7 Professional Ultra Runners Share Their #1 Tips For Finishing Your First Ultra Marathon

7 Professional Ultra Runners Share Their #1 Tips For Finishing Your First Ultra Marathon

On a sunny spring morning, two ambitious runners laced up their shoes to train for their first ultra marathon…

They were very similar in many ways. Both were naturally athletic. Both were determined to learn how to run ultra marathon distances and — as most potential ultra runner’s are — were hungry to succeed.

Recently, these two runners stood at the starting line of their first ultra marathon.

Even after months of training on their own, surprisingly, they still ran pretty much the same. Both ran on the same trails. Both wore the same style of shoe. And both, as it turned out, signed up for the same race.

But there was a BIG difference. On race day, one of the runners dropped out surrendering to a DNF. The other…

SMASHED the course record. 

What Makes the Difference?

Have you ever asked yourself, as I have, what makes some runner’s finish their first ultra marathon, while others fall short? It’s not natural talent, or work ethic, or an issue with determination. It isn’t that one runner wants to cross the finish line, and the other doesn’t.

So what makes the difference?

The answer: their chosen path.

In other words, it comes down to what training program they choose and how well they follow it.

If it’s a proven path that shows results for others, then it will likely provide the same results for you.

Think about it…

If you take advice by an inexperienced runner, then you’ll likely receive inexperienced results…like a DNF. On the other hand, if you take advice from an experienced runner, then you’ll receive experienced results…like crossing the finish line.

Look at it this way…

If you want relationship advice, would you rather take it from someone who’s been in a relationship for a few days…or a few decades?

The point is this: if you model those who finish ultra marathons, then you too will finish an ultra marathon.

And that’s why I am writing to you, and other runners like you. I’m writing to share expert advice for running your first ultra marathon.

The advice you are about to receive is from very experienced ultra runners.

In fact, I didn’t just go to your everyday ultra runner. Instead, I went to some of the best ultra runners on the planet. Runners who ran and finished in the top spots of some of the most challenging races around.

I went to the best of the best and asked them one simple question…

The question was this…

What is your number one best tip for running your first ultra marathon?

And the answers were nothing short of AMAZING.

Because during an ultra marathon, you will soon discover that it’s not about how you perform when everything goes right… it’s about how you perform when everything goes wrong.

On race day, there’s a potential that you will face many difficulties. Whether it’s burning out, bad weather, fueling issues, chafing, sunburn, exhaustion…you name it.

Well, these experts have faced enormous adversities MANY times, and guess what? They still came out on top.

And these professional ultra marathon runners—as well as myself—are here to serve you in realizing your dreams. Your dreams of running an extraordinarily long distance and crossing the finish line of your first ultra marathon!

So without further ado…here are the professionals…

Dean Karnazes

~Professional ultra runner for North Face and best-selling author. Best known for running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, running 350 miles with no sleep, and finishing first place at the world’s toughest foot race: Badwater 135.

6 Endurance Pros Reveal Their #1 Tips To Increase Running Stamina // Long Run Living

“Start slow. The worst mistake you can make during your first ultra marathon is going out too hard. Conserve your energy for the later stages of the race. The goal for your first ultra marathon should be to finish. If you hit any time objective you might have that’s just gravy. But reach the finish line first and foremost.”

Connect with Dean:


Ian Sharman

~Professional ultra runner for Altra and Head Coach at Sharman Ultra.  Best known for completing over 200 ultras and marathons, 4x Leadville Trail 100 Champion, Grand Slam of Ultrarunning record holder, and 9x top 10 at Western States 100.

6 Endurance Pros Reveal Their #1 Tips To Increase Running Stamina // Long Run Living

“For your first ultra marathon, treat it as a learning experience with more focus on taking in the whole day rather than worrying too much about your time or pace. That makes it easier to dial everything in and learn how to judge effort based on how your body responds to the terrain and distance. Also, this makes future races go better as this importunity skill gets refined each time.”

Connect with Ian :

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Zach Bitter

~Professional ultra runner for Altra and coach at Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching.  Best known for breaking the 100-mile American record and 12-hour world record for running. Competed at three World 100k Championship Races and has won three National Championships.

