Before we delve into the specifics of how to start ultra trail running, let us first reach an understanding of what the sport is about.
Ultra marathon or ultra running is any foot race longer than the traditional marathon distance of 42.195 kms. Also known as mountain or fell running, trail running is the practice of running off roads, on hiking trails. When clubbed together the sport of Ultra Trail Running involves running distances greater than the traditional marathon distance on off road hiking trails.
Here are some hacks to get you started on the way to ultra trail running stardom.
1. Get on the trail.
One of the first prerequisites of starting into the world of ultra trail running is to get on the trail. Start with easy treks and hikes, familiarising yourself with the practice of walking on uneven pathways. As you progress, build speed and try running sections of the trail to build strength and endurance.
2. Expose yourself to variety.
In the ultra world, the more the better. Try running as many trails as you can, and expose yourself to as many types of trails as possible. Start with easier, straightforward trails with soft ground. Graduate to technical, steep ones, with rocky sections gradually. Find variety and run it.
3. Start Participating.
Get yourself enrolled for your first ultra trail running event. Participating in a race with other athletes will not only provide you more exposure about the sport but, also instill confidence due to the presence of support crew and aid stations that will assist you along the way. Enabling you to gradually transition into independent distance running.
4. Learn Basic Wilderness Medicine First Response.
Along the way, pick up basic first aid for application in wilderness. Often trails are a desolated lot. In the hour of need, help may be too far away. Knowing basic first aid may be quite helpful for such emergency scenarios. Various institutes such as National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) regularly conduct courses in the discipline of wilderness first response.
5. Environmental Awareness.
Running outdoors is one of the easiest way to interact with nature. Therefore it is imperative that trail runners practice a keen sense of environmental awareness. Basic knowledge of the area, flora and fauna will not only help in creating a more enriching experience but, also be useful in practicing safety on the trail in terms of knowing exit routes or keeping out of wildlife’s tracks.
6. Training is Key.
Specific training is key when it comes to ultra trail running. Not only do you have to train for long distance endurance but also, train muscle groups for strength. Most trails involve uneven terrain and undulations that may be testing for ankles, knee joints, back and major muscle groups in the leg. Ultra trail runners are often advised to train specifically for the running project they are going to undertake in near future.
7. Shopping for Gear.
For an ultra trail runner, selecting the right gear is imperative. Being the only aids and accompaniments on the trail, the runner must choose equipment wisely. Beginners tend to overload themselves with gear and heavy machinery, which ultimately exhausts and slows them down. For runners, it may be useful to study the ultra light equipment available. Knowledge of the right kind of trail running shoes, layering system for trail clothing, hydration systems and trail nutrition are some key aspects that a runner must educate himself/herself about.
Author: Sukrit Gupta
An avid climber, ultrarunner and day dreamer, Sukrit is a fan of everything that is self-managed and solo. A flag bearer for self sufficiency and pushing beyond limits, he loves to spend his time slithering over rock faces and devising cruel trail running courses in his mountainous backyard in Manali.