Ultrarunning is extreme long-distance running, with an ultramarathon distance being anything above a normal marathon length (26 miles). Dedicated runners enter these events to challenge their bodies to the absolute max and push themselves to new heights by covering some of the longest distances of any on-foot races.
Ultrarunning is by far one of the most difficult sports to exist since it requires high levels of perseverance and training. Most automatically believe that they could never be an ultrarunner — but we're here to debunk some myths about the sport and who can do it.
Anyone who is new to solo running is usually trying to beat the clock and set a new personal record for themselves. Completing a long-distance run in an allotted amount of time can seem totally out of reach. Marathons and ultramarathons are both timed, but the myth is that only the best runners can complete the course in time.
In fact, ultramarathons are very generous in the amount of time provided since the goal is to finish at your best time, not to finish first. For example, contestants running a 100-mile marathon are usually given 30 hours to complete the event. That's more than 18 minutes a mile — so when you put it like that, completing a 100-mile marathon in the allotted time is doable for able runners.
It’s completely understandable that someone who just started long-distance running would believe that you have to be extremely athletic to succeed. This is actually one of the biggest running myths that discourage people from running long distances.
Most ultrarunners are pretty average people. What makes them stand out from the rest is their mental toughness. Being in shape and athletic is only part of what it takes to push yourself to run some of the longest distances ever attempted by humans.
Ultramarathon runners spend a lot of time working on their strategy to go the full distance without tiring out, their nutrition to ensure they’re in the best shape possible, and their mental health so that they can motivate themselves to finish the run. One of the best facts about running is that it actually has a long list of mental benefits including an elevated mood, increased memory function, and heightened focus.
Another common misconception about training for ultrarunning is that you need to practice near mountains. It’s true that a lot of ultramarathons take place on mountainous terrain, so it is important to train off-track.
However, not every runner has access to mountains or even hills. If you’re living in relatively flat regions like the Midwest or big cities like New York, then your access to mountains is basically nonexistent. However, this doesn’t mean that you can't train as an ultrarunner.
We recommend that you focus on strength training and getting creative. Use whatever you can find to work out. Stairs, treadmills, parking garages, or whatever else has an incline can be used to train for an ultramarathon.
Some runners will even build training circuits in their backyard. Most of what it takes to do this sport is intense dedication.
This myth is equally true as it is untrue. Yes, ultrarunners train a lot. It is impossible to run the extremely long distances of an ultramarathon without devoting a lot of your time and energy to honing your craft and being in the best shape possible. This includes eating right, strength training, sleeping enough and, of course, lots of running.
Ultrarunning does require lots of training — but it doesn’t have to take over your entire life. You don’t have to train every day and you don't have to clock unimaginable numbers of miles every week. Pushing yourself too hard every day can actually be more detrimental than beneficial to your training. Overtraining can lower your fitness, negatively impact your performance, and cause injuries.
Finding a workout plan that works best for you is key. Try logging about 10 to 12 hours of training per week for a few months before gradually increasing.
Many runners have lots of responsibilities like work, children, and a social life alongside their sport. Believing that ultrarunning must be a person's only commitment is what deters a lot of newcomers from even trying. You can still live a normal life and train for an ultramarathon. The most important thing is to just get started.
It's not a stretch to say that anyone who wants to run an ultramarathon has a natural love for the extreme. Having a desire to continuously run 35-100 miles isn’t just unimaginable for some people, it's downright ridiculous.
So, when some ultrarunners first start to train, they don’t get a lot of support from friends and family. It's different from running a marathon, which seems a big but achievable feat. A lot of people will think you're crazy for even trying.
Completing an ultramarathon is something that you have to want for yourself. At normal marathons, you’ll have a line of supporters giving you encouragement and motivation all the way until the finish line. At an ultramarathon, you’re doing the race by yourself. It’s usually just you, few other runners, and the road — but this doesn’t mean you won't find support. The ultrarunning community is a tight-knit one full of people who love to uplift and push each other to be the best.
In no time you’ll make a group of ultrarunner friends who you'll compete and train with. These people will be the best support system possible because they understand the hard work and dedication that goes into ultrarunning. They’re just as “crazy” as you are!
Ultrarunning is a fantastic sport that has tested the toughest athletes for decades. There are many myths that discourage those who may want to try to run an ultramarathon. Remember, there is more time than you think to complete a race and the best runners strengthen their mental well-being as well as their physical.
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