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How ultra-trail runners fit training into a busy life

Tips for juggling family, work, friendships, and a regular running practice, while staying sane

2018 Barkley Marathons

It’s dark, it’s cold, and it’s the time of year when skipping a run seems like a great idea. Sometimes it feels impossible to juggle family, work, friendships, and a regular running practice all while staying sane. You’re not alone. Even the best ultra-trail runners struggle with motivation at this time of year.

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2018 Barkley Marathons
Jamil Coury and Mike Wardian at the 2018 Barkley Marathons. Photo: Canadian Running

When ultrarunner, father, race director and ultra-preneur Jamil Coury asked Twitter for tips to stay on track with balancing it all, he wasn’t asking for a friend. Useful and practical advice came flocking in from many well respected and talented trail runners. Passionate trail and ultrarunners from a range of abilities and backgrounds responded, sharing their strategies for doing it all and not burning out. Here’s what they tweeted:

Balance is relative

Filmmaker, podcast creator, and ultrarunner Billy Yang believes dividing up responsibilities looks different for everyone. “Balance is all relative and everyone’s pie charts look different. Just shift/tweak/adjust as necessary given the seasons,” he tweets.

Commuting is key

Many tweeters responded in support for the run commute in order to increase mileage in training. They also recommended adding in a lunchtime workout or hills on the weekends.

Do it early

Coach and ultrarunner Jason Koop gets up at 4:30 a.m. ready to get it done. Canadian Anne-Marie Madden agrees, and she suggests an early morning workout combined with a run commute to start the day.

RELATED: How Anne-Marie Madden dominated TNF Endurance Challenge Championships


24 hours is a myth

The Queen of 200s race director Candice Burt shares that she has “learned to not see things in as much of a 24 hour way.” For example, she promotes simplifying her days so that she focuses on more work on some, more training on others, and more family time on other days.

Set a timer

Ultrarunning vet Megan Hicks says that she uses a timer app for core workouts and foam rolling during work breaks.

Consistency is key

Running isn’t perfect, so doing something is better than nothing. Often, running one mile with your kid is better than a Netflix marathon. “The vast majority of fitness comes through consistency/workouts don’t need to be ideal/perfect,” tweets Hicks.


Wing it

Many ultra-trail parents shared that their priority is family and “everything else falls where it must.”

Set reasonable goals

Know your priorities and set goals based on the time you have in a typical week. Just remember that a typical week for an ultrarunner is anything but average–as we are all a bit guilty of overachieving.

Forget about balance

If you want something done, give it to an ultrarunner. Ultra-trail runners are busy and often passionate about everything they juggle. Amy Broadmoore replied to Coury’s tweet with, “I have a feeling that you and @BillyYang are as successful as you are because you immerse yourself in your work (at least for stretches) and let your life get out of balance.”


Celebrate gains

Feeling successful with what you can do is key, rather than focusing on what you don’t have enough time for.

RELATED: Barkley Marathons 2019 ends with no finishers

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