10 Top Tips For Your First Ultra Marathon

I have written a very long and quite garbled account of my recent ultra-marathon which might bore you to tears. So I thought I could summarise all the things I learnt during my race, a cheat sheet for you so that you can have the confidence to run one for yourself. Whether you succeed or fail to finish your first event, the journey on how you arrive at the start line is what it’s all about.

  1. You can – Always believe you can do it! Don’t put pressure on yourself. I’m never going to finish in the top ten, so times and positions don’t matter to me. I’m there to enjoy the experience.
  2. Recce the route – If you have the opportunity, walk the course before the event, it’s a massive confidence booster. On my race I got held back in a bottle neck, had I done a recce I would have changed my race plan to avoid that if I’d known.IMG_1428
  3. Poles – Practice, practice and practice hiking, walking and running with your poles.
  4. Weight matters – By a small phone to take with you, although I couldn’t take photos, the saving in weight was substantial in my pack. See my next gear review.
  5. Eat – Know you’re nutrition and don’t be tempted to raid the free buffet at the refreshment posts, you’re not on a cruise ship! I’ve learnt a lot about my body and what it wants and needs during my training sessions. Don’t let yourself get carried away with all the new fads and inciting packaging, hook lines, etc. Research it, practice taking it and when to take it, work out your nutritional plan before the event. Whatever you use, make sure you’re happy with it and don’t try anything new for the first time at a race, stick to what you know works is my advice.
  6. Pace – Pace yourself, stick to your heart rate zones and run your own race, don’t follow others and get carried away in the ‘Pac-Mac approach to overtaking people.  I do not run uphill, I hike uphill and run the downhills and flat terrain. However always checking my heart rate zone on my watch can interfere with my stride when I turn my wrist towards me in order to see the display. If you know you’ll be walking/hiking uphill for a while and need to monitor your zone, wear your watch facing inwards, makes much more sense.IMG_3475
  7. Failure – If you fail at your first attempt, GREAT! You’ll learn so much and there’ll be a next time.
  8. Blisters – Hot weather means blisters! Although I didn’t suffer from a blister, one of our physio’s from the clinic, volunteered to work through the night on the big UTMB race. This year due to the higher temperatures, blisters were the main problem she dealt with. Be prepared.
  9. Etiquette – Know your trail etiquette, don’t be fuelled into ‘Trail rage’, overtake only when safe to do so, be polite, offer assistance or a high five to someone in need of a pick me up and please don’t drop litter.
  10. Smile – Smile and keep smiling.IMG_3485


Jackie Maclean-Martin
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