Have you ever fancied taking part in a race, which tests your physical and mental capabilities to the absolute max?
Ultra-marathons aren’t just your standard 10k. They are also called ultra distance or ultra-running, and are classified as being any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).
They are devised to push you beyond what you thought was possible. You need to work equally on conditioning your body and mind in order to achieve the end result: crossing the finish line.
Preparing yourself psychologically
Before signing up to an ultra-marathon it’s not just a case of training hard to prepare your body. It is as much about preparing your mind too.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the best examples of someone who was so well mentally conditioned he achieved everything because he believed he could.
Successful athletes all adopt the same mindset and follow the below 9 principles which you can use in your ultra-marathon brain training:
- Choose and maintain a positive attitude – Always keep the mind-set that you WILL achieve it and stay positive about everything to do with your challenge. There is no room for doubt.
- Maintain a high level of self-motivation – You need to motivate yourself by reminding yourself why you are doing it and what you will achieve. Can you do it to raise money for a charity close to your heart? For a loved one or for self-improvement?
- Set high, realistic goals – Put in the correct training both physically and mentally and the goal will be achievable.
- Deal effectively with people – Don’t let anyone put you off or talk you out of it, keep them out of your mental space.
- Use positive self-talk – When things get harder become your own motivator.
- Use positive mental imagery – Visualize yourself achieving your goals every day and what you will feel like when you cross that finish line.
- Manage anxieties effectively – Remember anxiety is just a feeling. Don’t let it win and never give in to it.
- Manage your emotions effectively – Emotions are just emotions everyone has bad days just remember to pull yourself out and focus on the goal.
- Maintain concentrations – Let nothing break your focus, ever. Use mindfulness if you have to bring yourself back into the present if you feel worry and anxiety surfacing.
What can you gain by doing an ultra-marathon?
You can achieve many things from an ultra-marathon. Of course everyone is different and everyone will have his or her own reasons for doing it in the first place. To read more about running as a habit and why you should sign up for your first race, read our post.
You will break down your walls and psychological limits. You will prove to yourself that anything is possible with the correct mindset.
The world really is your oyster and it may end up being the first time you really see the incredible things you are capable of as a human.
Your confidence will improve and your appreciation for life, especially the small things. It’s only when you realize how harsh the world can be can you love it for it’s small comforts and pleasure we take for granted every single day.
If you want to go on an incredible journey, do some soul searching or give yourself a shot at achieving something truly incredible then you might want to consider some of the below ultra-marathons.
Are you ready? Let’s take a look at the 6 toughest marathons in the world!
1. Ultra Marathon des Sables
Time: 6 days
Distance: 154-mile trek
Location: Through the Sahara in southern Morocco
Marathon de Sables is the stuff of legends. It’s regarded as the toughest footrace on earth. The harsh terrain of the Sahara dessert is no easy ride.
The ultra-fine sand absorbs your foot’s momentum, which means huge sections of the course turn into a literal slog, a battle just to walk in a straight line. Trek over endless dunes, over rocky jebels, and across white-hot salt plains – ouch!
Even when you think its relatively easy-going on the hardpan, the weather will bring you to your knees. April temperatures can soar to well over 100 degrees, which means no section of the MDS is ever easy going.
Even though the course is very popular and well trodden (over 1,000 competitors sign up every year), do not forget that it’s the desert. It offers unpredictability, harsh conditions and sweltering heat. Three runners have died on this route so it’s not to be taken lightly.
2. Badwater Ultra Marathon
Distance: 135 miles
Location: Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley
This ultra marathon also describes itself as one of the world’s toughest foot races. But why?
Well, melting shoes, ice water baths and the running from the lowest part of the continental US to it’s highest part in one uninterrupted 135 mile stint should be enough to persuade you the claim is true!
Running the race during the hottest month of the year in July adds a somewhat unnecessary level of pain and heat exhaustion of course! Make sure you pack plenty of sun gear for this one!
Very few people—even among ultra-marathoners—are capable of finishing this gruelling race.
3. Ultra H.U.R.T. 100
Time: 36-hour time limit
Distance: 100-mile endurance run
The name gives it away really, hurting is just part of the course with this bone shaking ultra-marathon!
The good part is that you get to travel all the way to tropical Hawaii just to push yourself to your absolute limits. The race takes place in January in the mountains outside of Honolulu.
An endurance run of 100 miles with 24,500 feet of elevation gain on gnarly, root-encrusted single-track.
Unluckily for you there are only a handful of areas where you can enjoy a run consistently for more than a few hundred yards.
Thrown into the mix there are mosquitoes, 20 rocky stream crossings, and vast stretches of impenetrable jungle that makes running at night like traveling through a wild-boar-haunted, pitch-black cave with a floor of slick rocks and roots.
Now that sounds like a challenge!
4. Costa Rica Coastal Run
Time: 6 days
Distance: 150 and 156 (250km) miles.
Location: Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline
An ultra run that lasts almost a week!
This gruelling but picturesque course is set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country.
You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat.
Run over Jungle and rainforest trails, mountain trail and single track across ridgelines, highlands and coastal ranges; beaches, rocky outcroppings and reefs, river and estuary crossings, and ends in Corcovado National Park, one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world as well as a Unesco World Heritage site. It really is a beautifully rewarding run.
5. Spartathlon Ultra
Time: 36 hours
Distance: 153 miles
Location: Between Athens and Sparta in Greece
Now here’s one that isn’t for the faint hearted! If you want a marathon that will test you as hard as the armed forces then Spartathlon Ultra marathon is for you.
Conjured up by members of the RAF to see if it was even physically possible for a human to cover the 153 mile distance between Athens and Sparta in Greece in the 36 hours it took Athenian messenger Pheidippides to make the journey asking for help in the battle of Marathon.
Apparently it is possible, which is why so many sign up to have a go at the mythological journey. Each September racers cover the pleasant terrain under a deeply unpleasant time limit. Nobody mentions the fact the Pheidippides died shortly after making the run himself – just to fill you with a bit more confidence.
6. The Iditarod Invitational Ultra Marathon
Distance: 1000 Miles
We’ve saved the longest until last! Held along Alaska’s famous Iditarod trail during the famously harsh and face-numbing Alaskan winter, runners cross the tundra either on foot or by bike and have to be self-supported.
Just to qualify for the full distance race (and rightly so) you have to have proved yourself in the shorter 350-mile race the year before. Yup, 350 miles is considered short compared to this monster marathon!
Needless to say, running in an Alaskan winter is bone tingling cold and that’s not even considering the fact you have to drag a sled behind full of your own supplies to keep you going in vast wilderness.
After reading the above, do you think you could mentally and physically prepare yourself to endure the toughest race of your life?
You will have to be prepared to dig deep and find your inner strength. You must be focused and 110% motivated to finish. Imagine that feeling of crossing the finish line of one of the world’s most grueling challenges? You will become your own hero!
If you liked this article, read 6 Incredible Races Around the World.