Four Tips For Setting Ultra Running Goals

Our sport is getting bigger and bigger by the week as more and more people enter the world of ultra running and a crack at ‘the dark side’. But with racing comes the inevitable question of what ultra running goals you might set for yourself.

That goal could simply be to finish, or in most cases, there could be a target time or placing that could be up for grabs too. So with that in mind, we’ve drafted up four simple tips to think about as you head into your race, wherever in the world it might be over the coming weeks or months.

Ultra Running Goal #1 Don’t be afraid to dream of achieving remarkable things

Sarah Barnett is a great example of someone who can dream big, commit and follow through and deliver on her goal.
Sarah Barnett is a great example of someone who can dream big, commit and follow through and deliver on her goal.

I’m sure like me, you’ve had people telling you that you’re crazy for running 100kms or 100 miles. ‘Why the hell would you want to do that?’ They cry… ‘You’ll never do that’ they say. And before you know it, you’re questioning your own belief and essentially undoing what has probably been a good 3-4 months worth of training.

Ignore the naysayers, what matters is what you think and what your dreams are. No bother if you’re looking for a 36 hour finish at GNW, or a sub 10 hour Glasshouse 100km time. Dare to dream that it was possible and go for it regardless.

The great thing about our sport is that pretty much anyone can run 100kms or 100 miles, to do so simply requires a lot of belief and a lot of training. If you’re prepared to do both, you can achieve some pretty remarkable things. The problem is that in our ‘silver spoon on a plate society’, most people want something for nothing, or simply a quick fix. Put the hard yards in, dream big.

Chase down your goals
Chase down your goals

#2 Work out what is necessary to achieve your goal and then determine if you are prepared to do what it takes and make the necessary sacrifices.

As we touched upon towards the end of the first tip, to achieve big things means working out if you want to make big commitments, or in some cases some pretty big sacrifices. Running mega distances requires some pretty big sacrifices, and one of those tends to be your social life i.e. heading out on the beers with friends on a Friday night. It’s pretty tough doing long runs on hangovers or after a few ‘bevvies’ down the pub with your mates.

Likewise, if you don’t drink but have a family, every hour you spend on the trails is another hour that you’re not with your family. It’s a fine line and a balance between the two. The trick is to not push too far one way that could jeopardise what you love most. On a personal level, I haven’t run a 100 miler for a number of years now, and that’s simply because I have a young family and I’m not prepared to prioritise the training required for that over spending time with my family. As a result, I limit myself to everything at 100kms and under right now, or roughly 8-10hrs training a week. It’s just about manageable with everything else I have on my plate.

Many of us also have ‘real jobs’ to consider too. Running ultras is a massive commitment, and it’s great if you’re free and single with little in the way of work commitments. But everyone has a line, and the irony of a sport such as ours where the focus is on the individual is that when it comes to ultras, your biggest consideration is those around you and the impact it has on them.

#3. Break down what you need to do into smaller realistic goals. Focus only on what you have to do next.

This is essentially about living in the moment. How often do you hear people in your life saying things such as ‘I can’t wait for the weekend’, or ‘I wish I was back in such and such a place.’ It’s human nature to think about the future or to want to relive past memories, but before you know it, you’ve spent most of your life doing either of those two that you’ve missed out on what you’re doing right now.

Running ultras requires more than just a physical exertion, it’s the mental preparation (or lack of it), that often sees people fail to achieve their ultra running goals. You can get too carried away with thinking about what’s been, or the fact that there’s so far to go. Break your race goal down into chunks and focus on what you’re doing in the here and now.

Those of you reading this with children will understand this very well. Children live in the present, and as a parent, you’re very much in that mode as well, simply ‘being’ with them. While children can be a handful at times, they make you a better person in terms of being able to focus and deal with situations that ultra running throws at you.

#4. Believe in yourself even if no-one else does.

If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will. At the end of the day, ultra running is ultimately an extremely personal journey. While you might be running for a cause or a person in mind, much of running ultras is about a voyage of self-discovery. Running is good for the soul, so believe in you.


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