How to Run Your First Singapore Ultramarathon and Survive it
Does it take courage to run an ultramarathon for the first time? It does! But you’ll never get a better measure of your character than by challenging yourself, especially if you prepare like a pro.
While the entire nation of Singapore is still talking about the first summit meeting held between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean head of state Kim Jong Un, there were plenty of athletes more worried about training for the 2XU Singapore Ultramarathon, scheduled for 6 October 2018, than focused on diplomacy.
Why think about this event so early? Because it’s never too early to start preparing for this daunting challenge.
If you happen to believe in early preparation, good for you! If you’re just thinking about participating—especially if you’ve never run an ultra before—you’ve got your work cut out for you. Even if you excel at running regular marathons, an ultra is a whole new ballgame.
To help you meet the challenge, we offer 8 tips culled from advice put forth by ultramarathoners who know that strategising and planning is the secret to finishing. Will you cross that finish line in October? Follow these tips to increase your chance!
1. Identify your motivation
The reasons people run ultras are so diverse, the list could go on forever. The most important thing you can do to prepare for your first ultra is to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Think hard. Your answer is likely to solidify your motivation, so you participate with even more enthusiasm, no matter how exhausted you become.
2. Prioritise safety
There’s no reason to cut corners when you train or run your ultra. If you do, things likely won’t turn out well for you. It can be easy to push through warning signs because you have acknowledged up front that suffering is part of the ultra experience, but never ignore pain, sleep deprivation, training set-backs and potential hazards in hopes they will “disappear” by October. They may not.
3. Prepare your mind
Whomever said that surviving an ultra by conditioning alone probably never ran one! You need to feed your brain. Watch competitors at other events. Read books. Be curious. Sometimes, the most insignificant experiment can turn into the discovery that means the difference between quitting and finishing. Don’t undertake this huge commitment on your own, either. Friends, family and running buddies make the best training allies because they want you to succeed.
4. Use tricks of the trade
Prioritise these suggestions to make sure you’re in the best shape possible:
- You can’t spend too much time, care and money on your feet. Keep them dry and cared for starting day one.
- Eat properly. Test food options when training so you know which energy boosters will appeal to you when you’re too exhausted to have an appetite.
- Focus on electrolyte-loading to stave off hydration when you train and again when you run your ultra.
- Respect the environment. Train in conditions closest to those you will encounter in October, so your body is ready for that environment.
- Never doubt the power of preparation. The best ultra runners test every aspect of the race, from gear to mental motivation, long before they leave the start line.
5. Master mileage toleration
Kids who are allergic to peanuts can be given one peanut a day followed by one more daily until a tolerance develops and the allergy disappears. Coffee drinkers cut consumption by a quarter cup each day to withdraw from caffeine.
Adaptation and tolerance building are critical components to ultra preparation. Start with your usual run. Increase your time by 5 or 10 minutes as often as your body permits. This gradual process is highly recommended for those eager to avoid injury.
6. Don’t skimp on gear
Acquiring proper gear is essential if you don’t want to sabotage all of your hard work. Be kind to yourself. October weather forecasts in Singapore range from 23- to 30-degrees Celsius, but you are wise to prepare for wind, rain, heat, blisters, chafing, sunburn, excessive sweat and gear malfunctions.
Minimise pain and suffering by bringing extra socks, lubricant and anything else that gets you to the finish line in reasonably good shape. Is it worth this much effort? Just ask veteran ultra participants and you’ll get your answer!
7. Subject yourself to fatigue and stress
There’s only one way to test your ability to survive fatigue and stress: double up on training runs. Pair a morning and an evening run. Go for a third once you are ready to push your exhaustion further. Some pros recommend scheduling back-to-back run days.
You’re going to hate it—but this is where you develop the grit you need to finish. And while you’re putting yourself through the agony of this gruelling routine, train on the surface you’ll confront at the ultra, so it feels familiar when the big day arrives.
8. Train with a partner
Finding a liked-minded runner to train together is an efficient way to motivate each other. On those days when you aren't particularly in the mood for running, a running partner becomes a commitment to run together. Such consistency and discipline is needed for an ultramarathon.
Your partner will likely notice if you are overexerting and remind you to slow down or stop. Beside healthy competition to motivate you to run faster, you could also ask your buddy to evaluate your running form and suggest how to improve it. Plan your running strategies together and see them come into play during the 50km Duo Singapore Ultramarathon race.
What scares you most about tackling your first ultra? The pain? Failure? Not finishing? We’re listening.