During the race
1. Focus internally
When the going gets tough start to reflect internally on you, your body and your running. Think about your breathing. Is it steady and controlled? Think about your stride. Are you running efficiently and effectively? And think about your mind. Are you in the moment and feeling positive?
2. Focus externally
If you've run the course of thinking internally, start to think externally as well. A wonderful aspect to ultra trail running are the environments you find yourself in. Stop and take a moment to look at the beautiful landscape. Look around at all the other runners who have worked so hard to get there and look to the supporters who are tirelessly following you along the route. External influences can really raise your spirits during low points.
3. Think of why you signed up in the first place
As you are slogging your way up that 1,000m climb, you might think: what on Earth am I doing this for? At moments like this remember why you signed up for the race. Maybe it was to share the experience with a friend. Perhaps it was in honour of someone. Or maybe it was just to see if you could finish. Reflect on what got you to the start line as it will help carry you to the finish line, too.
4. Break the race down into chunks
By definition, ultra races are long. For even the most seasoned professionals, the distances are hard to comprehend. Don’t think about the fact you have over 60km to go; you will quickly lose hope. Instead, break the race up into manageable chunks such as the distance to the next water station or the length of the next climb. Tick each chunk off and congratulate yourself on the progress you have made each time.
5. Don’t forget fuel
During a race if things get bleak, there is often one main cause and that is your body crashing due to lack of fuel with your mind tumbling too.
Ultra races are often best thought of as eating races with the skill being to keep eating when your body is saying no. Take a moment to eat good quality food and you will quickly feel your spirits and energy return.
After you cross the finish line
1. Recognise the positives of what you have achieved
You have just covered a distance that most people would struggle to comprehend. You committed yourself to an intense training programme and you did all of it yourself. Recognise what an amazing achievement it is and dwell on the positives that the race provided.
2. Be kind to yourself
Your body will be sore and your mind will be exhausted so be kind to yourself and accept that it is going to take some time to recover. Book a holiday or at least plan some time to let the whole event sink in. It's going to take time to process so just be kind to yourself and give yourself all the time you need.
3. Choose a new goal
It does not need to be just after you cross the finish line but when you are ready, start thinking about what is next and put a new goal in place. Maybe it's coming back next year or maybe it's something else entirely. Either way, putting a new goal in place will give you something to look forward to and work towards.