What Does It Take To Run An Ultra Marathon?
The Simple Answer Is That You Will Need To Be Unbreakable!
For the record, my Ultra quests have been limited to successfully completing only three 50km and one 84km Ultra Marathons which certainly doesn’t make me an expert on the subject.
My only failure happened last year in May at the Eco 100 Ultra Trail Marathon (UTM), staged at Bukit Mertajam, when I pulled-out of the race at the second checkpoint, after completing only 30k of the required 100k in total. I learned much more about myself and ultra running in that one moment than in all my successful past ultra races put together. In fact, the saying that “Success Does Not Teach You Anything”, was true in my case.
BOUNCING BACK FROM DEFEAT
Initially, my first major running DNF (Did Not Finish) was hard to accept and it was frustrating to have a blemish on my otherwise perfect race records. However, I was determined NOT to waste my time wallowing in self-pity, and after some soul-searching, I did salvage 3 valuable lessons from that sombre episode which have helped me greatly to become a better runner.
My 3 Pillars of Ultra Running
After going through some trials and errors, I can share 3 of my most important tips for Ultra Marathons as follows:-
Failure Is An Option: Previously, I was consumed with, and driven by fear whenever I took part in any ultra marathon. I would be afraid of not being able to reach the checkpoints on time. I would be afraid of not being able to cross the Finish Line. I would be afraid of getting lost in the darkness. I would be afraid about picking up an injury or running out of energy prematurely. Then, it dawned on me that this approach to Ultra Running was unrealistic and unworkable. So, I replaced my “Fear To Fail” outlook with a more upbeat “Dare To Fail” approach. The idea behind my new mindset was to allow myself the freedom to take on Ultra Marathons as a way to test my physical endurance limits. If I happen to DNF, I will then take it as a learning experience to help me grow and become a smarter runner. On paper, this sounded like a Win-Win scenario but I will still need to test if it works in a real ultra racing condition.
Mind Over Matter: It takes an unusual or even a crazy breed of runners to attempt an ultra marathon which is typically any distance from 50km to 200km! Contrary to popular belief, ultra marathon is not so much about who can run the furthest. It’s all about who wants it bad enough. You may be the slowest runner in the field, but if you have the Mental Fortitude to battle through the inevitable intense pain and weariness of Ultra Marathons, you ought to finish the race in good stead or in one piece, at least. So, before someone decides to venture into an ultra marathon, he must first overcome the gigantic mental barrier which stops us from even attempting to run such a ridiculously long distance.
Discover What Motivates You: It goes without saying that you need to train hard to reach your weekly running mileage goals. Equally important, every ultra marathoner must be clear on their reasons and motivation before the race because when the going gets tough, doubt starts creeping into your mind. You need to remind yourself why you are torturing yourself. Your reasons to complete the race must be compelling enough to stop yourself from quitting when your mind and body are pushed to their very limits.
REDISCOVERING DISTANCE RUNNING
When Race Director of UiTM Running Club, Aizuddin Imran, invited me to his inaugural UiTM Ultra Marathon which consisted of running 10 times around a 5.2k hilly route within the UiTM Campus with a 12 hours cut-off time, I was ready to take-up this new challenge.
The advantage of running in loops is that there is one bag-drop area at the Start/Finish Line where the runners can change clothes, eat and rest all in one place at your convenience.
The disadvantage is that some runners will find it too boring having to run in circles and passing the same scene over and over again.