Ultras vs. Marathon Mindset.

So for those of you who are embracing training for ultra marathons, I thought this would be a great topic to tackle for today. It is one I’ve battled with time and time again as I go from season to season when training for an ultra race vs training to race 26.2 miles. Both of them are very different in their own right. And I think it is important to choose a race that you want to do (or a distance) for that particular season and stick with it! So here are a few things I’ve learned about training for one versus the other.

When it comes to ultras, training on different types of terrain is important. I think it is good to vary the type of surface you are training on especially when it comes to an extreme endurance event like an ultra. That means mixing it up and running on dirt paths, on paved ones, on sand, on the track…running lots of hills. Whatever you can do to change the way your body moves from time to time will make you strong when it comes to pounding out those miles. And even more so when you are running beyond 26.2.

For marathons…learn to become VERY comfortable running your desired marathon pace. When I PR’d last year’s marathon I was running a lot of my 20 milers with a lot of those miles at race pace. For me, this is what helped me get that desired 3:45 finish time and what made me feel really strong come marathon time. So I think incorporating a lot of MP miles, as well as tempo miles and sprinkling in some speedwork will also made you strong at this distance.

But don’t shy away from running faster when it comes to ULTRAS! A lot of people think just because you are running a 50 miler, 100k or a 100 mile race that you neglect running faster. I beg to differ! Switching up how (and even when!) you run often, and this includes running faster from time to time will definitely keep your muscles efficient and strong for running longer. Believe it.

For both marathons and ultras it is imperative that you do some cross training. Listen, I can promise you that if I wasn’t so diligent with this alone that I would surely be injured- as much as I run now. So whether you bike, swim, dance, do yoga…all of this is going to help you immensely. Lift some weights to stay injury free also. Injury free is the name of the game.

It is important to respect both distances in their own right. Training for 26.2 requires a certain amount of mental and physical strength just like ultras do. Do the work, stay consistent and be patient with yourself always. A little bit goes a long way and time on your feet always counts. Find what it is that you love with running and stick with it. That alone will pay off time and time again.

What are your favorite things about training for a marathon and/or ultra?

13 thoughts on “Ultras vs. Marathon Mindset.

  1. Being that this will be my first Marathon, there are two things that come to mind, as favorites. First, it’s has been the challenge that I accepted and stuck with! I never thought I’d ever run beyond 13.1 miles. Now when I run a HALF, I tell people that I’m ONLY running 13.1 miles. And the second thing has been enjoying the journey! I tell everyone I’m training with that Dec. 3rd will come and go, so enjoy the now and every mile in between.

  2. I run shorter distances (up to marathons) and don’t really have any interest in ultras (plenty of admiration for those who run them, though) What’s the appeal?

  3. Great article. I’ve done a few trail ultras but I haven’t done a road marathon yet. There’s only so much flatness I can handle. I’ll have to do one one day though so I can say I’ve done it.

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