Ultra-Distance Trail Running Tips from the Pros: Part 3
Written By: Ben Mounsey
In the third instalment of a four-part series, our Sportsshoes Ambassador Ben Mounsey asks athletes Harry Jones and Andy Jackson for their best ultra-running tips.
MEET HARRY JONES
HOKA One-One athlete and running coach. 1st place - Mozart 100 Ultra Race 2022
Photo credit: HOKA One-One
1. BUILD UP SLOWLY
First and foremost, the allure of running your first ultra is strong. But make sure you are patient, if you’re new to ultra-running, don’t just go from a road marathon straight into your first 100km on the trails. Take your time to build up your training safely to a volume you could only have dreamt of before you started your ultra-running journey. Take your time to get to a place where 3-hour runs start to feel short compared to some epics you’ve had in your training block. Most importantly, take your time to enjoy the process and get excited for race day.
If trails are new to you get some shorter trail races in first. Get out in the mountains, figure out what you’re good at, what needs work and how much slower and longer those big hills and tough terrain can make the miles drag.
2. STRUCTURE IS KEY
Don’t neglect structured workouts. It’s easy to think ’I’ve got a 100km race with 6,000m of climbing, so I should just focus all my time on vertical, volume and running in the mountains’. It will definitely help, but don’t underestimate how beneficial building your overall running fitness can be, whether that be with hill intervals or track workouts. I do a lot of volume and time in the mountains coming into big goal races, but always make sure I still feel like I’m within a strong road marathon fitness, maintaining some good structured workouts at pace. There might be a lot of hiking in a steep ultra but often there’s a lot of running too and that’s where you really make up time.
3. MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE
Make sure you choose the right race for you. Don’t just enter the first race you find, make sure it’s a race, route and area that excites and motivates you. It will help keep the miles flying by and when you hit a rough patch (if you’re doing it right you will) you just have to look up from the trail, take in the views and the energy will start to come back.
Great cushioning, traction and ride for a long day out on the trails. I’ve always been a fan of the HOKA Speedgoat and have raced everything from fast 21km trail races, all the way up to long ultras in them. However, I really love the HOKA Tecton X and this will be my shoe of choice for UTMB® this year.
Check out our Sportsshoes review of the HOKA Tecton X here
I’ve tried a wide range of different hydration vests to find the best fit and functionality for race day. The Camelbak Ultra Pro ticks all those boxes, lightweight with good access to pockets whilst still having enough volume to fit mandatory gear for a race like UTMB®.
Not essential for every ultra, but when you’ve got plenty of steep climbing poles can really help take some strain off the legs and get you through the course faster. I highly recommend the LEKI Ultratrail FX.One Superlite trail running pole. The LEKI trigger shark system allows you to click in out of your poles quickly and gives good energy return when you're hiking up those mountains.
Follow Harry and all of his running adventures here
MEET ANDY JACKSON
Experienced Ultra Runner & UTMB finisher
Photo credit: Rachel Platt
1. TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
Having a strong mind really does help. For me, a lot of training has been solo, getting out in the mountains in any weather. This has helped me to become stronger, both mentally and physically. Training alone is the ultimate practice for the real thing, as in long ultra-races you often have to run through the night and also alone.
2. BUY THE BEST KIT
Buying and using the correct kit is also absolutely essential. I often read advice on internet forums advising people to buy the cheapest clothing and equipment just to get through a kit check. In reality, when you’re racing in the cold dead of night, sometimes at high altitude, with a tired body, fatigued brain, whilst battling inclement weather, you’ll be glad you spent that extra bit of money on good quality gear.
My favourite shoes are the inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270, having worn them to complete the Bob Graham, Lakeland 50/100, the Fellsman and more recently the PTL® (300km 26000 meters of climbing on mixed terrain). These shoes to me are the best all-rounder multi-terrain shoe proving excellent comfort and grip. The addition of graphene in the rubber soles also prolongs the life of the shoe, making them the perfect choice for all ultra-running distances.
The LEKI Ultratrail FX.One Superlite is my number one go-to choice for trail running poles. Poles are an absolute essential for ultra-races in mountainous environments! Using these on long races like the Montane Spine Challenger and the PTL® whilst carrying a 20 litre pack with all the mandatory kit certainly help on the climbs, keeping the body upright and also gives tired knees support on long descents.
Check out our Beginner's Guide to Trail Running with Poles
Follow Andy and all of his running adventures here
Thumbnail image: Robbie Jay Barratt
Parallax image: Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash
Find out more about off-road running by visiting our trail running hub and make sure you've got all the running kit you need for your next adventure.
Related post: Ultra-Running Tips from the Pros Part Four | The Trail Hub | SportsShoes.com