Beyond the Marathon: How to Crush Your First Ultra

Calling all adventurers!

Ever since the Tarawera Ultramarathon opened registration, you can’t stop thinking about ultramarathons. But that little voice asks, “Can I really do this?”

The answer? Yes, you can! Ultramarathons (races longer than a marathon) are tough but amazing. Here’s how to turn that FOMO into a thrilling challenge.

First, pick the perfect race.

Choose a race that excites you and challenges you.

Consider Distance

Having never done a marathon, the thought of a 50k scared me but excited me. Yet after running nearly 30km during the Surf Coast Century Relay in 2017, I knew that a 50k was in my future.

Consider Location

Do you want to run an event that is local to you? Or would you prefer a destination event?

Do you want to run something local? Or would you prefer a destination event?

Research the course and its terrain. You’ll want to train on similar terrain.

Don’t forget to consider any travel logistics.

Consider a Coach

Feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed with it all? Then consider hiring a coach.

Any type of ultra is going to push you beyond your usual running. A coach can be your secret weapon. Here’s why:

  • Expertise: They craft a personalized training plan considering your experience, strengths, weaknesses, and the specific demands of trail running (hills, terrain).
  • Accountability: They keep you motivated, adjust your plan as needed, and ensure you’re progressing to reach your race goals.
  • Nutrition & Hydration: They guide you on fueling your body for long distances on unpredictable terrain, preventing crashes and boosting performance.
  • Injury Prevention: They help you avoid overuse injuries common in ultras with proper training techniques and recovery plans.
  • Mental Toughness: They train your mind for the mental challenges of an ultra, teaching strategies to stay focused and positive during the long haul.

An investment in a coach is an investment in yourself, giving you the tools and support to conquer your first ultra.

Build your Base

After completing the Surf Coast Century Relay, I knew that a 50k event was going to be on the cards.

It would be another two years before that goal was accomplished. There were two things I wanted to do first.

  1. Run my fastest half-marathon
  2. Increase my running mileage

In 2018, I ran my fast Half-Marathon at The Australian Running Festival.

That same year I increased my running mileage from 1500km in 2017 to a whopping 2100km in 2018.

It’s important to gradually increase your mileage of many months. There is no magic number but aim for anywhere from 8-10 hours for a 50k for beginners.

Long Runs

Your longs runs are going to be your key runs. Not only will your long runs trail your body and mind to go the distance, but it’s also about time on feet.

It’s important to use your long runs to practice your fuelling, your gear and your mindset.

Train in similar terrain and all weather conditions, as this will get you race-ready.


Don’t forget about your speedwork sessions! Interval training isn’t just for short races. Including a speed session will boost your endurance and can make running more fun.

Think intervals, tempo runs, or hill repeats – all done moderately to avoid injury.


Finally, recovery is crucial. Get enough sleep, eat well, and listen to your body. Rest days, cross-training, and stress management are your friends. They’re the hidden champions of ultra training. Here’s why:

  • Muscle Rebuild: Think of hard runs like microtears in your muscles. Rest allows your body to repair them, making you stronger, not just sore.
  • Energy Replenish: Intense training depletes energy stores. Rest days give your body time to restock, ensuring you have the fuel to crush your next run.
  • Injury Prevention: Pushing through fatigue weakens your form, inviting injuries. Rest days keep you fresh and your form sharp, reducing risk.
  • Mental Fortitude: Ultras demand mental grit. Rest days let your mind recharge, promoting focus and motivation for the challenges ahead.

So, embrace those rest days! They’re not lazy breaks, they’re power-ups for your ultra journey.

Ready to conquer the ultramarathon beast? This is just the beginning!

Read about my first ultramarathon here – Surf Coast Century – 50km.

The 2021 lockdowns didn’t stop me – Run to Paradise – 46km road ultra.

Want more? Here’s my race review on the WTF – Lumberjack 50km.

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