A middle of the pack runners guide to running an Ultra Marathon

Hi, my name is Jason. Im 40 & I love to run. Ive never won a race! In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve never even podium’d. I have however finished every race, fun run, stupid idea run I’ve ever attempted. I’ve dabbled in triathlon and had similar stats there. never the worst but also never the best. Im like upper middle class I would say. Im better than many but not good enough to be noticed. This is my how to guide on running an Ultra Marathon

In the past I’ve finished numerous sprint triathlons, 3 x 70.3 half ironman events. 1 x 140.6 ironman race ( 11hrs 08 mins ), 8 x 13.1 half marathons, a couple 26.2 marathons ( in training ) & 1 x 50k ( 31 miles ) Ultra marathon & I’m currently training for my first 100k ( 60 mile ) Ultra marathon & R2R2R. I’ve never won nor come last in any of those events & here is my advice to you on how to finish your next Ultra Marathon.

Steps to finish an Ultra Marathon.

1: No, you don’t need a coach.

Coaches are for people who want to win things or qualify for races. Triathletes need coaches if they want to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. If you just want to finish a local race like Ironman Texas what you need is a Tri Club, NOT a coach.

If you want to finish something like a 50k or 100k or even a 26.2 marathon you don’t need a coach, you need a running club or at least just some buddies who have finished the distance.

Just get some friends who have run the distance, copy and do what they did and you will be 10% of the way to finishing the race already. 10%? Yes 10%! Finishing an Ultra Marathon is 90% mental and 10% training. Its going to be freaking hard. If you’re not mentally tough you will quit at the first aid station.

2: Buy all the books!

Do some reading! The beauty of reading books about Ultra Marathons is that they’re super easy reads & some are even available as Audiobooks. That means you can listen to your book while running. Awesome. I’ve never done the Audiobook thing, let me know below in the comments if its something you do and what your favorites have been.

2.1 Books I’ve read this year so far

  • Trail Blazer / Ryan Sandes ( just won Wester States, woohoo, go Ryan )
  • Born To Run / Christopher McDougall
  • Ultra Marathon Man / Dean Karnazes
  • Eat & Run / Scott Jurek
  • Finding Ultra / Rich Roll

Currently Reading 

  • A Life Without Limits / Chrissie Wellington &
  • Field Guide To Ultra Running / Hal Koerner

Reading these books has only made me love trail running even more than I already do. If you’re a newbie start with Hal Koerner’s Field Guide To Ultra Running  It really does break absolutely everything down & is a super easy read. You may finish it in a couple days.

3: Buy All The Gear, you’re gonna need it

If you’re like most runners you cant get enough gear. I have 2 different pairs or trail running shoes. 1 for shorter runs & another for longer trail runs. Then I have a couple different pairs of road running shoes. 1 with a zero drop heel ( Altra Torins ) & am looking at a pair or 4mm drop ON Clouds. Then I have my Vibram 5 fingers to help strengthen my feet to prevent injuries.

Hats, yes I have baseball caps.

ultra running trucker hats

The funkier the hat the better, I’m always on the lookout for a cool new hat.

My favorite most comfy one right now is the Made In The USA hat from No Fine Print.

constellation cap NFP

Its what I like to run in, so have about 5 different ones. Shorts, yes I have lots of shorts. I even have one from Salomon that costs $200!! OUCH but theyre awesome and prevent chafing. Socks..oooh, I have special trail running socks. No, the crappy Costco ones wont do. Hydration packs. hmm lets see.

There are loads of different hydration packs but my #1 criteria for a pack is one that can carry A: lots of liquid B: My huge iPhone 6+. & yes I have more than 1 pack.

Pack 1 :  Orange Mud HydraQuiver Single Barrel

orange mud hydraquiver single barrel

This great little vest is my “short run” run around hydration vest. If I’m running an hour or less this is my vest of choice. It fits 1 x 20oz water bottle, my huge phone, keys, wallet, sunscreen etc…

Pack 2 : Orange Mud HydraQuiver Double Barrel Hydration Pack

HydraQuiver Double Barrel Hydration Pack

This cool every day pack is just like the single barrel above except it doubles up on bottle storage which means if I’m running up to 2 hours then this is my go to hydration pack. One of the negatives of both these packs is that the zipper / storage area for the phone is on your back so you cant reach it during your run. You would have to stop, take the pack off to take out your phone if you wanted to get a photo of a cool view or a runfie. Thats where pack #3 comes in handy.

3: Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 

HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2

So whats the point of a 3rd OM hydration pack. Its quite simple so let me explain. You have 2 bottles, yes. You have the same shoulder pockets as the others, yes. But here comes the fun…This pack I actually use for trail races and heres why. The phone / key / junk compartment on the back has been moved to the “breast area ” as you can see in the first image. Thanks to Runny Legs & Small Town Runner for the images.

So this now allows you to stash your phone etc with super easy access. You don’t even have to stop running. Just grab your Gu, phone, chomp etc and keep on trucking.

Pack 4: Yes there is a 4th pack…

Pack 4: Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack

VAPORAIR MEN'S HYDRATION BACKPACK VAPORAIR MEN'S HYDRATION BACKPACK

These are some supercool features on this pack & here is why I bought it. Boom – up to 70oz of liquid…You know what that means…2-3 hours of running unsupported. Not only the liquid capabilities but storage for my phone on the front along with sunglasses, earphones, 20-30 Gu’s ( at least ) sunscreen, extra jacket etc etc etc.. This thing is huge and can carry a lot. Not to mention you can carry hiking poles on them as well ( which I will most likely never use ).

GPS Watch? Yes you’re gonna need a dedicated watch for running an Ultra. Don’t bother with an Apple Watch, jump straight to a Garmin or Suunto. They’re worth every penny & although out on the trails neither are super accurate ( for every 10 miles you’re likely to lose a mile ) they come with awesome features & its super easy to upload your data to strava and your friends can give you lots of Kudos.

Other gear you may need or enjoy are things like sunglasses, gators etc and other creature comforts.

4: Lubrication

Im not really sure why trail running is different from road running in this respect but for trail running you’re going to need lube. Just about everything chaffs. Be ready to spread liberally on your toes, heels, inner thighs, groin and nipples. Yes they’re gonna chaff & could end your race early.

5: The Potty 

Be sure to take a dump before you leave home. If you dont you may well be squatting in the woods & there are bears, mountain lions and poison ivy in those woods. So just take a dump before you leave home. If you ever see a trail runner with only one sock then you know what they have been up to, no need to even ask.

6: Education & training

Any further education and training you’re gonna need is going to be found on youtube. Prepare to waste away for the next week watching some of the best trail documentaries, shows, gear reviews & everything else you can think of on your computer, phone or apple TV.

Here is my list of favorites & youtube subscriptions.

1: The Ginger Runner : Interviews, live shows, gear reviews and amazing films.

 

A Decade On!

2: Billy Yang : Just a great filmmaker

A Life In The Day

3: Run Steep Get High : Pure entertainment with some great films

Found On 49

Also goes by the name Jamil Coury, Jam Jam and has content on a few channels. Summit Love productions, Steep Life Media, Mountain Outpost & Aravaipa Running.

4: Ryan Van Duzer : Just the nicest dude, well travelled & loves bikes.

The Burning Man Ultra marathon

The Grand Canyon R2R2R

And thats all I’ve got for now. Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments below if you have any more tips for people who are attempting their first Ultra marathon. or maybe you think one of mine is BS. Let me know below.

Remember to have fun, take lots of photos & be safe.