Explore the Running Races That Change Your Life as an Ultrarunner
At the end of each year, it's usually major decision time in terms of committing to ultra running races. Some runners have busy racing schedules whilst others focus on one or two major ultra marathons per year.
In August 2007, I decided to hand in my application for the Marathon des Sables, an adventure running race par excellence, to make a long-lived dream come true.
From my experience after two multi-day events you have to allow yourself at least six months of preparation. Often, the right equipment has to be researched and found for each running race, too.
Many multi-stage races require the runners to commit early on, often in fall or early winter. What may seem like a long time is actually the ideal time frame for preparation.
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So when considering any type of ultra marathon, ask yourself:
- What are my goals for the first six months of the year?
- Do I want to race in one big event like a 100K, 100-miler or multi-stage running race?
- Do I want to put a focus on mainly road races, trail and adventure races or 6/12/24-hour-challenges?
- What support can I get from my partner, family and friends?
- What commitments do I have in addition?
- What's my budget and can I involve my spouse and/or family and spend a vacation before or after the race?
- Am I looking to make the time limits in an ultra event or am I seriously ambitious to place well and/or run new personal bests?
- Do I like to run in warmer and hot conditions or in cooler climates?
- Do I like to travel a long way to races on other continents and can I adapt well to foreign cultures?
You might wonder about the last question but as for running races like the Marathon des Sables, I've seen people quitting after a day or two because the environment was too overwhelming and difficult to deal with. Hundreds of people, the logistics, vast surroundings, living with eight people in one tent. That's why this is an important question to consider before you pay the starting fees!
Find out now how simply I plan my races. This can help you as a guide to set your priorities each year.
Let's also explore some ultra marathon treasures. Races that make you feel stronger and take you to higher levels as a runner.
So in 2007, I started training and researching for the desert race and didn't do any short road or cross-country races as a preparation.
I know many ultra runners would use short races of up to half-marathon distances as sharpeners improving speed endurance. Naturally, you put more effort in when running competitively as opposed to doing a tempo run in your environment.
Back then, I put emphasis on building base endurance and only sprinkled in a few interval and tempo runs.
After all, this approach worked well and I finished the race healthily and injury-free in April 2008.
After a period of recovery regaining motivation and enthusiasm I prepared for a 40-miler trail race in July. Except for muscle soreness mainly in my thighs after the race my body and mind had coped really well.
Three weeks after the trail race I got my road bike out again and cycled a hilly long course in the Black Forest for two days.
Soon after that, an article in a running magazine about a 12-hour race had sparked my interest and when I found out that it would take place only ten minutes away from home, I decided to enter my third ultra marathon that year.
In October of 2008, I clocked 65 miles in twelve hours finishing first woman and had such a great time out on the course.
As you can see, 2008 was a year of curiosity exploring various ultra distances, terrains and races.
Looking back, allowing eight to twelve weeks of recovery between the races as well building up mileage and intensity again enabled me to get through the season injury-free. A foot injury developed during the twelve hours from wearing the wrong type of shoe which taught me a lesson and could have been avoided!
So, each race was special in its own way. I don't favour one over the other because they were all memorable ones. Most of all, having a good time and meeting other fellow ultra runners was the main thing.
Based on a successful year of ultrarunning, I took the same approach for this year. Signing up for the Swiss Jura Marathon in early winter, gave me seven months to train, carefully choose my equipment and try to adapt my nutrition adequately.
I didn't participate in any races all winter and went for long runs and walks instead. Building base endurance and practising up-and downhill running made more sense than getting too stiff from ten or twenty kilometres races every weekend.
What are you after when you decide to enter an ultra running race?
What drives you about one particular race? What outcome do you expect? Can you realistically invest the time and effort it takes to feel prepared when you get to the starting line?
If in any doubt it might be wise to focus on the quality of three or four finely selected ultra marathons rather than cluttering your agenda just to say: 'I've shuffled through another ultra!'
What Is Your Best Ultramarathon Moment?
Which ultramarathon race was most special to you and why?
Did it all come together on that one special day?
Have you got a photograph that shows you enjoying what you love doing? A photo that shows your visible story just crossing the finish line or any point in the race that was very emotional?
Please share your story - right here, right now!
Read Other Stories Of Ultrarunners
Click on the links below to see some great photos and stories. They were all sent and written by other ultrarunners visiting this page.
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