Are You Ready to Run an Ultra?

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Are you thinking about taking on an ultra? Do you have what it takes to run further than a marathon? Measure yourself up against these seven characteristics and find out if ultra running could be the next step for you.

More: How to Train for Your First Ultra Marathon

1. You enjoy running trails.

Most ultras take place on trails. If you already have experience running on trails, this part will be easy for you. If you haven't run on trails, try a few long trail runs and see if it's something you enjoy.

Running on trails is quite a bit different than running on road. You have steeper hills (both up and down), roots, rocks, tree branches, stream crossings, and possibly animals to deal with. Although the road can be rough, you will be happy if you love nature, fresh air, and spectacular scenery.

More: What to Expect When You Hit the Trail for an Off-Road Race

For some trails it would be beneficial to purchase a trail running shoe to help protect your foot from rocks and roots. Running trails will give you a taste of what you may experience during your first ultra.

2. You're comfortable with walking.

At some point during an ultra, you may find yourself at the bottom of an enormous hill or mountain. In some cases, it's smarter to walk the hills. If you try to run them, you may do more harm than good.  

More: How to Run Downhill

In ultrarunning, the goal is to preserve your energy as much as possible. By speed-walking up the hills, you will be less exhausted when you get to the top and you will lose very little time. How fast you walk will depend on your body and the terrain.

If you've reached a low point, taking a walk break can also do wonders for you both physically and mentally. It gives you the chance to assess your body, think about what you've done so far, and consider your needs for the rest of the race.

More: Interview With Badwater 135 Legend and Ultrarunner Pam Reed

3. You love to run long.

A focus on distance and endurance over speed is crucial. This focus applies not only on race day, but to your training as well. A love for continuously putting one foot in front of the other, a craving to push your body to its limits, and a drive toward a sense of satisfaction are all part of the positive mental attitude that can bring you success. If you loathe the long run in training, an ultra may not be for you.

More: How to Survive Falling in Love With Ultra Running

4. You love to run regularly.

Before you jump into a training plan, you should have been running consistently (15 to 25 miles) for several weeks prior. This base mileage will help you with your training and will decrease your risk of injury. During your training, make sure you do not increase your mileage too quickly. Stick with a 10 to 15 percent increase per week.

In order to help build your stamina, you'll need to hit some heavy miles on your long runs. You should be prepared to have a few long runs reaching into the 20s for a 50K, or maybe even the low 30s if you're running a 50 miler.

More: The Risks and Benefits of Long-Distance Running