First of all let’s start explaining what is an ultra-marathon and it variations. An Ultra, how is commonly known, is a organize footrace extending beyond the standard marathon running distance (42 km and 195 meters).
Ultra races usually begin at 50 km and can extend to various distances.
There are two types of ultras marathon events:
- Those that have to cover an extended area (e.g. 50 km, 100 km, 100 miles, etc.)
- Those ones that take place during a certain amount of time (e.g. 8hs, 12 hs, 24 hs, etc.) with the winner being the one that covers the most distance in that time.
There are also stage races, these races are done usually between five or six days, where each runner has to mandatory stop when they reach to the finishing line of the correspondent day before leaving for the next stage the following day. (E.g. Marathon Des Sables)
Some harder ultra-marathons include, self-navigation; runners don’t run on a market course and they have to orientate themselves with the use of a map and compass (Berghaus Dragons Back Ultra). Considered to be even a tougher event are self-supported ultra-marathon stage races where each competitor has to carry all their supplies including food to survive the length of the race (The Jungle Ultra Marathon)
If you ever decide to run an ultra, regardless the distance, you have to make a great deal of choices, from what you or drink to how much you rest or train.
When it comes to food and drink, the first thing you need to do is to find what is best for you, go to a nutritionist or try different diets by yourself (check my previous post about diet). You need to adjust your diet not only to your training but also to the race. If you are consistent with your diet, your overall health will improve dramatically. (do not only associate the word diet with synonym to “lose weight”, diet or dieting in this case is to find the nutrients your body need to perform such an activity like ultra-running). I’m on keto and that is what works best for me, I have tried many diets before, but keto is the one that my body reacts the best to.
So why running an Ultra?
There are many benefits of running long distances, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
The reasons to run ultras are endless. Some say their body feels happier on the nature. Also, things like changes in elevation, obstacles – such as roots, rocks and potholes – as well as sharp bends and turns, result in a more balanced and athletic trained runner. It also helps you develop some sort of sense of peace and therefore you are more likely to run based on feel, rather than what your running watch says.
Here are some of its benefits:
- Strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3902253/)
- It improves bone density of the legs and hips and it helps you maintain a healthy weight. (https://www.londonbridgeorthopaedics.co.uk/2016/06/16/running-and-your-bone-density/)
- Improve your coordination, agility and balance. Running in nature avoiding falls, negotiating steep slopes, cutting around sharp corners and landing on unstable surfaces, all help build athleticism
- Improves discipline. You have to train and you have to organize a schedule for it. We are talking that for some ultras you be running 14 hs a week depending on the training. You have to be very organized and consistent to not only arrange your running routine, but also your daily life. Once the race is finished, you will find yourself planning your daily life in a much better way.
- Reduce tension, confusion, anger and depression. There is something special about running an ultra, while you are running you are in a relaxed state of mind, there are no issues, no anger, no frustration, just the feeling of feeling free. If I’m ever down then I can pick myself up with a run. Some might argue that it isn’t healthy to rely on running to regulate your mood. Maybe that’s true. That said, being dependent on exercise to regulate your mood is much better than having to rely on medication. Running is free. Medicine isn’t.
- Improve your mental health. It makes you happy, it is as simple as that . Reaching a difficult goal that required a lot of sacrifice will make your body experience a state of mind that has no comparison.
Most people meditate siting down, they fix a point in a distance, they control their breath and posture.
I do the same while I run, and I check my posture (my running posture), control my breathing and concentrate on a fix point in front of my legs while moving. Running is my active way of meditating
The joy is in the journey.
Every single time that I cross the finish line reminds me of this . I have trained my body for months to be physically capable of doing this crazy thing that very few have done or can do, and I just freaking did it! WELL DONE, ME!
We are capable of doing really hard things and that capability now applies to all aspects of your life. Through training for and then racing an ultra, we’ve willingly given ourselves numerous opportunities to work through hard circumstances. Times when it would have been much easier to stop and quit than to struggle and possibly fail. The tenacity that you’ve developed through training for, and racing, a race of that magnitude is impressive and will serve you well in life.
So how does it feel crossing the line?
Joyful. Exhilarating. Scary. Exciting. Tearful. Humbling. Prideful. Tiring. Inspirational. All of this and more
It’s something you have to experience for yourself to understand.