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Running your first (or 99th) ultra: an internal monologue

The ups and downs of running an ultramarathon, as explained by Ultrarunning Memes

Alissa St Laurent

They say running an ultramarathon is like a lifetime in a day. The highs are really high, and the lows can be really low. Luckily, neither last long, and everything is temporary. Whether it’s your first or 99th ultra, thoughts and emotions will come and go– just like the kilometres. Here are the internal ups and downs of running an ultra, as illustrated by Ultrarunning Memes:

RELATED: 10 signs you’re ready to run an ultra

“Where’s the start line?” 

If you’re transitioning from road races to the trail, the start of an ultra trail race may feel confusing. If you’re unsure, just look for where the lineup is for the portable toilets. Usually the start line is right beside it. 

“I’m definitely not overtrained.”

There is a fine line between being undertrained and overtrained for a race. Feeling fresh is great, until it’s not…

“This is not like my last road marathon.”


A road marathon sounds really good right now.

“I feel amazing! This is so fun! I’m so happy I dressed in my new Salomon gear.”

“My watch died.”

After 12 hours in the forest, technology may fail you. 

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“I see snacks! And people! And a chair!”

Otherwise known as an aid station. But beware of the chair. 

“What was that motivational mantra again?”

Positive mantras can help get you to the finish line. If you remember them…

“This is not fun. I do not feel amazing.”

“I feel amazing!”

This feeling of euphoria may not last.

“I should walk this hill.”

Adam Campbell says that is a good strategy.

“This hill is also for walking. I mean mountain. This mountain is for walking. I mean crawling.” 

Crawling is still moving forward. Just keep moving forward.

“I wonder if that volunteer wants to be my pacer.”

This is the moment when you regret planning your race without a crew or a pacer.

“I can’t feel my legs.”

It’s all in your head anyway. Legs are overrated.

“A DNF is totally justified.”

If you’re in pain and discomfort, just keep going. You won’t regret finishing. 

“I haven’t seen a single person for hours. Have I seen a flag?”

You don’t need to see people. But you do need to see a flag or a marker.

“Where’s my medal?” 

Unlike your favourite road race, ultra trail races don’t usually have medals. If there is a formal finish line, there may not be any prize at all. If you’re lucky, you get to high five the race director and then lie down on the ground in the fetal position. 

RELATED: The DIY ultra: How to plan your own adventure run

“I’m never going on Ultrasignup again.”

It’s the best and worst website. Likely by tomorrow, you’ll start searching for your next race. 

“Do I still have toes? I can’t walk.”

Your feet are blistered, bleeding, swollen, and sore. But you find yourself walking to get beer to celebrate. 

“I think I could win Western States. I should register for a qualifier.”

RELATED: Why beer may be good for recovery