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How to run an Ultra Marathon

How to run an Ultra Marathon

March 13, 2018

"I am a sport scientist so was able to test out different training protocols on myself, to see what would enable me to increase the amount of running I was able to do." - Emma Crum

Your latest adventure 

I recently competed in the Tarawera Ultra 102 km event, which is the longest race I have done. This year, it rained a lot the day before the race and the course was extremely muddy, which added to the challenge! I used to be a professional cyclist and raced and lived in Europe from 2009-2013. After I retired from bike racing, I started running, but initially struggled with numerous injuries-a result of many years of only doing non weight-bearing exercise. It became my goal to strength my legs enough to be able to train and race a 100 km ultramarathon. 
I am a sport scientist so was able to test out different training protocols on myself, to see what would enable me to increase the amount of running I was able to do. I started off with half marathons and half ironmans and progressed to my first ultra (50 km at the Taupo Ultra) in 2016. Last year, I did the 87 km event at Tarawera and finally, this year, I completed the 102 km event!
 

What are your top three tips for preparing to race in an Ultra Marathon?

In training, slow down! You need to teach your body how to run efficiently at the slower speeds that you'll be doing in an ultra, plus, doing long, slow runs will improve your endurance capacity.
Practice running with your pack during your long runs and make sure its comfortable.
For trail ultras, run on trails as much as you can, and particularly focus on downhills and technical terrain to make sure you are prepared for the course..
 

What are the three most important items you carry on an Ultra

Fluid - you need a lot, especially in the second half of the ultra
Food - see question below! 
Shoes - Because I've previously had injuries, I'm very picky about my shoes! My favourites are the Hoka One One Challenger ATRs

What do you eat before, during and after an Ultra

RACING
Before: porridge + coffee
During: In the first half, I try and eat as much 'normal' food as possible. At the Tarawera Ultra, I was eating honey or jam sandwiches at the aid stations and carried Go Native bars and snickers bars with me. In the second half of the race, I generally lose the ability to eat much, so then have to rely on gels and lollies.
After: After the Tarawera Ultra this year, I was so tired and wanted to go straight to bed. All I could eat was two packets of sugar from the motel coffee station and a bottle of water with salt added to it! Note: would not recommend this!
TRAINING
Before: Again, porridge (I love porridge) + coffee
During: I only eat during long runs (2.5hrs or more) and I try and eat the same types of foods that I race with.
After: A normal lunch/dinner, depending on what time it is. I would much rather eat real food than have a protein shake or something like that.

Your next event...

I am training for the Xterra nationals in April (1 km swim, 26 km mountain bike, 11 km run).
All the best of luck Emma! 
You can find the Go Native Raspberry & Apple Bars that Emma used in training an on the ultra marathon here. Try them out on your next training session and let us know what you think! https://gonativeworld.com/collections/fruit-bars/products/raspberry-apple-fruit-bar-40g
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