Ultra distance racing requires everything that the marathon and below requires and more; the ultra-distance runner needs to concentrate more so on the mental aspects of a race while not forgetting the physical as well.

Listed below are ten rules that will ultimately guide the runner to successfully completing an ultra-distance race.  The mental rules are emphasized here because of the grueling mileage required to run such distances and the time alone with a runners thoughts while on the trail.  Obviously the physical rules are also prerequisites to achieve such an endeavor.

Mental Rules

Rule 1.  Know the course.  While this is standard procedure in any race, it is especially important in ultra-distance racing because the course is so long and usually not marked that well.

Rule 2.  Harness the anxiety and stress experienced prior to the race to your advantage.  Use the worry, apprehension, and physical feelings (excitement, increased breathing, increased heart rate, etc.) to get you prepared for the race ahead.  To do so the runner will need to realize that both the physical and psychological feelings engender prior to the race are positive signs of being prepared and will eventually dissipate as the runner settles into the run.

Rule 3.  Foster mental toughness in training and racing.  Because of the length of the run and in some cases the terrain it is of utmost importance to develop a mental attitude of never giving up.  This attitude takes grit on the part of the runner.

Rule 4.  Stay in the moment during the race.  Concentration on the task at hand is paramount in long distance racing.  The mind can wonder and question what is being done to the point of giving up because of the pain, fatigue, and endless quest to finish the race.

Rule 5.  Run within your capability.  Start the race with caution and gradually get a feel for the course and your body.  Stay within you limits as a runner.

Rule 6.  Be patient and positive in your approach to life, training, and racing.  A positive attitude will reap great benefits.

Rule 7.  Stay motivated.  Approach each day of training and race day with the desire to achieve the goals set for that day.

Physical Rules

Rule 8.  Get plenty of rest and sleep leading up to a race.  It goes without saying that rest, recuperation, and sleep are major aspects of success in any ultra-distance program.

Rule 9.  Maintain a healthy diet and hydrate before, during, and following a race.

Rule 10.  Always monitor the physical body prior to, during, and following training and racing.  Make sure you are physical prepared to run an ultra-distance race.  Monitoring a runner’s physical body during the run is essential to know how hard it can be pushed.

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Fredrick is a retired emeritus professor from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD. He has taught in the department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University for the past 45 years and taught both undergraduate and graduate courses such as physiology of exercise, advanced physiology of exercise, nutrition, nutrition and weight control, health and fitness, motor learning and performance, psychology of human performance, psychology of physical activity, track and field skills, soccer, gymnastics, cross country skiing and more. He was a gymnast, soccer player, and track and field athlete, and participates in all distance races and triathlons.


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