Ultra-Marathon Pacing Tips
Formulate a realistic strategy that will maximise your chances of success in your Ultra Marathon.
Each Ultra Marathon event comes with unique challenges. Distances, elevations, terrain, and weather play significant roles in how you will approach your event. Any misjudgements in pace/effort early on can have significant repercussions later in your race. Knowing the route and having a race strategy will have several benefits:
- Faster race times
- Quicker post-race recovery time
- Increased morale (as you overtake other participants in the second half)
- Greater satisfaction during and after the race
The most successful Ultra-Marathoners are those who slow down the least. We advise to measure your efforts using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), your pace means a lot less in an Ultra.
You have tapered, and your long run training pace may feel easy on race day. Don't be tempted to run faster, during ultras your race pace is often slower than your training pace. If you start the race at your long run training pace, you more than likely will not be able to sustain it.
You can ignore your watch completely, don't worry about pace or heart rate. The first hour should feel more manageable than your regular easy run. The longer the race, the slower the race pace will be relative to your training pace. You should be at RPE 1 to 3 out of 10 throughout. Don’t worry about losing time in the first few hours; your patience will reward you with legs that can still run, in the later stages of the race.
(Note: "RPE" refers to Rate of Perceived Exertion. A measure of feel, where 10 is your hardest run effort, and 1 is your easiest).
You will need discipline, patience, and the ability to put aside your competitive self at the start of an ultra.
When it comes to deciding whether to walk or run up a hill, stay focused on your intensity (RPE). If the effort starts to feel 'hard' then walk, if you can stay feeling 'easy/steady' then you can continue to jog up.
Running downhill is the one time when you cannot rely on how you feel; it generally feels easy. However, it places much more pressure on your quads, and if you run down too fast, you will pay heavily later in the race. Reduce the load and minimise damage to your quads by running with smaller, faster strides and light landings to reduce the strain on your leg muscles.
Your race success will be determined by how patient you are. If you set out too fast, you risk a long and painful day on the trails and possibly a DNF. Check our article for more on Race Nutrition.
Click here for more on training for your Ultra Marathon.
Good Luck for your Ultra!
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