Running an ultra marathon

Ultra marathons vary in distances from just above marathon (50km) up to 100 mile or 150 miles at stages. Or they are multi day events


Pre race fuelling

Thinking 2-3 days ahead for this type of distance and stress on the body. Time to reduce fibre 2-3 days out and add foods with better carb value eg white rice.

Its always a good idea to practise foods that work for you in training so you can be confident it is going to work race day. the day before its a good idea to reduce the fibre content, fibre is great for you but can accelerate the food through your system, sometimes leaving you feel bloated as well.On the morning aim to have mostly carb due to the intensity of the session, a 5 km is furled almost completed by carbohydrate. Add some protein and fat but remember these can take longer to digest so know long long to leave it between food and high intensity exercise for you personally. Often more simpler food eg cornflakes with a banana and nuts/seeds can work due to the bodies ability to absorb and digest quicker and turn into energy. Id look at these ratios on race day morning

4 hour pre stat – 4 x bodyweight (KG) in carb

3 hours pre start – 3 x bodyweight (KG) in carb, or

2 hours pre start – 2 x bodyweight (KG) in carb, or

1 hour pre stat – 1 x bodyweight (KG) in carb


Warm up

Your body is going to be working moderately hard in a 21 km length race, it takes time to get the body prepared so arrive in plenty of time to be able to warm up properly. this will help the muscles and cardiovascular systems to be ready to go so heres an example

5 mins easy jog/run

light mobility eg half lunges/stretches

5 mins of 40 secs race feel/20 secs easy – Head to start line ready to go


Race itself

confidence in your ability and what you have been achieving in training of late is key, you should be feeling familiar with the efforts from training and this will help pace. Don’t be tempted to go off with the faster runners, you may well just end up surviving rather than thriving.

  • RPE 3-5 feel, always feel like there is more to give. Allow lower RPE for the longer the run time
  • 75-89% Threshold Heart rate
  • If using pace as a guide, know what the weather and terrain is doing as you have to be able to adapt for windy or hillier conditions as it can affect things quite a bit

Fuelling during the race

As a whole you will need to top up with energy as you go. Its always a good idea to practise in your training to make sure you get a long with the nutrition you are using. you always have the option of using the race day nutrition. My advice is to buy some to train with first off to know it goes down well!

In an ultra think along the lines  2-3.5 calories per KG of bodyweight per hour (work this out in training though). Due to the lower RPE or intensity the body can stomach a little protein and fat but not loads. Id recommend breaking small chunks/sips into regular 15-20 mins top ups

You can get this from small chews /gels/drinks/bars/real food. Often carrying a rucksack/camelback or run belt to help you store

Post race

  • Within 30 mins aim to have some carb to replace the glycogen lost and protein based to start the repair of the muscles/tendons after a demanding effort.
  • Summarise what went right and what went wrong (often its usually heading off to hard)
  • Aloow up to 72 hours for the body to recover properly in your training, a mix of rest/foam rolling/stretching and recovery runs will help you to feel better and the body will like you for it

Leave a comment