Planning first ultra! Eek!

I'm booked in for my second marathon at the start of May.  My first being Milton Keynes last year which I completed in 5hours.  I would like to aim for 4hr 30 for this Spring marathon but am also hoping to enter my first ultra (35 miles) just four weeks later.  I recently raced 10 miles in 1h 34m and am training five days a week.

1) Would 4h30 be too optimistic when intending to race an ultra a month later?  Should I aim for something more at training pace? (10:30-10:40mm)

2) I am assuming that I do not 'taper' as such for the marathon but use the marathon as a training run and begin to taper for the ultra 10-14 days later?

Any advice to make my first ultra experience the best it can be is very much welcomed!  image


  • I don't think that the time between the marathon and the ultra will be a problem.  I suggest that you run the marathon as you would if it were a stand alone event.  Make a judgment about what training to do in the aftermath of the marathon, based on how well you recover.  Effectively treat it as your last long training run, then plan a taper period from there. 

  • Hi moo101, I've got my first ultra (ndw50) in may! I did my first marathon in November image

    I would say aim for your marathon as a training run, try and finish as fresh as you can, I finished mine in 4.45.46 (it had a 5 hour cut off) I was tired but felt like even then I could have done a couple more miles all be them slow image

    My vote is enjoy you marathon at a nice pace and try out any gear you are taking with you ie..bag, gels, handhelds, pills, food, electrlytes etc...

    What kind of gear do you use?
  • I did the Milton Keynes Marathon (29/4) and Northants Ultra 35 (27/5) last year and I reckon it was the perfect amount of time between the two. I did several shorter races in between, and the longest training run I did between them was a total of 18 miles, 11 days out from Northants (maybe this was a little bit too close, but was what timetables dictated at the time image).

    Whether or not you taper for your marathon depends a bit on which you consider to be your "A" race and "B" race. For me, Northants was very much the "B" race, that I was pretty confident of being able to do on the back of the marathon training and a decent time at Milton Keynes, so I treated the marathon as I would do any other race that I wanted to get a good time in.

    If you think you can achieve 4h 30m for the marathon then I'd say "go for it", because the ultra certainly won't be about the pace, just about getting round. I don't think you'll destroy yourself going for that time in the marathon to the point that you don't recover in the next four weeks - go for the time you think you're capable of it in the marathon and then aim to do SLOWER than training pace for the ultra.

    I think I'm sort of agreeing with what Ben has said above ... but contradicting B2B image!

    Best of luck anyway image

  • Those are my two planned races Shazza3!  MK on May 6th and S+S 35 on June 2nd.  I would really like to improve on my marathon race time, although I'm pretty sure I should be able to do this whether or not I race at training pace or 'race' MK.  The ultra is my first, and my target is just to complete this time.

    At the moment I am just using Lucozade drinks Back2Basics but was given a marathon pack from High5 this week which I intend on experimenting with over the next few long runs to see how I get on.  Has anyone tried actually eating rather than gels whilst on ultras? How does that go?...!

  • mr fmr f ✭✭✭
    The northants 35 is a brilliant event, ans a perfect step up from marathon. It's that good a course that I'm going to pack a bag and look at run/walking it tomorrow!
  • Northants was my first ultra, and I had not done anything much longer than a half marathon when I ran it, so you are certain of being better prepared for it than I was!

  • Shazza - I agree with you on the "a or b race" comment, focussing on one at a time is the most important thing I think!

    As you can see already everyone has a different idea on what to do and what works for them, just try stuff out and see what works for you!

    As for the food...I ate my way around my marathon but this again is a massive discussion!

    I find for me, gels are great for a massive spike but I tend to crash hard and I'm not really a fan of running on that much sugar and processed stuff.

    Solid food is great but harder to carry and sometimes the further you run the less you want to eat.

    I like to use clif bars, they are small, light, natural and most of all tasty! image other stuff that works for me are chia seeds that I mix with a little bit of squash, malt loaf, ginger cake, trek bars and beetroot juice. For sodium replacement I use elete water

    I've tried loads of stuff out and just found these things work for me.

    A great quote I keep in my head (though I maybe miss quoting it! :/ ) is "its just and eating and drinking contest with abit of running thrown in!"
  • Shazza. If you decide to race (rather than run) the marathon, give yourself a couple of weeks (or whatever your body needs) rest/light running afterwards before re-starting proper training. I raced a 5K and a 10K within the two weeks after Greater Manchesterd Marathon last year, and I not only got a very poor time at the 10K but I'm sure my recovery from the marathon was prolonged.

    Re. food, my standard proper foods for long runs and ultra races are malt loaf, fig roll and pretzels. I also found on NDW50 last year that more savory stuff was good and I'll certainly try to have some cheese sandwiches or wraps with me next Sunday for Winter Tanners (30 miles). On my LSR yesterday I ate fig rolls, half a cheese ploughman's sandwich (ate the other half after I'd finished) and some Kendal mint cake for instant energy (I prefer that to gels). I had a Clif bar and a railway-cafe hot chocolate for recovery before the half sandwich while on the train back home. Interestingly, I didn't get my usual body temperature crash 30-40 mins after finishing the run - possibly because I was cold towards the end of my run anyway so my body had already started action to warm me up, possibly the hot chocolate and food hit my system at exacty the right time.

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