Tempted to try an ultra? International runner Dr Andrew Murray gives his tips on how to tackle the challenge and stay healthy
The human body is capable of anything. I think that it’s possible for pretty much anyone to go and do an ultra-marathon. It is hard work – there are no shortcuts. It will take a fair bit of training, it will take a fair bit of dedication and getting ready for.
Ultra-runners come in all shapes and sizes. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a shot. I love it myself.
Ultra-marathon running is something that the human body adapts to quite quickly. The majority of people would say that their second ultra was a good deal easier than their first and then after that you’ll have worked out strategies which can make things easier for yourself.
The further you are going and the longer you are running for, the greater total load on your body. From a physical point of view you are trying to maximise your performance but also minimise muscular-skeletal injury. The longer you run, the more likely it is you’ll have to deal with DOMS, with blisters, with chaffing and for all of these things prevention is
better than cure. Be prepared for each eventuality.
Give yourself adequate time to train. Don’t underestimate the challenge. It’s no secret that if you want to run far, you need to run far.
Find a race that you really want to do. It might be in your home town, for example, so you could celebrate with your mates, or it might be an adventure further afield. But the key is to find one that you want to do because it’s more likely to get you out of bed in the morning.
Lots of people, when they are running, make the mistake of eating too late. There’s lots of nonsense that you hear that says you don’t have to eat until the second half of the race. The absolute bottom line is that you need to eat small amounts of carbohydrate often during an ultra race.
Don’t underestimate what you are capable of. Involve the right people, know what you’re looking to get done and you’ll do it.
» Dr Andrew Murray is a world-renowned endurance athlete, sports and expedition medic. He is a Merrell brand ambassador. For more from Dr Murray see September’s ultra-marathon running special edition of Running Monthly magazine