Training for (and completing!) an ultra marathon offers many opportunities to learn a great deal about what is essential for a successful long run. As with anything, there will be trials and errors, but these are the “must haves” I discovered along the way.
The perfect running shoe for you and the miles you’ll travel.
The 55-mile Manchester to Monadnock Ultra Marathon was mostly paved road but with some trails (and two mountains). I heard a great deal about Hoka One One before I began my training and hoped it would be a good match for me as I was very attracted to the maximal cushion this brand offers. Thankfully it is a neutral shoe–I do not pronate when I run–and I fell in love with the Bondi model immediately. I’m in my third pair and cannot imagine running in anything else.
Of course this does not mean a maxi shoe is essential for everyone for long runs. What is essential is find a shoe you love enough to log those miles. Be sure to start at your local running store for a proper fit and lots of good advice.
For years my go-to sock has been Darn Tough. They keep my feet dry and warm in the winter and cool and blister-free in the summer. And they LAST. A better sock there is not, in my opinion. However, I am prone to blood clots and this has forced me to investigate compression socks as they are vital for me during (and after) longer runs. I still use my Darn Toughs for runs less than 10 miles, but after that it is all Pro Compression. They come in very cute colors and patterns and have kept their “squeeze” through repeated washing. I wear them when I’m not running too!
Perhaps you’ve only heard about chafing in running horror stories. The struggle is real, especially when the miles start to add up. There are a few products on the market that are designed to help prevent this painful condition, but I’ve found nothing works better than ChafeX. Based in Canton, MA, the owner stopped me at an expo right before a marathon last fall. Knowing I had that ultra in my future, I was willing to try something new. I’m so glad I did. ChafeX is a cream that “trains” your skin to avoid chafing as well as hot spots, blisters, and callouses by creating microlayers on your skin. Pro tip: put it on the night before a long run and then reapply in the morning for the best protection. This is especially important in the summer when it seem the additional sweating seems to really bring out the chafe.
Speaking of chafing, I’ve found the right underwear makes all the difference. I’ve run in EMS for years but needed a change. After trying both Moving Comfort and ASICS, I’ve found I like the fit of the ASICS ASX Bikini best. The satin-like material of the Moving Comfort is very attractive, but just a little too slippery for me and not quite enough coverage in the back. I have worn both running and both do perform well in terms of no chafing.
A Quality Bra
This is where Moving Comfort has me. Their Juno Sports Bras are sized by actual bra size rather than SML, which makes a big difference in fit and therefore chafing. As someone who would buy one of those size L bras, I’m always looking for ways to reduce bounce and the Juno has that covered. I’ve had minor chafing issues on my mid-back in hot weather when I haven’t ChafeXed well (or at all), but even so this remains is my favorite bra and I intend to continue running in it as often as possible.
While I’d opted for a hydration belt for distances up to 13.1, I was never completely happy wearing it because it would ride up. The Nathan Intensity Hydration Vest changed everything. I love this thing and have my BRF to thank (and thank and thank) for pointing me toward it. I wear it whenever I will be running 10 miles or more (I use a Flip Belt for shorter mileage but that is another post altogether) because not only does it hold enough water, but also my iPhone, my fuel (usually a LARABAR or two) and my keys all with no bounce and zero chafing. It literally became a part of me while training for my ultra and it feels odd to not wear it when I run.
Now you know my secret to surviving long runs! Is there a gear must-have I missed? Tell us about it in the comments!