First Ultra in September

I am going to be attempting my first ultra marathon in september, its the grand tour skiddaw race and its 44 miles. I have only trained for marathons so far this year and currently do a maraton in between 3:17 and 4:30 depending on the race i have done some trail hilly ones and other flat city ones. Any tips on how to train from where i am now for an ultramarathon?


  • T RexT Rex ✭✭✭

    Hi Steve

    First of all - excellent decision which you won't regret.  So many aspects to get right in these longer events, they're more interesting, and you get a greater sense of accomplishment.

    A few thoughts under various headings:

    Training - not much more than marathon training, except extend your long run to a max of about 30 miles OR do 'back-to-backs': building up to runs on consecutive days of say 16 followed by a 20.  That should be about enough for your distance.

    Do these long runs on similar sorts of terrain to what you will encounter in your event.

    Important that these runs are at a very slow pace!  You will be surprised how much slower your ultra pace will need to be than your marathon pace, and your long training runs should be that much slower accordingly - probably up to 1.5 - 2 mins per mile slower.

    [More stuff later ...]

  • Thanks for the reply. My training runs usually go upto about 24 before marathons although so far its been difficult (two young children who keep getting ill), was hoping to try doing both back to back runs and a long 30 miles too. I imagine on the race i will do a fair amount of walking up the hills as i dont want to burn out after 20 miles. Any more tips would be greatly apreciated.


  • T RexT Rex ✭✭✭

    Sure.  Yes, quite normal in ultras to walk the uphills!

    Nutrition - this is an important aspect different to marathon running.  Unless you are a very efficient runner you are unlikely to be able to get round your ultra on gels and energy bars.  You are likely to get nauseous on them.  So, 'proper' food is the way to go and you need to start taking it on board right from the outset of your race.  Never let your stomach empty.  You will need to experiment with what foods you can easily digest while running.  I find malt loaf good and also carry dried fruit and nuts.  Feed stations are generally good in ultras, but I don't know about your event.

    hydration - especially in summer you will be surprised how much water you need to take on.  You will need a carrying system, either a bladder or hand-held bottles which you can frequently refill.  You will lose a lot of salt and electrolytes so very important to consider electrolyte replacement such as Nuun tablets or your own special drinks.

    gear - all offroad ultras have mandatory gear lists, so check out you have got everything on your event's list and have worked out the best way of carrying it.  You will no doubt have to experiment with different gear to find out what works for you. Take all your race-day gear out with you on your last few training runs.

    route - not often waymarked!  There might be the odd waymark in particularly difficult places. No friendly marshals telling you which way to go.  You could be high in the cloud, cold and wet, with all path choices ahead looking equally indistinct.  You'll need to have some navigation skills and a map and compass are mandatory kit items.  I don't use GPS but a lot of people do.  Some events provide a pre-marked map, others a list of route instructions.

    That'll do for now ...

  • Thanks for that, alot to think about image i'm told they give us a very basic map and instructions so should be interesting, GPS would prob be the best idea for me any tips on what kind of devices are good for this? I always train with a hydration bladder backpack so quite used to this altough i may need a bigger one for this run to carry the extras, Thanks for your time, im quite nervous about it its a big step up from a marathon image

  • carterusmcarterusm ✭✭✭

    Steve - I did my first ultra last year, the St Cuthberts Way ultra of 47 miles and, to be honest, I didn't find it that much more difficult than running a marathon. Obviously you are out on the course so much longer but if you've done the training this really shouldn't be a problem. With the stops at aid stations and walking up the hills I found I still had plenty left in the tank when I had finished. I was also able to get back running a lot quicker of the ultra compared to the marathon. Regarding GPS, you could go for a watch rather than a GPS unit. They aren't as detailed as a GPS, basically you just follow a line on your watch screen, but they can be useful as a back up when you think you are lost. I also spent plenty of time pouring over the route on google maps and the like. Find some landmarks so you know you are on the right route. If you are crossing roads then go down to the street view on google so you recognise that point when you pass it. Re training, hills hills hills is the way forward. If you don't practise on hills, and your race is a hilly one, it could be a long, painful experience. As T-rex says, you need to really slow your pace down so you can save some energy for later in the race. Make sure you have the correct footwear for the terrain, with it being skiddaw you may well be better in fell shoes rather than trail shoes. If you can recce the route that will give you a good idea of what shoes will work best for you. Of course it will be tough but I don't think it's that big a step up from the marathon if you train well and plan correctly. And I'm pretty sure you will really enjoy it. Good luck

  • Thanks for that, at the moment i have road and trail shoes, are fell shoes much different to trail shoes? I have a garmin 620 at the moment but i don't think that has the map functionality on it, might look into some other models, i have two more marathons coming up before i do it so that will help me keep the miles up and will start adding in more hills now too. Thanks for the feedback

  • T RexT Rex ✭✭✭

    Fell shoes are lighter and grippier, especially on wet rock.  They typically have soft lugs for grip which wear out in no time if you run on tarmac so best for entirely offroad runs.

    If there is road on the course then an aggressive trail shoe would be better.  I'm currently quite impressed with my new Inov8 Terraclaw 250s.

    Try to train on technical ground.  Depends where you live, though!

  • Live in lancashrie so not too bad for training just have a bit of road before i get to the trails and hills, i have some Adidas Terrex Boost at the moment but have mostly been using my road shoes so far.

  •  I did this race last year,  don't want to put you off but it is a naughty one, theres literally a mountain to climb at the halfway point!! Also there is a long ridge section after Skiddaw that is utterly spectacular however if you don't have a head for heights be aware this run may not be for you.

     The route is beautiful but it is longer than 44 miles, 46-48 on most gps, the directions are awful (this run made me buy a gps for future ultras), the compulsopry kit list is long so you may need to spend money and carry a bigger pack, there are also no drop bags.

     If I sound negative I don't mean to be, I'm possibly running it again this year, it's great value, the campground is fantastic and I love the area but I do wish I'd been better prepared and had a gps last year...and maybe done some hil work's a tough race but I'm sure you'll be fine.



  • Nearly ready for the Ultra now, i did a 30 mile run a week or so ago and have done a couple of back to back hilly runs on weekends. There is a Recce run this weekend up skiddaw to. 

    How do the Recce runs usually work does everyone usually stay together and run at a slow pace? There are about 13 people doing it i think.



  • I completed the run thank for the advice finished in 24th place in just under 10 hours so happy enough with that, now to find another to do next year image

  • Fantastic. Well done image 

  • T RexT Rex ✭✭✭

    So, your first ultra!  Great job and excellent finish placing.

    How did you find everything? We did give you a lot to think about but you sound as if you were well prepared.  And keen enough to think about another one.

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