6 Endurance Pros Reveal Their #1 Tips To Increase Running Stamina // Long Run Living

“In short, finish. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when running their first ultra marathon, or first 100 miler, is that they set all their goals beyond just finishing. If they find themselves in a position where the day goes sideways, and their predetermined goals don’t include simply finishing, it becomes incredibly easy to justify dropping out. I usually encourage people to have some tiered goals with completion being one of them. This way, when uncertainty presents itself, goal-based mental motivation is still present.”

Connect with Zach :

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Lucy Bartholomew

~Professional plant-based ultra runner for Salomon and Clif. Best known for finishing her first 100k at the age of 16 and placing 3rd at Western States 100 at the age of 22.

“The most important thing when preparing and running an ultramarathon is first to find your “WHY”. Ask yourself why you want to run this race. Is it for a self-challenge? To prove something about yourself? To tell your friends that you did it? When you are in those hard moments during the actual event, by knowing your “WHY,” you can return to it and remind yourself why you put yourself in this position.

Also, I think it’s really important to not out-run your love for running before the race. Of course, you need to train, but keep it fun. Share the journey with friends, listen to your body, and stand on that starting line excited to take on this challenging experience. Have fun!”

Connect with Lucy :

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Paul Giblin

~Professional plant-based ultra runner for Compress Sport trail team. Founder and coach at Pyllon. Best known for multiple top 10 finishes at Western States 100.

“Set the right goals. Don’t go into your first race with a target time or position. It’s an unnecessary pressure and can be unhelpful. And whatever you think, any target will be based on guesswork. This will likely be your longest run ever, so aim to finish the race as a priority. You don’t know exactly how your mind and body will deal with the extra mileage, so stay open to the learning opportunities. If you want to add layers to that, targets like “I aim to finish feeling strong” or “I aim to keep my energy levels consistent throughout” have worked much better for new ultra athletes I’ve coached.

There is plenty of opportunity in the future for chasing positions and time goals — bank a great introductory ultra experience first!”

Connect with Paul :

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Peter Kostelnick

~Professional ultra runner for Hoka One One. Best known for breaking the world record for fastest coast-to-coast run across the United States in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes. He’s the Bad Water 135 course record holder and two-time 1st place finisher. Latest record: 5,300-Mile Ke2Key Self-Supported Run.

“I don’t know anyone who has ever said, “man, I wish I started out faster during that ultra.” Start out at a familiar pace, and then go a little slower. I’ve noticed a tendency for runners in marathons and farther to get pace creep. This happens when they see someone they think they are faster than pass them early on. So they stick with them, causing others who “know” they’re as fast to fall for the unintentional bait as well. 

Also, it’s advantageous to understand the course you’ll be running.  Look for elevation charts and try to memorize distances between aid stations to put your mind at ease on race day. 

And last, the people that always seem to do the best on their first ultra marathon are those that understand the importance of getting in calories and electrolytes.  In a marathon, you might be able to get by with a gel or two over several hours. But in an ultra marathon, you really need to eat at least 200 calories per hour to keep the engine going past 26 miles.  Also, unlike shorter morning races, many ultras extend into the afternoon resulting in a dire need to replenish electrolytes. I like to take S Caps and Hammer Endurolyte pills every hour or two when I race.

In short, start slow, know your course, and know your nutrition…and you’ll do awesome!”

Connect with Peter:


Mark Hammond

~Professional ultra runner for Altra. Best known for multiple podium finishes at Western States 100 and 2nd at Run Rabbit Run 100. Ranked #8 Ultra Runner of The Year in 2018.

“I think the most important thing to consider in ultra marathons, whether it’s your first or 50th, is nutrition. Regardless of how fit you are, your nutrition plan will make or break you on race day. A nutrition mistake that slows you down for a few minutes in a marathon could easily cause a DNF in an ultra marathon.

The longer the distance, the more critical it is to have diversity in your nutrition. Be prepared with a wide variety of foods you know your stomach can handle while running. During the race, it’s crucial to constantly pay close attention to how you feel and adjust your nutrition accordingly. When your mind is tired, it’s so easy to make nutrition mistakes.”

