The Do’s and Don’ts of Running an Ultra

Sooo You’ve Signed Up For AN Ultra-marathonKerryAndWez-225x300

Whaaattt?? You are going to RUN an Ultra-marathon for FUN?!

Well, since you’ve signed yourself up for 42+ kms of running we might as well give you some advice to help you get there from the people who have been there done that.

I’m actually going to start with what NOT to do so that the good stuff is fresh in your mind at the end.

What NOT to do:

  • DONT Overtrain. More is not more. Recognise that sometimes in training your legs may be tired, but if they are hurting then that is different. Don’t run injured.
  • DONT Try new fueling on the day. No one wants to be THAT person…
  • DONT Forget your compulsory gear.
  • DONT Get caught up on times. It’s great to have goals and all but please remember to celebrate finishing. To complete an ultra is a MASSIVE achievement in itself. You are a rockstar. Remember that.
  • DONT Expect it to be easy. In all likelihood you will go through peaks and troughs. Keep pushing through and you will come out the other side.
  • DONT Drink too much water, hyponatraemia is serious!
  • DONT think pills will save you.  Ibuprofen is DANGEROUS.


What you WILL do:


  • Paula doing DeeksFollow the plan. Commit to your training. If you have invested in coaching then listen to and follow what they have told you to do, those hard double days and back to back sessions are perfect training for the back end of the race. 
  • Use your training to take you to amazing places. You’ll appreciate your fitness and training so much more. It beats running the same old places and it makes for some pretty amazing photos too!
  • Use the community. Go on training camps, catch up for runs with
    local running groups or if you are a Squaddie meet up with local Squaddies to do your training sessions. All of these will help to boost your confidence about how you are going with your training, and hey, you might even make some new friends or find someone who wants to talk about running.
  • Pack your compulsory gear, before you leave home.
  • Be prepared, pack your drop bags well. A change of t-shirt or socks can help keep you feeling fresh both physically and mentally. Put some spare food, electrolytes or treats to look forward to in them. If you don’t use it 10648338_1489109301399961_4926154485875553153_othen it all ends up back in your hands post race anyway and you don’t have to carry any of it so make the most of these! *That being said make sure that you DO carry all of your ‘must haves’ with you. If you NEED a certain type of gel or electrolyte don’t rely on it being at an aid station, carry it with you or have a good crew on hand at the right time to help.
  • Invest in a good headlamp. If you are going to be running in the dark it makes a massive difference to actually be able to see what you are doing.
  • Smart SQUADRUN athletes attended the free Race Nutrition and Hydration SeminGrahamar Hanny hosted for us   and you should now have the knowledge to apply a good fuel strategy to your day however those that missed it or are after some basics please consider the following coaches notes:
    -Every 30-45 minutes put some fuel in.  Ideally rotate Gel, Gel, Solid.  Make your solid around 1/2 an energy bar (Cliff etc).  Use quality gels and avoid stimulants.
    -Know the difference between a stimulant and a fuel.  Caffeine is a stimulant, not a fuel.  Red Bull is full of stimulants.  It also has fuels (low quality) but that which makes you feel alive isn’t fuel, it’s stimulant.  Stimulants are often diuretics so save them for late in your race.
    -Your body will access GLUCOSE easiest.  Don’t make your digestive organs work to access your sugars.  Don’t complicate your sugars.  Sucrose (white sugar, candy etc) is hard to get to.  Fructose (fruit sugars) can also be difficult to access and typically comes with fibrous plant material that may put you in the bushes more than you want.
    -Electrolytes +Salt – little and often.  Easiest with fluids.
    -Watch out for things you don’t need that may have a negative effect.  Most ‘fuels’ come laden with a cocktail of ingredients.  The ones you actually need are on a short list.  More is not more, eg Magnesium can cause upset stomachs or diarrhea.  Is the claimed benefit of special ingredient-x worth the risk?
  • Practice your fueling and hydration strategies prior to the race (this includes pre-race meals as well).
  • Trust in your training. Ignore those pre-race doubts and know that you have done the best that you can do and that you will do your darndest to get there! Often the only person who thinks that you CAN’T do it is you. So give yourself a stern talking to and tell yourself ‘I’ve got this’.

Paula 2

On the day:

  • 122SquadbabesWALK THE HILLS!! Unless you are an elite you should conserve that all important energy to help you get through the end of the race.
  • Enjoy the day, chat to people, take in the amazing scenery and sweet trails, help out others, a kind word can go a long way.
  • Say ‘thanks’ to all of the volunteers out there. They’ve given up their time to support you with your endeavours a thank you, a smile, or a wave isn’t hard to do. Be nice, feel nice.
  • Baby Steps.  Break it down into manageable, achievable chunks. Aim for the next aid station. Thinking about km’s run will in all likeliness make the goal seem too big.
  • Take your fuel as planned, even if you don’t feel like it.


Post race:

  • Expect to be tired and want to eat ALL OF THE FOOD.102591Jo O'Sullivan
  • Give it a couple of weeks to celebrate your achievement before you start thinking about running again, and when you do, ease back into it.
  • You may have swollen feet. This is normal. Put ‘em up for a bit.
  • Sleep! Sleep is possibly the most important recovery tool.
  • Spend time with all of those people that you may have neglected a bit whilst training for your ultra. Get out and do something other than running for a bit.



Most of all, enjoy yourself. You are doing something that only roughly 1% of people will do. You are a rockstar. Get out there and show us what you’re made of!

Nat Tarawera

This article has been a culmination of advice from our athletes post ultra and myself and Kerry’s advice. Thanks to everyone who has contributed xx