Tips for Running Your First Ultramarathon

Tips for Running Your First Ultramarathon

***You know how recipe blogs have the LONGEST intro and it takes forever to scroll to the actual recipe?? Well, yep, I did the same thing. So if you want to skip all the boring background and get to the tips scroll down😁***

About a year ago I brought up the idea of wanting to run a 50 mile race. I grew up playing lots of sports and always had a great love for backpacking and hiking (thanks Mom and Dad!). At 15 years old I ran my first road marathon. It started out as a family event but when push came to shove, only my older sister and I ran the marathon. Since then, I have run on and off, mainly to stay fit and because it makes me feel good. It’s also a cheap and simple way to get in a great workout. Besides a couple unofficial half marathons here and there, I really have not been very consistent in my running. 

 Summer of 2020, my husband and I, with family members and friends, hiked the Wonderland Trail in 3 days. If you aren’t familiar with the Wonderland Trail, it circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Washington and is 93 miles long with a total elevation gain and loss of more than 46,000 ft.  I called my husband crazy when he first told me he was going to hike it in 3 days but then 6 months later, I found myself finishing alongside him. This long, hard adventure is what first got the ball rolling for me as I began to contemplate what the human body is capable of. 

While on the Wonderland Trail, I learned people actually ran the entire route in one go! Upon returning home, we were informed of multiple ultrarunners who had set FKTs (fastest known time)  in the days just following our completion of the route. There were a total of 7 FKTs set in 2020 on the Wonderland Trail including: Tyler Green, Dylan Bowman, Ryan Montgomery, Mark Hammond, Kris Brown, Kaytlyn Gerbin, Alex Borsuk, and Christof Teuscher. Having hiked every mile that they ran in less than 24 hours was mind blowing as I struggled to comprehend what they accomplished. Thus was the beginning of my intrigue with the ultra running world. I began watching Youtube videos, closely following UTMB, and reading books about ultrarunning. 

Fast forward to the beginning of 2022. I was about 3-4 months postpartum and feeling a little anxious to not only complete a big adventure but to feel like myself again and do something hard. Although having a baby is by far the hardest thing I have done and being a mom is a HUGE…..not sure what the word I am looking for….adventure, undertaking? But I sought something outside of being a mom that would push me. My husband, Hamilton,  had completed a 50 mile run in 2021 and I felt the smallest desire to follow in his footsteps. But I was TERRIFIED! 50 MILES! That is just so so so long! And who has the time to train for that? We have a baby to juggle, jobs, etc. I brought up the idea to Hamilton multiple times though never really sure if I wanted to fully commit to such a long run. I eventually started training and picked out a potential race I thought would be fun to do. Well actually it was the farthest race away (9 months to train) and the lowest elevation gain (4,000 ft). But despite this, I still could not get myself to sign up for the actual race. I was way too nervous and felt completely intimidated. I was working hard, training, learning about the sport of endurance running, etc. but deep down, I didn’t believe I could do it. I guess I didn’t need to believe I could do it, I just needed someone else to believe I could. Mothers Day rolled around and for my gift, my husband signed me up for the race! He solidified my commitment and now I was going to run 50 miles whether I really wanted to or not. 

man and woman trail running

I trained for a lot of months and I fell in love with trail running although I was still completely terrified of my upcoming race. But with each longer training run, I began to feel more calm and confident about running 50 miles. I felt I finally got into a better mental state when 10 days before the race, I sprained my ankle. I’ll save you all the drama but I was unable to run for 4 weeks. However, I am back to training with the goal to run the Orcas Island 50 mile race in April! Why write about my experience? I just wish I could have had the right mindset and encouragement from the beginning! I wish I could have believed in myself and found joy in the journey, fun in the training, and accomplishment in the grand adventure of it all. So in hoping to help other new trail runners or those who have even had the faintest desire to run an ultra….YOU CAN DO IT! 

family at the finish line of a ultra race

While I have not completed an “official ultra race” I felt it was best to gather advice from  people who actually have and are more of the real deal. I reached out to a wide range of ultrarunners with this question, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to run their first ultra?” I contacted a wide variety of ultra runners including some who have been running ultras for years and some who ran their first ultra a few months ago. I got answers from official runner coaches and local hometown running heroes. The responses were so fun for me to read but most of all encouraging and motivating. I have included their Instagram handles if you’d like to check them out….they all are incredible and very inspiring!

