Go out and run. Doesn’t matter if it is just around the block. Even if you don’t feel like it – put on your running kit. Sit around. Eat breakfast. Do some household chores in your running kit. If you eventually feel like it – pop outside to check the weather. If you want get to your gate and take a little run to the end of the road. I have done this a lot from time to time – my mind is weak and as soon as I get running I realise why I run.
Do LDWA events. Walk. Jog. Run them. They are a great way of getting used to time on your feet, eating a variety of random foods (including a 60 mile checkpoint introduction to cheese on crumpet), and to navigating (albeit it with really odd instructions). These events are really cheap too. Typically less than £10 for a 50km.
Ditch the GPS watch. Who cares about splits. They don’t matter. Who will you be comparing your performance against other than cut off times. Use a basic watch. Feel free! (I’m laughing slightly to myself at that last comment)
Rope in some friends. The miles simply go quicker with friends around. I have a formula to prove it. And since it is a mathematical formula and that’s a proper science then you have to believe I know what I’m talking about. Formula here
Do a lapped race to spend time on your legs and get used to running at night with a headtorch. This is a relatively easy way in to ultra distance but without the hassle of carrying a big pack with you. Warning: can make you feel like an ultra warrior and lead to delusional feelings that you can take on anything. Just remember what you learn from it and that it’s essentially that you can run in a circle for a long time while being fed by other people without carrying any weight.
Function over form. If you want to spend a lot of money buying kit or entering races then do. You don’t need to. But if you feel you must then do it. If you don’t want to spend a lot on kit. Don’t. I certainly don’t and I am amazed at those who do. While road runners and occasional gym bunnies love their latest fashionable street gear ultra runners are not immune. The latest ultra kit focused on function over fashion – but then…… It’s just fashion isn’t it? Just a different type.
Learn to eat, and drink. Seriously. I know you will be able to run 10 miles without either. I can. So what? On an ultra you’ve got a long time to get dehydrated and to burn through your energy stores. Drink frequently and eat all the time. Jelly babies. Biscuits. Whatever. Just eat. Just drink. All the time. From the start. If you feel hungry or thirsty on an ultra then it’s pretty much too late for you. Oops.
Checkpoint discipline. I know. It is tempting to treat a checkpoint in a pub serving warm food and tea as an opportunity to feel like it is job done and you deserve a treat. Especially with everyone else running around fate you. Yes. You have run along way. Yes you are awesome. But guess what….? If there are 10 checkpoints on a race and you spend 5 minutes at each ….. That’s almost an hour. Or….. More than 4 miles you could have done. Someone could beat you by four miles. Not so clever huh!
Make sure you feel prepared. If that means following a training plan. Follow it. If it means a taper. Taper. If it involves spiritual calling. Order it up from the cosmos. For me it is knowing that I have done what I can do to prepare. It is not about training plans for me, but knowing that I have covered the main excuses that I could potentially conjure up if I DNF. A key lesson here is one of finding the small changes and tweaks you can make to improve your chances on an ultra. I did just that between my first DNF at Dusk til Dawn and my successful completion in 2014.