Guide To Ultrarunning: Getting Prepared
Emily Cartigny

In the second of her Guide To Ultrarunning series, Ultra-runner Emily Cartigny takes us through the basics of going long; having chosen the right format for you, it’s now time to prepare for your race!

Fail to prepare…

…prepare to fail. Ok, it’s a cliché, but it’s true.

Ready for our first navigation event, we head toward the start line. Unsure of exactly how it works, we agree in whispers to follow a group that looks confident in what they’re doing (the real runners).

Now assembled in our wave of 20 or so runners, we listen to the final event briefing before being released into the fells. The short wait and the uncertainty of what is to come allows the nerves to build up. Whilst wondering if I can remember how to use a compass since practicing it yesterday, I look around. Other people seem to know what they’re doing much better than us. Some even have matching outfits! Clearly much more prepared.

With the OMM just 2 weeks away, this is your friendly reminder to start preparations (if you haven’t already) and some top tips on how to prepare for an ultra-marathon event.

We cross the start line and have a map thrust towards us. Again, I look around and see everyone else pull out a pen. A pen?! We’ve not brought a pen! How did we not think of a pen?

Signing up and toeing the line of your first ultra-event (and especially the OMM) can feel like a big step to take. If you’re anything like me (pathologically unorganized) you’re running around trying to balance work and life before you know it your event has crept up on you. With the OMM just 2 weeks away, this is your friendly reminder to start preparations (if you haven’t already) and some top tips on how to prepare for an ultra-marathon event. Luckily for you, I’ve made all the mistakes you can think of so that you don’t have to.

Fully read the event info:

Once you’re signed up, it’s time to read in full the event email. This is an essential step not to skim read. Particularly, you want to take notice of the kit list: a mandatory list of items you must take out on the course with you. You can purchase yourself or beg, borrow (but not steal!) what you can from others. It would be such a shame to train your hardest only to be taken off the course for forgetting to pack a pen, like me!

Some common mistakes when it comes to the OMM event also include: packing a buff instead of a hat, or foil blanket rather than a foil bag (OMM Kit List). The list also includes items (e.g., a portion of emergency food) that you must still have with you at the end of the race. You might even want to add a few important items of your own (e.g., blister plasters!).

An ultra-marathon can be as much an eating contest as it is a running one. Beth Pascal shared that she works to consume 90gs per hour (equal to about 3 baked potatoes)

Practice Fuelling:

While I’m sure you’re getting in the miles to be as physically prepared as possible, it’s also important to consider training your gut. An ultra-marathon can be as much an eating contest as it is a running one. Beth Pascal shared that she works to consume 90gs per hour.

For me taking on the OMM (Short Course, 9 hours) that’s around 25-27 jacket potatoes! If it works for the Bob Graham women’s record holder, it’s good enough for me – although, since we’re carrying all our own kit, I might consider something lighter than spuds.

When you ask a fellow runner what they eat on the fells, you can get a whole range of responses from “high carb gels only”, to “a pork pie and a picnic lunch”. You could spend days researching the best calorie dense food, but if you can’t get it down you on the move, it just becomes added weight. So, at least for your first event, take anything you know you’ll be able to stomach.

Consuming calories is something I, and many beginner runners, struggle with when stepping up to the ultra-distances. But luckily this is also something you can train. The more I practiced, the better I became at being able to eat and to eat more variety. Perhaps I’ll get to 90gs one day.

If you’re a highly competitive person like me instead of letting these unhelpful expectations run away with your nerves, try to reframe them

Coping with nerves

Pre-race nerves can make or break a run. There two key factors to beating the pre-race nerves: first, being prepared, which if you’ve read through this far, you’ll be completely ready to hit the start line. Second, is managing your expectations.

It can be easy to let your mind wander into thinking: “I’m going to get all the checkpoints” or “I’m going to win my category”. While these are great ambitions to have, it’s worth considering what you have control over. In the sporting world, the phrase ‘control the controllables’ gets used frequently. You have no control over many things on the course that might impact your time, like the terrain, getting lost, or a sneaky dipper that is hidden behind a rock and takes you 10 mins to find.

If you’re a highly competitive person like me (the kind you probably don’t want to play a board game with), instead of letting these unhelpful expectations run away with your nerves, try to reframe them to: “giving your best effort on the day”, or “keeping a positive mindset when things get tough”.

You win some and you learn some.

The ability to complete an ultra-marathon, especially a multi-day navigation event like the OMM, depends on a multitude of complex factors: from physical fitness, nutrition, weather, terrain, map reading skills, hydration, decision-making, to mindset. The chance of you getting all this right on your first attempt is pretty small. Especially when it’s your first event, expecting perfection is unrealistic. Instead, you can accept mistakes might be made and view it as learning opportunity.  

Enjoy it!

Finally, all that’s left to do is enjoy the ride, take in the scenery, and congratulate yourself on becoming an ultra-runner! Welcome to the wonderful world of ultra-marathons.

Read Part 1 HERE

In the second of her Guide To Ultrarunning series, Ultra-runner Emily Cartigny takes us through the basics of going long; having chosen the right format for you, it’s now time to prepare for your race!

Fail to prepare…

…prepare to fail. Ok, it’s a cliché, but it’s true.

Ready for our first navigation event, we head toward the start line. Unsure of exactly how it works, we agree in whispers to follow a group that looks confident in what they’re doing (the real runners).

