Think back to how you felt the second you received your sign up confirmation email for your upcoming ultramarathon.
You might have felt some butterflies in your stomach at first, but I’m sure you couldn’t stop smiling and thinking about how awesome the experience was going to be.
But racing is only part of the fun.
The entire training process should be something to revel in. If you aren’t enjoying it, you need to spice it up so you do. You’ll be spending a lot of hours training for this ultra so make them enjoyable!
Training shouldn’t be torturous. Sure, we all want to improve and hard workouts are always going to be a part of our training plans, but remember, we run because we love to run.
Running brings us pleasure, it’s our escape, our time to play.
I have compiled a list of my top 10 tips that help me stay motivated while training for an ultramarathon. Hopefully, they can be useful to you as well!
#1 Run with Friends
The trail running community is packed with passionate, fun-loving people.
Team up with others you can share your runs with and watch the time just fly by. I absolutely love spending my long runs chatting with friends, laughing, and dreaming about race day.
Running with others is also incredibly helpful for those grueling speed workouts.
When I tackle speedwork with others, the group dynamic motivates me to do my very best. Running in a pack can help you stick to that uncomfortable pace you may otherwise drop if you’re on your own. Having people to cheer you on and who won’t let you give up when things get tough is an incredible help.
I whole-heartedly agree with Eliud Kipchoge’s outlook on how running is a team sport:
“I am here because of teamwork. I am here because sport is a mutual interest. I am here to talk about my success because I am really about teamwork. Teamwork actually helps a lot.”
Teamwork is key, so work together, and reap the benefits.
#2 Find a Trail Running Club in your Community
If you’re looking for people to run with, I highly recommend joining a trail running club in your community. It’s a great way to meet new people, share your runs, and check out new trails.
You’ll have endless new options for your long run adventures and will begin to make plenty of friends you can train with.
I have learned a lot over the years from experienced runners who have been more than happy to let me pick their brains. The knowledge has come in handy in a lot of different situations I have faced while training and racing.
What you can learn from other people’s experiences is invaluable, so cherish it.
Trail running is all about enjoying the great outdoors and excellent company, and joining a club is a great way to start.
#3 Mix it Up
Exploring new trails and switching up your routes will keep your training interesting and fun.
I plan my long runs out in advance and make a day of it!
That way, it turns into something I look forward to all week long. It becomes the highlight of my weekend, a great new adventure that I just can’t wait to go on.
If you are unsure of where to go and haven’t joined that running club yet, there are different apps that can help you find routes wherever you are.
With Strava or Wikiloc, you can navigate your way through trails that other runners have shared publicly. Find something that works for you, use these navigation tools, and enjoy!
And don’t forget about the most important part of the day, breakfast!
After a full morning of exploring, you will have worked up quite an appetite. Be sure to plan where you are going to eat beforehand and dig in.
You’ve definitely earned those post-run pancakes! If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is!
#4 Follow a Training Plan
There are endless reasons to have a professional help you with your training, especially when preparing for an ultramarathon.
Following a well thought-out training plan, written by someone who has experience and expertise in the field, gives you a feeling of assurance and will inspire you to carry out each and every workout to the best of your ability.
I’m pretty old-school and still print out my training plans and hang them on the fridge.
After completing each workout, I love the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. These mini-accomplishments inspire me to keep going and excite me for the workouts to come.
It’s also really fun and satisfying to tell your coach when you break a PR, or that you felt really strong during a workout; they’ll be very proud of you and glad to receive the feedback!
Check out Marathon Handbook’s library of free ultramarathon training plans – for 50k, 50 miles, 100k , and 100 mile runs!
#5 Get Involved in Your Data
Back in the day, we used to have to keep a written training log, and some of us still may. Now, with all of the present-day training apps and fancy watches, you can track just about anything and have the data right at your fingertips!
Compare your data from previous weeks and months and relish in your improvement. Also, take a look at the things that you could work on and set new goals for yourself.
In my case, I’ve been noticing that my cadence is a bit slow and it is something I can definitely improve which is why I have set a mini-goal to work on speeding up my turnover!
#6 Set Goals
You have already set a pretty awesome goal by deciding to run an ultramarathon but that doesn’t have to be your only goal. Training properly for an ultra is a long process, so adding in some short-term goals will keep you motivated.
I always try to schedule a couple of races that fit into my training plan and can work as shorter simulations for my upcoming ultramarathon.
Being that the race atmosphere is always so much fun, who wouldn’t want to spend the morning surrounded by a bunch of other trail lovers?
Having these other events to look forward to helps keep me motivated and excited throughout the ultramarathon training process.
Ask your coach which races fit into your plan and sign up for them right away!
#7 Follow Inspirational Runners
Pro ultramarathoner Courtney Dauwalter inspires me each and every day. Watching her absolutely crush it time after time on the trails motivates me to get out there and give it my all.
Find runners who inspire you and follow them on social media.
There are so many incredible athletes out there who are a joy to watch. Find out what races they are running and tune in. They also share great tips and stories that we can learn a lot from.
#8 Read Amazing Stories
There are a great variety of inspiring books to read written by seasoned ultra marathoners that will get anyone to want to run the trails.
I know for me, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is what got me started ultra running in the first place. It’s a story about the author’s journey to Mexico, to run alongside the Tarahumaras, a tribe who run ultra long distances as a way of life.
“That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation.” Christopher McDougall
Kilian Jornet, Scott Jurek, Dean Karnazes, among many other ultra runners have inspiring books to choose from. These stories provoke a lot of emotion and just plain old excitement to keep it up out there and remind us to enjoy every moment of our running experiences.
#9 Inspire Others
You are an ultramarathoner, therefore you are inspiring! Take your friends and family out to the trails and show them what it’s all about. But please, be kind when choosing a route to make sure they want to come back and do it again.
Inspiring others to join the trail running community is my passion.
Teaching others about what I do inspires me every day. I love taking people to the mountains, giving them advice, and helping get them engaged in this awesome sport.
Who knows, you may get someone completely hooked that could end up running an ultramarathon with you down the road.
I have my fair share of previous non-believers who are now out there running trails. To think that I inspired that, in turn, motivates me even more.
#10 Make a Playlist to Pump You Up
There are going to be moments when you are out there alone so to help pump you up, put together a list of songs that will energize you.
I find myself rocking out and singing along to songs while I’m out on my runs. People must think I’m a little nuts, but I’m having a grand old time.
There are already a ton of running playlists ready to go that you can find online, but make sure you choose something that is really going to get you raring to go!
Now you know all my secrets! I hope my little tricks of the trade help keep you inspired throughout this amazing process of training for an ultramarathon, and when in doubt, just remember, we run for fun!