Ultra-Running - Tip Top Tips

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Decided to run across the desert? Signing up to the dream is the easy bit. Now you have to do the training and, more importantly in some ways, find out as much as you can about how to do it - advice and information and all the tricks that make life easier out in the desert. And then there’s all that kit. How do you choose between the dozens of varieties of rucksacks and running shoes?

Whether you're planning your first race or your fifteenth, there’s still more to learn. Below we have collected thoughts and suggestions from all levels of ultra-runners. We're always keen to expand this page, so if you have any strategies or hints you'd be happy to share about desert and other ultra-running, we'd be keen to hear them.

Sophie Raworth and the Marathon des Sables 2018

BBC news presenter Sophie Raworth took part in the Marathon des Sables 2018 and found it one of the extraordinary and unforgettable experiences of her life. Here she shares her thoughts and offers detailed and helpful hints for other runners. Read more…

Charlie Henson at the Wadi Rum Ultra 2018

Charlie Henson ran the Wadi Rum Ultra in a team in October 2018

Good admin is really key: while racing and when you finish each day, it is so important to be able to grab everything you need readily and easily. 

Go through a set routine when you finish too - know exactly what you are going to eat, drink and do to get yourself the best possible recovery.  This is not just about performing the next day, it makes it easier to relax, stay calm and enjoy the down time having a plan in place.

See more about Charlie Hensons’s race in Jordan

Dean Baker at the inaugural Marathon des Sables, Peru, 2017

Build your aerobic base as wide as possible, build your strength and power, your anaerobic speed and your mind set to deal with it.  

Eat well to fuel the training, approach problems head on and try to solve them yourself - don’t rely on google, rely on your own ability and develop it. You can’t buy experience - you have to live it. Regularly do something that extends you or even scares you a bit.

Toughen your feet, build good leg strength, do hill work - even if you don’t like it. Build a mind-set that is strong and unbreakable and learn to laugh when things are getting you down!  

Don’t leave any chinks in the armour; they can haunt you. Train hard mentally, physically. Do anything every day to improve: hurt in training so you can deal with it in your event.

Read more about Dean’s Race in Peru

Jax Mariash and the Grand to Grand Ultra 2018

Accomplished ultra-runner, Jax Mariash, who won the Racing the Planet 4 Deserts series in 2016, talks about the Grand to Grand Ultra 2018, which she also won.

1 The terrain at the G2G can change from year to year, but I would recommend folks to prepare for a significant amount sand on the course – running in sand feels like running on a gradual uphill beach for many monotonous miles.

2 I would also recommend taking a few more calories than in other races, due to the longer miles and higher altitude. Also, front-load the calories in the first three days, because the miles are also front loaded in that way. 

 See more about Jax Mariash’s G2G 2018

Alex Stonor at the Inaugural Marathon des Sables, Peru, 2017

You can never spend too much time preparing. Whether training correctly and running more in the sand, ensuring you bring food you like and have tasted, testing your equipment to ensure it meets requirements and the like. The more time invested in preparing for aspects of the race, the more you will enjoy and get out of the run.

Read more about Alex’s race in Peru

Ollie Waugh on his return from Albania HIdden Treasure ultra 2018

Albania Hidden Treasure is a daily staged race in which competitor's equipment is moved forward from camp to camp.

I would use poles for this event.  There was so much steep uphill that it made it worthwhile.  I managed to get some poles for one day and it made all the difference.

Get a good vest, especially one that is breathable and has straps for poles.  It was so hot that a vest does heat you up. Get a smaller vest, say 5l, with good breathability.

Use trail shoes with a good grip. I went for grip over cushioning and it stood me in good stead.

I would rethink my strategy on food and calories. I would take less freeze dried food and then only Lyo, which is the only company I have found who make edible freeze dried meals.I also took cous cous premixed with stock powder, raisins, cut up dried apricots, crushed garlic clove and some ginger - add hot water, a squeeze of a lemon quarter, a small tin of sardines in olive oil and you have calorie heaven. Some runners were sceptical of my slightly extravagant food choice at the start, but by day three were very envious, especially those who were only eating freeze dried food.Other ideas, take raitha bread or tortillas with peanut butter already spread on it. Also go to a Japanese store and get high quality rice and egg noodles pre-cooked and vacuum packed, then just add a sachet of miso soup.

Read more about Ollie’s race