“The best piece of advice would be to take it slow! Trail running is completely different than running on the road, there are lots of roots, rocks, and sticks that like to grab you 😁. Taking it slow helps you get used to your environment and running the trails. Once you feel comfortable running trails enter in a few local trail 5/10Ks to get used to racing on a trail. From there the sky is the limit, but remember walk the ups, and send the downs and flats! 😉”

-Justin Andreas,  @running_in_stache


“Make sure you understand the importance of fueling and have practiced (200-300 calories an hour) - and the length and the type of terrain will drive the pace - don’t expect to be running all the time up every hill. Be as fit as you can and don’t mistake thinking you need to have done a run close to the ultra length - though a bunch of long runs practicing fueling are important.  Most importantly - have fun!”  

-Mark Griffith, @markbgriffith


1. Rest and recovery are just as (if not more) important as the physical training.

2. Don't neglect strength and mobility work.

3. Break everything down into micro goals.

4. Smile when it hurts.

5. Don't forget to get calories in! 

-Bennet Murch, @bennetmurch

#1: Bring an excellent layer to throw on when you're back at the car. may i suggest a squak hoody?

#2: Show up! get a trailhead with a pair of comfortable running shoes and some favorite snacks or candy & water, and just start going. It doesn't matter when you're running or when you're hiking. It doesn't matter how fast or how far you go. It just matters that you get out and enjoy the experience, and the more you do it, the more you'll figure out what you like or don't like. Maybe you like big long climbs with rewarding views at the top. Maybe you like flatter trails where you can go really fast. Maybe you like a great community and group runs. Maybe you like to only go for an hour, or maybe hours on end and even multi-day events are what makes you excited. There's room for all of it, and it all starts with showing up and finding out what gets you going. The community, the training, the routes, the gear, the results all follow once you know what direction you're keen to explore.

-Ely Gerbin, @elyg

"I would say my biggest advice is to do it with a friend!! It’s so nice to have another person keep you accountable and support and motivate you throughout the long training process as well as the race! Running is such a mental challenge and I feel like having a friend do it with you relieves A LOT of that!" 

-Sherry Huang, @shers_21


1. Find a running crew! It’s so much easier and more fun when you have one (or more) people to enjoy the trails with. When I first started, I trained alone a lot, but I would go to races with friends who also ran them. It was great from an accountability standpoint and turned every race into a fun weekend with friends!
2. Get rid of any pre-conceived notions about what you should do! Follow your passions, try different races and different distances, and see what you’re passionate about. Don’t just do things because everyone else is doing them! Take the valuable advice of people who have done it before, but choose your own path!

    -Adam Kimble, @adamkimble818

    1) Don’t be afraid to start wherever you’re at—even if it’s from scratch! 5 years ago, I decided I wanted to train for a 50k but wasn’t running at all. Over the course of 8 months, I slowly built up—training for a 5k first, then a 10k, then a half, then a 25k, then eventually the 50k! Our bodies are amazingly adaptable!

    2) Find your people! I put myself out there and joined a couple local trail running group runs. I was able to connect with some women who took me under their wing and taught me everything. If it weren’t for their wisdom and encouragement, I don’t think I would have stuck with it.

    3) Don’t compare yourself! Social media makes it look like everyone’s a pro. WHO CARES if you’re fast or slow, what shape and size you are, how far you can run. Just HAVE FUN! Be a kid again! Play in the mud and rain, laugh and bomb the downhills. Do it for your soul❤️

    -Lauren Nielsen, @trailrunningteacher


    I would say don’t worry about pace. Find a buddy and enjoy the company and the scenery. Conversation makes the miles go by fast. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Be you, cause that’s who you are. 

    -Christopher Gregory, @christophergregory7

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