runs regularly has been much debated over. But, look, it is pretty simple. Running helps in improving your cardiac health as it helps to lose weight and also get an active lifestyle.
However, you might think about this twice when you talk about a challenge like an ultramarathon. While many people adjust to the stress of a long run like this and even benefit their cardiac health, there are people whose cardiac health might be at risk due to this sport’s high intensity and stress.
Runners with heart conditions or those with a family history of cardiovascular health ailments tend to be at a higher risk.
- Risk Of Losing Those Muscles
The exercises included in ultramarathon training are mostly high-intensity cardio workouts, which makes you lose weight. However, these tough workouts might also result in a loss of muscle mass, usually in your upper body.
But the good news is it can be prevented if you can incorporate strength training in your weekly workout plan. Do exercises like squats, pushups to maintain your muscle mass. In addition, to give your physique an edge, you should do lifting at least two times a week for great results.
- Emotional Mood Swings
The most exciting fact about running is that it can give you a high. This occurs when your body is in a constant state of motion, which facilitates hormonal changes, leading to an ‘endorphin rush,’ giving you a happy ecstatic feeling.
The endorphin rush of these hormones from the workout can get you addicted to this. And an ultra-marathon can do exactly that because of the long run.
However, this high comes with a risky side effect that can harm you if you don’t notice it. The extreme strain can give rise to low blood sugar and hormone imbalance which cause intense feelings and emotional outbursts.
- Low Sodium Content and Hallucination
Depleted sodium is one of the several serious issues that runners must be aware of. During ultramarathons, many runners report blurred vision, toenail loss, and increased stress fractures. In addition, because of the strain on their cardiovascular system, some runners may experience irregular heartbeats and breathing patterns. Multi-day events can also cause visual and auditory hallucinations.
The majority of these issues resolve themselves within a day or two of the race’s conclusion. Even if runners only rest for a few hours, resting will alleviate any hallucinations. I would suggest consulting with doctors before and after the run.
Now that you are aware of the risks and precautions of running in an ultramarathon, you must keep these in mind when you go ahead with your training.
Tips to Run an Ultramarathon
If you are new to ultramarathons and intense training, you will need to have a strategy and a well-planned training program as well as a nutritious diet to get ready for the long extensive run.
Training and consistency are very crucial in finishing your ultra marathon. The training for this mostly involves running at an incredible pace. Depending on what type of ultramarathon you select, you can either increase your distance or set a certain time to complete the run.
Moreover, the training itself can put extreme stress on your body, which can result in injuries. To adjust to these high-intensity exercises and recover from them, you need to have a healthy diet.
You can implement the following tips in your training period to get a win in your ultramarathon.
- Be Basic
Training for an ultramarathon pushes your body into a strain of running long distances. So before you consider training for an ultramarathon, you should make sure to have at least a year of solid, consistent running experience.
Running an ultramarathon is a challenging task, so if you have just started out running and don’t have a basic fitness level for it, I would suggest you participate in it the next time around.
- Eat before and during your run.
Your body requires a high amount of energy to complete these intense long runs. During these arduous exercises, your body burns both stored carbohydrates and fat. Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal 1 to 4 hours before long or intense training sessions to replenish your energy stores.
However, your body does not have infinite carbohydrate reserves. Therefore, you will eventually struggle when the reserves are depleted. To prevent it, consuming carbohydrate-rich foods during exercise will aid in providing a steady supply of energy to the muscles. This helps you run longer distances and for a long time at ease.
- Be Regular
Experience is developed over time, and an ultramarathon is no different in this. However, for you to complete or even participate in this, you need to be consistent with your training regime for optimum performance.
Although the number of runs can vary because of weight, age, goals, etc. Generally, it is recommended to run at least 4 to 6 times weekly. This helps you get used to the stress levels and build endurance.
- Have A Balanced Diet
You might have heard this before when you are trying to lose weight or have clear skin. But this becomes more important when you are participating in this intense run. While you train, consume a well-balanced training diet that includes all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats).
However, all people have different goals to achieve. Some runners avoid carbohydrates or the amount of it is significantly low. During the training, some runners also put themselves into strict diets such as keto.
It is recommended to include healthy carbohydrates, as well as protein and fat, in your diet.
- Down Weeks
In your training regime, recovery is more important than running because your muscles and body need time to rest and regain their strength for your next run.
While you train, you will have the recovery weeks or ‘down weeks’ where your body recovers from the strenuous exercises. Generally, runners have two ‘up’ weeks with one ‘down’ week in their training cycle. This helps you avoid any significant injuries and refreshes you for the ultramarathon.
- Food For Recovery
Proper diet and nutrition will help your body recover faster. Try to eat a meal containing both carbohydrates and protein within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing an intense run.
Doing this aids in the replenishment of glycogen stores and the initiation of the muscle repair process. In addition, good nutrients fasten up your recovery process and fuel you for imminent workout sessions.
A common mistake runners can make is not maintaining the proper carbs and protein intake throughout the day. You can even take advice from a professional to help you with your diet.
Now that you have these few tips, that can go a long way when you are fiercely trying to achieve the title of the ultramarathon. With training and proper food, you can build yourself up to run longer distances within a certain time. These tips prepare you both physically and mentally for the ultimate ultramarathon.
Undoubtedly, an ultramarathon is a challenging sport. Whether you have run several marathons and are professional or a newbie, you must keep in mind the benefits as well as the risk you will get out of this experience.
Moreover, follow the tips I have recommended and pave your way through this race to your victory. With dedication and self-motivation, you can complete this race.
I hope this article was insightful about what an ultramarathon is, so what are you waiting for? Go ahead and make this gutsy decision.