Connect with Mark:


Cross the Finish Line

As you can see, these professional ultra runners know what it takes to succeed. Not only have they been there themselves, but they’ve helped many first-time ultra-enthusiasts reach their goals as well.

Remember, running your first ultra marathon is not only a physical endeavor, but it’s a mental conquest. Because of this, you want to prepare both your body and mind.

That’s why it’s recommended to make your number one goal to finish. First, cross the finish and become an ultra marathon runner. Afterward, you can start working on fast times and winning placements.

First Things First

Also, consider running a 50k first.

Although a 50k (31 miles) is only a handful of miles farther than a marathon (26.2 miles), it has one significant advantage. Sure, it has physical benefits since it’s the shortest ultra marathon distance. But the real advantage lies in the mind.

What do I mean exactly?

Well, it’s the quickest way to break your self-imposed limitations that the marathon is the farthest distance a human being can run. Once you run beyond the marathon, you don’t just expand your stamina…but you expand your mind.

Now any distance is possible…even the distance you once thought wasn’t possible at all…like 100 miles.

Remember…anyone can run any distance, including an ultra marathon. It just takes patience in the journey, faith in the unknown, and a belief in your abilities.

And as you now know…it also takes following the advice from those who have already crossed the finish line. Because when you learn from the experts…you are compressing years into days.

Find Your Way

Consider if you were traveling on new terrain. Wouldn’t you look for a sign to help you navigate? Or a map? Or a GPS?

Sure, you may find your way without these tools. But you save a significant amount of time and heartache with them.

So to save time and ensure you finish, look to these professional athletes for help. Check out their social media pages, websites, and blogs. Some offer coaching programs and books, while others post on social media and hold clinics.

And if you’d like to follow in the footsteps of thousands of other first-time ultra marathon runners, then check out my book The Ultramarathon Guide: A Simple Approach To Running Your First Ultramarathon.  It will guide you step-by-step in running your first ultra marathon (training program included).

Click below and get started TODAY…

Click here for the Paperback version on Amazon

Click here for the Kindle version on Amazon

Click here for the Audiobook version on Amazon

Click here for the Audiobook version on iTunes

A Word of Encouragement

There is something special about the ultra marathon distance. There’s a reason why we keep returning back to this extreme mileage.

We return for different reasons. But here’s what I can tell you from experience…

If you keep pushing, and pulling, and running, and stumbling through the mileage…eventually, your life makes a shift…

Because when you push your running as far as it will go, push it well beyond what you could have ever thought possible, far past any boundary or limitation you hold…suddenly, your frame of mind shifts. You realize the barriers were self-made in the mind. The walls then begin to crumble, providing you a clear path to reach even farther distances.

But it starts with a single step…

Find a big enough purpose and fall in love with the journey. Because if love can move mountains, then it can surely move you to the finish line of an ultra marathon.

Yes, the finish line will come eventually. Just move your feet forward and have trust in the process.

You are preparing to run into the unknown…to run a new distance…the ultra marathon distance.

And if you make your goal to finish, keep it slow, find a big enough purpose, and nail down your nutrition…the finish line will come…

If you keep moving your feet forward, the finish line eventually arrives. This is a method that has never failed once.

So move those feet forward, and I’ll see you at the finish!

The Last Tip

Oh…and let me add one more tip when it comes to running your first ultra marathon. Did you ever hear about the tourist who was having trouble finding Carnegie Hall in New York City?

The tourist’s heart was set on finding this historical place. But he had no luck. He found himself walking the streets in circles. No matter what corner he turned, still…no Carnegie.

At his wit’s end, he gave up on navigating himself, and decided to ask someone for directions. Just then he saw an old-looking Hippie fella on the next corner. He stopped and said, “Excuse me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

Nodding his head and snapping his fingers, the old hippie replies, “Practice, baby. Practice.”

That’s the secret. Commit fully to your training program, and practice your heart out.

Now let’s get to running!

And remember…if you want a quick and easy read (or audio) for running your first ultra marathon, click below and start training TODAY!

The Ultramarathon Guide // Long Run Living

Click here for the Paperback version on Amazon

Click here for the Kindle version on Amazon

Click here for the Audiobook version on Amazon

Click here for the Audiobook version on iTunes

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