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At a Glance: Prepping for an ultramarathon

Ultramarathons are no joke.

They are extreme tests of endurance and stamina, more than capable of testing even the most rugged of athletes.

That’s not to say they’re impossible, though. With the right preparation, these challenges can not only be bested: they can be enjoyed.

I wrote about my ultramarathon experiences here, in case you’re curious. Based on my own grueling experiences, I have some tips for getting yourself ready to push your limits beyond anything a random sports drink ad would even dream.

Photo credit: Alec Palomo

01. Build on endurance.

Run about 20 to 30 kilometers during weekends on your normal pace. Most ultramarathons, those that require at least twelve hours to complete, will expose you to scorching heat, the cold of the night and even rain. Learn to run under those circumstances.

02. Proper nutrition is key.

Your body needs something to burn so that you have energy during the long haul. Load up on carbs the week prior to your run, and stash something handy like chocolate bars, gelatin, power bars and carb gels. Boiled saba and eggs can also do the trick if you’re on a budget. If you’re lucky, some events provide aid stations with variety of food and liquids, even ice cream!

03. A week before the race, taper, or limit your running activities.

Overtraining is real: I did back-to-back ultras and almost paid for it! Get enough rest and save the liquor for your victory party.

04. During the race, enjoy the route.

Talk to other runners, and you might find a friend or two along the way. Eat and hydrate. Learn to love the pain; it will come and go. Listen to your body. It’s okay to quit rather than risk serious injury or even death.

05. Celebrate after.

In my case, my metabolism is on hyperdrive in the first three days after an ultramarathon, so I don’t feel guilty about binge eating and drinking during this period. Do a recovery run, about five to 10 kilometers, within the first week. Get a massage.

And if you manage to survive, you’ll probably do what I did: plan your next distance run.