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7 schoolboy mistakes to avoid at your first ultra


Last updated: 30-Aug-18

By James Eacott

Us hardy ultra runners don’t really have an “off-season” but for all intents and purposes, the ultra racing season is about to kick off in the Northern Hemisphere. The first timers amongst us, particularly, will be counting and nervously recounting the number of weeks left until D-Day.

You may be wondering where all that time went and questioning what on earth you were thinking when you signed up for this crazy event, which now looms on the very near horizon.

With that in mind, we wanted to share some of the more common mistakes we often see from first-timers at their first race. There will undoubtedly be some factors which you cannot control on race day, and you’ll have to roll with the punches.

But the below factors are all within your control, and thus avoidable, so we hope that by being aware of them you can plan accordingly!

Have you got any more? Leave us a comment below to share your wisdom with other runners.

7 schoolboy mistakes to avoid:

1. You don’t eat enough in the early miles.

In all the excitement of your first race, it’s easy to forget that well thought-out nutritional strategy. But as we all know, consistent fuelling is key, so I’d suggest either setting an alarm on your watch to beep at a set interval as a reminder or write on a piece of paper what you plan to eat on an hourly basis.

You can laminate this and stick it on your pack somewhere.

2. You forget all the hard yards you’ve put in during training.

When the going gets tough, remember what you’ve put into getting to this point. If you start doubting your ability to complete the distance, try to remember this is all in your head. You’ve trained for it.

Your body will do it.

3. You forget your goals.

For most of us, completing an ultra distance is the sole aim of our first ultra. And rightly so. Do your best to stick to your planned pacing and try not get carried away in the frantic early miles. It’s very easy to go off too hard because ‘race pace’ is often slower than you ever run in training.

This is the time to use your watch and rein it in. You’ll be chomping at the bit, but even the shortest of ultras are still a long day…save the beans for the latter half!

4. You’re a slave to the watch.

You’re heading into unchartered territory in your first ultra. You will go through many, many peaks and troughs. Expect them and they won’t blind-side you. Particularly in the latter miles, when your GPS device may not be showing you the numbers you want to see, don’t stress.

A huge part of running an ultra well, is listening to your body. If you’re struggling, maybe you need more fluid? More food? Perhaps you need to walk a bit to shake the muscles out?

5. You think you can hold ‘it’ in.

Without delving into too much information, when your body tells you it needs to ‘go’, listen to it. Running with an uncomfortable bowel will slow you down over the long haul much more than taking a couple of minutes to relieve yourself.

It goes without saying that we encourage you to do so in a legal, suitable spot!

6. You forget the electrolytes.

Fluid? Tick. Food? Tick. Electrolytes? What? Particularly important for those racing a hot ultra, electrolytes will play a key role in your success.

Maintaining electrolyte balance, especially your sodium levels, will ensure your body has what it needs to fire properly and stave off those dreaded cramps.

7. You think ‘carbo-loading’ is still a thing.

While ensuring your glucose stores are topped up is sensible, the old school thought of stuffing yourself silly at the pre-race pasta party has been shown to do nothing but leave you bloated and heavy on the start line.

Eat what you normally would before a big training session and implement Rule #1 in the early stages of the race.


Have you got any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with other newbies? Leave them in the comments below. And … Good Luck!

Your Comments On 7 schoolboy mistakes to avoid at your first ultra

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08:03 30-08-18

Great advice. Everyone will have their own race plan but a well used strategy is to break the run into sections. I drink every half hour and stop to eat every hour so I only need to think about half an hour ahead. Much less daunting than trying to deal with the thought of 50k or 100k or many hours running. They're like little rewards for each half hour or each hour.

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10:04 17-04-18

You think is a good day to try that new clothes. Don´t. Always use proven gear

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08:55 08-04-18

8. You think you're running in a race. Don't think that way. Your first Ultra is a training run for your next Ultra so be calm and make sure you complete your training run.

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12:47 05-04-18

8: You forget to pace yourself and go too fast. Start with an easy jog, and stay there.
9: You tense up and lose proper form. As my kickboxing instructor says 'Think reggae'. So remember to loosen up and smile.
10: You're using kit you haven't tried, is not practical, or does not suit YOUR needs. A minor annoyance blows up to a huge one 30 miles in.
11: You wait until minor niggles become problematic. Look after your body, apply plasters, stretch, get a massage, etc.
12: You blindly follow the runner in front of you. He/She does not know where he's going either, so stay in charge and keep an eye on the map or any signs or arrows.