Ultrarunning can change your mind. It will focus your perspective, and help you see things as they really are. To get to this Zen-like running state, you might have to push past some misconceptions about ultrarunning. These lies might be clouding your vision.
1. I can't run an ultra yet—I'm not in my best shape.
I've seen some epic love handles and beer bellies cross the finish line at several ultras. And although not all runners are visibly out of shape, many do have a target area that is far from perfect—flabby bits or underdeveloped muscles. If you're waiting to be in the best shape of your life, you will never run an ultra.
Running with extra weight is far from easy, whether it is bulky muscle weight or fat. But weight has almost no effect on your potential to cross the finish line. This finish line is about mental strength and raw determination. Don't worry about achieving perfect fitness. The more you run ultras, the more your body will adapt to running ultras. Then before you know it, your body will be perfect for ? running ultras.
2. My first ultra will be just like my training runs.
You haven't the slightest clue what your first ultra will be like. Expect nothing. The veteran standing beside you doesn't know what this race will be like either. Neither does the dude who has run this course 10 times. He can tell you about his past experiences, but he can't tell you what the run will be like today. That's the beauty of ultra running: Anything can happen.
Simulate race-day conditions during training, but never let it fool you into thinking that you now know exactly what's coming. You have no idea. The weather could turn, your food could run out, or you could step on a rattlesnake. Who the hell knows.
Instead of stressing about it, take it as a relief. There's no pressure to be completely prepared, because nobody is. The runners who thrive are the ones who can be flexible. Have a good base, don't forget your nutrition, and know how to adapt. Be ready and willing to tweak your strategy at a moment's notice, and never see a change as a failure.
3. I can't run an ultra—I don't have any support.
Support is a big deal among ultra runners (race crew, pacers, friends dragging your crap around), but it can't be used as an excuse. Ultimately, only you are responsible for your failure or success. Yes, pacers and crews make things easier. They are convenient and invaluable. But you don't need a small army to pull off a finish.
In fact, many newbies don't have any support at all. It's not until you start running several ultras, and make friends in the ultra community that people become willing to hang out and support you.
Emotional and moral support are another issue. Never expect to go into your first ultra with the full support of all your non-running friends and family. Even your running friends may have a hard time believing in you. If you do have unlimited support, your friends are either great liars or you are a much better person than most.