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Why ultramarathons are easier than you think

Hardlopende vrouw
Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

50, 100 or 160 km? 12 or 24 hours? Every distance that exceeds the 26 mile/42.2 km marathon mark falls under the category of ultramarathon. What may seem like a crazy endeavor to runners is actually feasible for anyone with no health contraindications. You don’t believe us? Our 6 arguments are guaranteed to help give wings to what you think you can do.

The ultramarathon teaches you to broaden your physical and mental horizons and (almost) adjust your limits as you see fit. With a good training plan, recovery, discipline and belief in yourself, a lot more is possible than you think! And both in the ultramarathon and in life.

Regardless of whether you’re start to train as a beginner or you’ve achieved thousands of kilometers of running experience, an ultramarathon is something you can do. The journey is the goal. It’s the same with training as it is with competing. Are you ready to start running?

Here’s something else that may be of interest: 7 Tips for Having More Fun while Jogging

6 Reasons Why You Can Definitely Run an Ultramarathon

There are many reasons to run an ultramarathon: nature, community, the amount of discipline you take with you into the rest of your life, and above all, the good feeling that comes with making yourself and your goals a priority.

#1 Born to run: humans are ultrarunners.

Slowly running long distances is part of human nature. In fact, this helped advance human evolution. Humans are first-class long-distance runners.

In 2004, evolutionary biologist Daniel Liebermann published his study “Born to Run”, in which he used fossil findings to explain how humans have perfected long-distance running through the ages. In order to hunt down other species, which were usually a lot faster, humans pursued their prey for hours and hours until the latter couldn’t run any further. Berries and grasses didn’t always grow just by the cave entrance either.

The ultramarathon is is part of human nature. So why not awaken the spirit of your ancestors within you and start running?

#2 Walking is allowed

At least for hobby runners… But even the most experienced ultrarunner occasionally slows down. Our ancestors didn’t sprint in pursuit of their prey, and berries weren’t picked at full throttle either.

The art of ultradistance lies in running slowly for a long time and being able to react to the demands of the environment. Which is why walking is allowed. No matter if it’s the middle of the night and you just need an active break, or if it’s steep going up or down a mountain,

the prospect of not having to run the whole 70, 100 or more kilometers all in one go makes the whole plan of running an ultra seem much more realistic.

#3 It’s the journey that counts. And not the time.

Within the running community, the topic of pace is often top priority. Within the ultra community — yes, it has its own community — things look a little different, at least when you’re not one of the experienced ultrarunners.

Instead of reaching the finish line as quickly as possible, you leave your competition ego at the starting line and enjoy the route with your fellow runners as a community. After all, ultramarathons usually take place amid the most beautiful nature or surroundings. Why else would you run for so long?

#4 An ultramarathon is like hiking without an overnight stay

Do you love hiking? Great, because an ultramarathon is like hiking, but without an overnight stay and long breaks. It’s about enjoying nature at your own pace. And that’s something anyone can do.

Another bonus is that the focus on enjoyment instead of pace and best time makes an ultramarathon much more relaxed than any distance between 5 and 42 km, in which you try to frantically run the best time, manage your pace by looking at your watch, and finally cross the finish line panting, exhausted and relieved. Don’t get me wrong: that also has its appeal. But it’s quite different from a long, relaxed run through nature.

#5 You don’t have to start running straight away

As with any goal, you should prepare for an ultramarathon step by step. On average, you should increase distance and intensity by about 10% per week. At 10 to 20 kilometers per week, that may seem like nothing. With 60 to 100 weekly kilometers, it’s a different story. So take all the time you need. Keep in mind that your passive musculoskeletal system also has to get used to the new workload. An ultramarathon means one thing more than anything else: no stress. That’s exactly what makes it so accessible to everyone.

When 35 km no longer feels like a long run — as that’s the point at which carbohydrate stores are often depleted — and you think “Well, I still had a few kilometers left in me” after you’ve crossed the marathon finish line, it’s definitely time to plan your first ultramarathon.

#6 Mindset: An ultramarathon only consists of kilometers

Our mindset is often the limiting factor, not our body. Do you doubt your ability to run ultramarathons? Then that’s the first thing you need to work on.

When training, mentally separate your kilometers into small laps: “Ultramarathon only means 20 times around the lake? That’s easy!” And if 20 km is easy for you? Great, then on to the next 20! Before you start training, ask yourself where your doubts are coming from and clear them out of the way as best as you can. Your body can handle ultramarathons, at least if you take good care of it anyway.

Can I really run ultramarathons?

Admittedly, even if ultramarathons may be in your genes, some time has passed since the hunter-gatherer generation. Modern life and its hours of lopsided posture, lots of sitting instead of running and (often) too calorific/too frequent meals, does not always create the ideal conditions for a half marathon.

(Almost) anyone can run an ultramarathon. It doesn’t happen overnight, though, but with careful step-by-step preparation. Regarding the complicated question of when’s the right time for your first ultramarathon, you’ll find many answers within the community.

Here are a few important requirements at a glance:

  • You already have a few years of running experience
  • Running a marathon is not a problem — especially if you do it at a slower pace
  • 35 km is a relaxed training run
  • Your basic endurance is great and you know how to make it even better
  • You do balanced training in the form of strength training, and mobility and stretching exercises for runners
  • You have alternative training for running that’s compatible with your regular training plan
  • You know your body and you’re good at estimating how much of a workload it can endure
  • A training plan and the discipline to stick to it are a given
  • You’re ready to run, even at night
  • You don’t have any health contraindications that would prevent you from running a ultramarathon

Do you meet those criteria? Then what are you waiting for? Have fun training!

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