Are You Ready to Take the Ultra Marathon Leap?

I recently got an email from someone that said:

“Dear Coach K,

I wanted to ask your advice.  I have been running fairly regularly for the last 7 years.  Last year I completed my 5th marathon and was very happy with my progress.  I am thinking that I am ready to take the next step and dive into a 50k distance race but am not sure I am ready.  What advice can you give me to help me decide if this is a good idea?”

I get emails like this fairly often so I thought I’d post some thoughts.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to ask you if you enjoy gastrointestinal issues and vomiting on bushes.  “Gee, that sounds swell coach”  Perfect, let’s do this.  Jokes aside, the truth is that there is no real set answer to this – no box of prerequisites I could list to check off.  If you took a random slice of the ultra running community and looked into their journey to their first ultra distance race, you would see such a wide variety of demographics and differing amounts of previous races under their belts that it would be difficult to find a prevailing common thread.  I know people that have never run a full marathon before running their first 50k.  I know people that have run 30 plus marathons before they ran their first 50k.  I also know a handful of people that have run a 100 mile race but never any other distance.

Let me give you a few points to consider:

1) Most ultras are on trails.  If you aren’t comfortable or familiar with running on trails, you need to learn to be.  Everyone starts somewhere.  We at Mtn Rdy can help you with this.

2) Do you have the time to dedicate to the training?  You need to consider whether you not only have the time to log the miles but DRIVE TO the trails to log the miles.

3) Is your family life supportive of your time commitments?  

4) While a 50k is only 5 more miles than a marathon, the time on your feet significantly increases.  This is due to the fact that you are now dealing with the elevation gains and losses on trail and technical terrain.  And let’s be honest, 5 miles at the end of 26.2 feels more like another marathon to most of us.  

Note that none of my points to consider had anything to do with how many races you have done, what your PR on a marathon is, how many miles per week you have logged over the last 5 years or how big your beard is.  While all of these things can definitely help in a lot of aspects, I don’t think they are absolutely necessary.  Would I recommend a marathon first?  Depends on the person.  Would I recommend that you have at least a year of trail experience first?  Depends on the person.  

The benefit of working with the coaches at Mtn Rdy is that we know how to get you from whatever your point A is to your goal in the most efficient and effective way possible and in a timeline that keeps you healthy and interested.

Happy Running!

Coach K