Now assembled in our wave of 20 or so runners, we listen to the final event briefing before being released into the fells. The short wait and the uncertainty of what is to come allows the nerves to build up. Whilst wondering if I can remember how to use a compass since practicing it yesterday, I look around. Other people seem to know what they’re doing much better than us. Some even have matching outfits! Clearly much more prepared.

With the OMM just 2 weeks away, this is your friendly reminder to start preparations (if you haven’t already) and some top tips on how to prepare for an ultra-marathon event.

We cross the start line and have a map thrust towards us. Again, I look around and see everyone else pull out a pen. A pen?! We’ve not brought a pen! How did we not think of a pen?

Signing up and toeing the line of your first ultra-event (and especially the OMM) can feel like a big step to take. If you’re anything like me (pathologically unorganized) you’re running around trying to balance work and life before you know it your event has crept up on you. With the OMM just 2 weeks away, this is your friendly reminder to start preparations (if you haven’t already) and some top tips on how to prepare for an ultra-marathon event. Luckily for you, I’ve made all the mistakes you can think of so that you don’t have to.

Fully read the event info:

Once you’re signed up, it’s time to read in full the event email. This is an essential step not to skim read. Particularly, you want to take notice of the kit list: a mandatory list of items you must take out on the course with you. You can purchase yourself or beg, borrow (but not steal!) what you can from others. It would be such a shame to train your hardest only to be taken off the course for forgetting to pack a pen, like me!

Some common mistakes when it comes to the OMM event also include: packing a buff instead of a hat, or foil blanket rather than a foil bag (OMM Kit List). The list also includes items (e.g., a portion of emergency food) that you must still have with you at the end of the race. You might even want to add a few important items of your own (e.g., blister plasters!).

An ultra-marathon can be as much an eating contest as it is a running one. Beth Pascal shared that she works to consume 90gs per hour (equal to about 3 baked potatoes)

Practice Fuelling:

While I’m sure you’re getting in the miles to be as physically prepared as possible, it’s also important to consider training your gut. An ultra-marathon can be as much an eating contest as it is a running one. Beth Pascal shared that she works to consume 90gs per hour.

For me taking on the OMM (Short Course, 9 hours) that’s around 25-27 jacket potatoes! If it works for the Bob Graham women’s record holder, it’s good enough for me – although, since we’re carrying all our own kit, I might consider something lighter than spuds.

When you ask a fellow runner what they eat on the fells, you can get a whole range of responses from “high carb gels only”, to “a pork pie and a picnic lunch”. You could spend days researching the best calorie dense food, but if you can’t get it down you on the move, it just becomes added weight. So, at least for your first event, take anything you know you’ll be able to stomach.

Consuming calories is something I, and many beginner runners, struggle with when stepping up to the ultra-distances. But luckily this is also something you can train. The more I practiced, the better I became at being able to eat and to eat more variety. Perhaps I’ll get to 90gs one day.

If you’re a highly competitive person like me instead of letting these unhelpful expectations run away with your nerves, try to reframe them

Coping with nerves

Pre-race nerves can make or break a run. There two key factors to beating the pre-race nerves: first, being prepared, which if you’ve read through this far, you’ll be completely ready to hit the start line. Second, is managing your expectations.

It can be easy to let your mind wander into thinking: “I’m going to get all the checkpoints” or “I’m going to win my category”. While these are great ambitions to have, it’s worth considering what you have control over. In the sporting world, the phrase ‘control the controllables’ gets used frequently. You have no control over many things on the course that might impact your time, like the terrain, getting lost, or a sneaky dipper that is hidden behind a rock and takes you 10 mins to find.

If you’re a highly competitive person like me (the kind you probably don’t want to play a board game with), instead of letting these unhelpful expectations run away with your nerves, try to reframe them to: “giving your best effort on the day”, or “keeping a positive mindset when things get tough”.

You win some and you learn some.

The ability to complete an ultra-marathon, especially a multi-day navigation event like the OMM, depends on a multitude of complex factors: from physical fitness, nutrition, weather, terrain, map reading skills, hydration, decision-making, to mindset. The chance of you getting all this right on your first attempt is pretty small. Especially when it’s your first event, expecting perfection is unrealistic. Instead, you can accept mistakes might be made and view it as learning opportunity.  

Enjoy it!

Finally, all that’s left to do is enjoy the ride, take in the scenery, and congratulate yourself on becoming an ultra-runner! Welcome to the wonderful world of ultra-marathons.

Read Part 1 HERE

Emily is a freelance writer on a mission to unlock the outdoors for underrepresented groups. She’s particularly passionate about sharing female stories of adventure and the outdoors. When it comes to running her strengths are enthusiasm and pure stubbornness rather than talent. You'll usually find her getting lost in the Lake District or on her local fell, Farleton Knott.
Emily is a freelance writer on a mission to unlock the outdoors for underrepresented groups. She’s particularly passionate about sharing female stories of adventure and the outdoors. When it comes to running her strengths are enthusiasm and pure stubbornness rather than talent. You'll usually find her getting lost in the Lake District or on her local fell, Farleton Knott.

If you have a story to tell, whether it’s from the OMM, another race or challenge or just how you use our kit, get in touch! Just pop an email to james@team-ark.com and who knows, you might just earn yourself some free kit!

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