Ronnie Staton, one of the very few finishers of the notorious Hill Ultra, details his mental approach to ultramarathon running and the 9 essentials he goes by
The mental side of ultramarathon running is huge. It’s always necessary to think beyond physical fitness in your preparation and approach during the race. Here the some tips, tricks and mind games I recommend adopting if you want to succeed.
Address the Key Three
I coach, teach and run from a skill set I call the Key Three: dedication, consistency and perseverance. To run an ultra well you need to dedicate time to your training. And that needs to be consistent, over months, to get the best results. During the longer training sessions you need to persevere. Lose one of the Key Three and your goal escapes. Utilise the Key Three and any ultra is achievable.
Ask yourself “why?”
Find your reason, why you want to run ultras. Do it for yourself and ingrain the motives into your bloodstream. There will be moments when you want to quit. But remember your “why”, and move forward.
Know the route
Wherever possible go and run the route. It feels fantastic to have the confidence of route knowledge. You definitely move faster when you know you’re going in the right direction and the fear of getting lost is removed.
Worst case scenario planning
Write a long list of everything that could go wrong on race day, and what your response would be. This really improves your locus of control, to see things more clearly if they do happen. Problems you originally feared may lead to a DNF simply become things you can manage and still finish, just from having written them down. It’s powerful stuff in your hands.
Know when to quit
Set rules of failure. I have three: I will only quit due to a broken/ immovable limb, unconsciousness or death. Yours mightn’t be as extreme – the likeliness of serious injury is a very reasonable one – but set parameters you are happy with. Otherwise you may find yourself dropping over something minor in the heat of the moment. If you do fail, can you look yourself in the mirror as to why?
Break the race down into milestones, such as checkpoints or significant mileage figures. If things get tough focus on objects on the horizon and run to them, walk for a minute and then push again. Keep giving yourself a goal to run to over and over again until you bring it home. You will get there.
Do not see walking as failing. Almost every ultra runner walks at some point, if only for practical reasons. Keep cool and get back into a run as soon as possible. If not, walk it in. But finish what you started.
Win the marginal gains
Focus on marginal gains. Every time you stop you are wasting time and not bringing the finish any closer. It’s not going to come to you. Just keep moving. Manage your rest and checkpoint stops, look at the time and give yourself a target to be gone by.
Deal with it
Tell yourself these three words in training and racing “Deal With It”. Then do just that. Adapt and make forward progress. If you get lost get back on track. If your feet hurt attend to them. Deal with it and finish.