Ultra Marathons - Fun Facts & Nutrition for Athletes

Is this the year you do your first Ultra? Photo Source: bestracesigns.wordpress.com


Ultra-marathons are races generally longer than 30 miles and could be well over 100 miles. These races are becoming more popular as racing professionals and week-end warriors look for fun new challenges. If you are looking at this website you likely either already run long distances or are thinking about participating in an ultra race in the New Year checkout these fun facts and nutrition for athletes hints to be better prepared for the challenges that await you.


Runners in the great 1928 Trans-American Footrace. Photo Source: www.biographile.com

1. The first ultra-running competition in the U.S.

The first serious ultra-running competition conducted in the United States was probably the Trans-American Footrace. This coast-to-coast footrace was conducted in 1928 to promote the newly constructed U.S. Route 66. The winner of the race was Andy H. Payne, a member of the Cherokee nation, who finished the race in just over 573 hours and averaged a 6 mph pace over the 84-day stage run. Payne won $25,000 for the win and used the money to pay-off the mortgage on the family farm.

2. Fuel the beast

Nutrition for athletes running ultra-marathons is just as important as the miles put into training. It has been said that ultra-marathons are eating contests with nice scenery thrown in to help digestion. This may be an exaggeration, but with your body exerting sustained effort for 6-8 hours you will need to continuously replenish lost calories to keep the engine running. Look for items that can be eaten quickly and dissolve fast in the mouth and have the calories to keep you moving.

3. Slow is smart, and walking is encouraged

If you are new to the sport don’t worry about running slowly or even walking. Become comfortable with the idea that the race is going to take a long time. The journey, not the destination, is the point with these races. Most runners will walk at some point, especially on the uphill legs of a course. Don’t worry about your pace; run slowly to avoid burning yourself out late in the race, and enjoy the scenery and connection to nature…you won’t be alone in your pedestrian practice.

4. Don’t quit your day job to train

One common misconception for new ultra-runners is that you have to do crazy miles each week. Many experienced ultra-runners train like they are preparing for a traditional marathon with weekly distances between 30-35 miles and building up to 45-50 miles before tapering off a few weeks before the race. Do back-to-back longer runs to prepare for the added time and stress experienced during ultra-marathons. These races can be more about mental preparation than miles-per-week, so take some time to get your head right before the race and be realistic in your goals and self-assessment.

Ultra-marathons offer the unique opportunity to run in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Photo Source: trailrunningnepal.org

5. Ultras may be easier on the body and mind

While this may seem counter-intuitive it could be true. Ultra-marathons generally occur on soft trails that don’t beat-up the joints as bad as bone-jarring pavement. Ultras also often take place in some pretty incredible scenery and a recent Stanford University study has shown that proximity with nature has both mental and physical benefits. Fresh air and peaceful surroundings, even if you are breathing hard and your thighs are burning, has to be a good thing…right?

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