Ultra Running

Not for the faint of heart, Ultra Running (or Ultra Marathoning) is a type of long-distance running that has been growing in popularity here in Australia in recent years. The standard definition for an ultra race includes anything over the traditional marathon distance of 42.195 km. However, typical Ultra Marathon distances are 50km or 100kms, and can also include event series that last for specified time periods such as 12-hour, 24-hour, or even multiple days. Ultra Marathons can take place on both road and trail, with the latter being the most popular here in Australia.

Sounds crazy, but also kind of amazing? We thought so too! So we caught up with our Ultra Running pal Jackie Kellermen (@jacquigorun) to learn more about it.

What is it about Ultra Running that you find so appealing? 

I love working towards a goal, which feels near impossible and then achieving it. Ultra Running will test your mind, body and spirit a few times in just one event! It’s such a raw experience. I think that trail Ultra Running is becoming more popular as people seek connection with nature — it satisfies that primal instinct. The running community at these events are also very friendly and supportive, especially to newcomers. They’ll always wait for the last runner to come in and the crowd will greet them with the loudest cheers.

What is your greatest Ultra Running achievement so far?

I came in 1st female at the City to Surf Marathon in Perth in 2018. I’m still shocked…I’d never led a marathon nor won one before this! It will always be a very special win for me and a reminder to stay consistent and just keep showing up. I also loved this race because it really shows off some of Perth’s greatest scenic assets.

My favourite race this year was the Bunbury Marathon, where I won the Ladies 50km and managed to achieve an ‘A’ batch seeding at the Comrades Marathon UP RUN in June 2019. Even though it was a training run as part of my Comrades prep, I felt so strong for the majority of the race. It was a real confidence booster! This result was also the fastest woman’s time achieved for the 50km in Australia for the year (as of May 2019). I fell in love with Bunbury during the race, and the Bunbury Running Club are a great bunch.

How do you prepare for an Ultra Marathon?

Currently, I’m training for the Comrades Marathon UP RUN — an 87km race taking place on the 9th June 2019 in South Africa. I would have run around 2,000kms in preparation since 1st January 2019. My program allows for one rest day a week, and my midweek sessions include distances between 14-25km (before work). Weekends generally include a long slow run ranging from 30-60km, with a backup run of between 16-20km the next day. I also try to fit in some core and motion strength training at home where I can. As a full-time working mum of one, I don’t always get the balance right and I’ve learnt to accept this.

What does it take to be an Ultra Runner?

It helps to be mentally tough as you will have moments of self-doubt, although your confidence will grow with every achievement and by ‘breaking through’ those very negative sections on a run (which we call ‘hitting the wall’). Training and consistent running will build your fitness, and you will become accustomed to running on tired legs — you just need to trust the process. A sense of humour will be one of your biggest assets, and if you can talk and run, those km’s will melt away! It all gets better with practice.

How does your diet affect your performance as an Ultra Runner?

Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source, especially for longer runs. On shorter runs, you can rely on glycogen storage, but running longer will require carbohydrate replacement such as gels/potatoes/sports drinks. The amount of protein and carbohydrates you require each day depends on your body weight and intensity of training. I always finish my training with a recovery protein shake or a protein snack such as a Chia Pod®, which helps repair the muscle fibres and replaces glycogen storage.

I struggle to eat during a run, so I make sure to eat a healthy breakfast and carbo-load the night before. For breakfast, I always include chia, which has so many benefits for endurance running. I love the Chia Pod® as they are a tasty snack that I can have in the car on the way to the race. My favourite is the Chia Pod® Smooth Chocolate, which is small enough to carry in my running belt during the race. If I have time, I’ll make my own chia pudding with coconut milk and honey the night before. My husband is very supportive and every morning he prepares a green Nutribullet for me to drink at work and reminds me to take my daily supplements (Iron, Omegas and Vitamin C).

If someone wanted to get into Ultra Running, where should they start?

Come to an Ultra Running event and don’t be shy to chat to the event organisers and/or runners to ask for more information. Training towards a goal race is also an important motivator. For example, the Comrades Marathon (87km) in South Africa or The Great Ocean Road Race in Apollo Bay, Australia are just two of many races.

A beginner could work up to completing a full marathon using the help of a coach. Or if you are lucky, some of the bigger races commission an official coach who provides free training guides that are made available on the race’s official website. As an example, you can find Lindsey Parry‘s Comrades Marathon programmes here Lindsey is the official Comrades Marathon coach, and also my personal coach. The Great Ocean Road Race also has a 12-week training program available on their website.  

For a full list of events and further information, go to www.aura.asn.au (Australian Ultra Runners Association) or www.runningcalender.com.au. If you are based in WA, check out Ultra Series WA www.ultraserieswa.com.au, Perth Trail Series www.perthtrailseries.com.au, Western Australian Marathon Club www.wamc.org.au and for races in your area. If you decide to join 25,000 other runners who participate in the Comrades Marathon each year, find your local representative www.comrades.com and you will be able to train together which really helps keep you motivated.