Running your first ultramarathon can be a wildly overwhelming commitment. How on Earth do you get yourself from just some schlub on the couch to crossing the finish line?
And when I say ‘crossing the finish line,’ I mean comfortably. I don’t want you collapsing at the end like some battered opponent from Rocky number whatever.
So today I’m going to share what I think are three keys or essentials to successfully running your first ultramarathon.
For a little context, I DNFed my first attempt back in June, made some changes, and came back in late October finishing comfortably.
And those four changes are as follows: Coaching, Strength Training, Nutrition, and for lack of a better description… Skin care.
Let’s break ‘em down, shall we?
I never thought I needed coaching and I don’t necessarily attribute my DNF in June to lack of coaching. But I wasn’t following a very well-thought-out plan. So when I decided to give the ultra another shot, I signed up with Ultra Trail Coaching.
Their program dynamically creates your workout plan based on your previous running history and the number of hours you’re able to run per week. So not only did it take away the stress of planning my own running plan, it gave me confidence that I was building myself up sustainably.
To better understand exactly how it all worked and how I was able to comfortably cross the finish line, I called up my coach, Guy Vanderdorpe.
Strength training is nothing new for me. It’s always something I’ve enjoyed to challenge myself and get rid of some stress.
That said, I’ve always loathed lower-body training. Before my DNF, the only strength training I’d do were some wall-assisted pistol squats after runs a couple of times a week. And I truly only did it so I could tell myself that I wasn’t skipping lower-body strength training.
Technically true, but it’s also potentially true that I developed muscle imbalances that led to my runner’s knee and the DNF in Innsbruck.
Before running my second ultra, I did some strength rehab and transitioned that into a holistic strength training plan for my lower body. Granted my ultra wasn’t the steepest one out there, but I did feel stronger on the climbs than ever before. And believe it or not, I actually enjoy lower-body strength training now. Who knew!?
I hated thinking about nutrition. Usually, I’d just take some Cliff bars with me on a long run and just eat when I felt hungry.
Oh, slightly younger Joe. You poor, dumb fool.
I learned the hard way about the importance of fueling properly during training and a race when I could barely walk after the 2021 Berlin Marathon without feeling like I’d pass out.
So when I committed myself to another ultra attempt, I told myself I’d incorporate fueling into my training. Because you really do have to practice your fueling before a race, just as you wouldn’t wear a brand-new pair of running shoes on race day.
It took me a while to find an energy that I actually enjoyed eating. Now that I’ve found it, I actually look forward to fueling! So what I’m using is called Neversecond with an easy-open rip to suck down those ever-essential 30 grams of carbohydrates.
I’ve become such a fan of these things that I’ve actually become an ambassador for Neversecond. So if you’re interested in giving them a shot, you can use my code RUNNINGJOEB15 for 15 percent off your order. Go check them out and let me know in the comments how it hits your stomach!
I’m going to try and walk a fine line here between clarity and TMI. But let’s just say, my running shorts caused some not-so-pleasant chaffing in, well, the bridge between lands if, you will. I know that sounds like some Tolkien-esque fantasy realm, but trust me, it’s a very real place. And it can be paaaainful!
Body glides or Vaseline did the trick, but only up to a couple of hours of running. The last thing I wanted to worry about in my ultra was chaffing. So about a week before the race, I hastily googled “best underwear for ultramarathon” and found a Reddit thread of honest-to-God runners singing the praises of (holds it up) Runderwear.
I didn’t have any issues during the race and felt completely fine afterward. I 100 percent attribute that to my Runderwear. There’s not a chance in hell that I’ll go on a long run without a pair of these on again.
So if you’re also having some issue, uh, along the bridge between lands, your inner-thighs, wherever, then check them out. Because chaffing can force you to change up your running motion to avoid the pain and that can lead to injury and that will certainly crush your ultramarathon dreams in a heartbeat.
And those are my four keys to running your first ultramarathon. If you need proof that they actually work, then click here to watch me finish my very first ultramarathon and see how my coaching, strength training, nutrition, and yes, skin are all came together.