Mental Training for Ultra-marathons
One of the unique things about training for a 100 miler race is that you will never run that distance in training. Shorter distance running athletes routinely run their distance’s and then some. They know the mental game of running their race. So how does a first time ultra runner mentally train for their race? Simple: get up and run.
It was still dark when my alarm went off a 0645. I removed my earplugs and heard the sounds of heavy rainfall. I groaned; I had to be at work at 0830 and I had to run for one hour to get there. I was short on sleep—the snooze button called. It would have been easy to go back to sleep. And it would have been even easier still to borrow the car and drive to work. Believe me, this thought entered my mind more than once as I lay in bed, trying to convince myself to get up. After much deliberation I removed the covers, exposing my body to the cool air. I dressed, laced up, and packed a lunch. I got out the door, turned on my headlamp, and started running.
It would have been easier to stay in bed. Similarly, it would be easier to quit at mile 60 of 100, than to carry on until the next aid station, hoping that your race improves. At this point in the race you may feel as if you are in unfamiliar territory, however, you have been here before, at least mentally. Remember that rainy, dark November morning when you wanted to stay in bed and skip your run, but you ran anyways? That was your mental training for when you want to quit at mile 60. All those days you want to skip—when you are tired, when you have too much else to do, when you’re sore, when the weather sucks...—and you run anyways, those are the mental training days for running an ultra marathon.
This is why I am a huge fan of “run every day.” And I mean everyday. I ran three kilometres the day after I finished Ultra520kCanada. So run everyday, because believe me, there will be days (many days) you won’t want to run, but those are the golden days to train the mind. There will also be times (many times) you will want to quit while running an ultra marathon, but by using those golden days you will be better equipped to get from mile 60 to mile 61, and to eventually reach your finish.