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The biggest ultrarunning mistakes of 2018

Learn from these mistakes and be sure to avoid making them in 2019

The world of ultramarathon running, which involves running various distances and terrain, necessitates some trial and error. It can often feel like a big experiment, and making mistakes is part of the fun. Highlighting big mistakes is the first step to learning from them. As 2018 comes to an end, let’s learn from our ultrarunning mistakes, and be sure not to repeat them in 2019. 

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

Thinking all 50Ks (or all trail races) are the same

No, this isn’t running a road marathon, where Heartbreak Hill is the biggest climb of the day. In a trail or ultrarunning race, you will likely be running up and over multiple mountains, and there won’t be Wellesley College girls cheering for you. In other words, not all 50Ks are created equal. Some may take four hours, and others could take 12. So be prepared.

Planning your 2019 race year in the middle of your New Year’s Eve party

Planning your year on the trails involves some time and focus. Don’t drink and ultrasignup.

Following the training program of a friend, random Strava celebrity, or online generator


Just as trail races aren’t created equal, neither are runners. Each athlete has unique life stressors, genetic ability, families, jobs, and dietary restrictions. There is no one-size-fits-all in training for an ultra. You just may need your own personal coach.

Leg day is everyday

When training for an ultra, technically, leg day is everyday. If you incorporate leg strength work in your training, don’t do it the day before your hardest run or race. Calculate strength days accordingly. 

RELATED: Must do strength exercises for trail runners

Neglecting to review the course profile or terrain

This can be either a blessing or a burden. Sometimes it’s fun to be pleasantly surprised about a new course and fun, flowing trails. Other times, it can be a recipe for getting lost. For tough races, ignoring a course profile can be like walking into a raging party in your pyjamas. 


Ultrarunners are notoriously good at overtraining. Often, they need to play the game of energy conservation in their training in order to get to the start line healthy. If you experience prolonged periods of physical and psychological fatigue, it may be too late. Don’t make this mistake when training for an ultra. It may take you out of the sport for months or longer. 

Doing all the things

Doing all the things is the pathway to overtraining. You know those people that do all the running, then all the cross training, and then all the stressful life stuff? Don’t be that person. When training for an ultra, you will need to sacrifice some things in your life. 

Under training

Not as detrimental as overtraining, but it feels awful at mile 40 in a race. 

Forgetting to pay it forward

What makes the ultrarunning community go around? Volunteering at events with a side of trail work. If you haven’t volunteered at a race or spent your Saturday contributing to the trail community, we highly recommend making it a goal for 2019. 

Power hiking all the time

Bless the magic of power hiking in ultras. But be sure to execute the strategy when necessary (on steep inclines). Unless you’re ill or injured, applying the technique in runnable parts of the race is a bad idea. It may be a long day, but it will be really long if you keep walking when you could be running.

RELATED: 15 ways to know you’re a trail runner

Forgetting your favourite anti-chafe product in a long race or training day

Don’t forget this tip in 2019. Some ultrarunners find it helpful to sing “Lube Yourself” by Eminem (to the tune of “Lose Yourself”) as a reminder. 

Allowing your Ultrasignup ranking to define your existence 

Once upon a time, Ultrasignup predicted a runner would finish a race dead last. The runner finished on the podium and it was the best day ever. Running doesn’t define you, and neither should your ranking on Ultrasignup. It’s an algorithm, not fact. This can also apply to your Strava stats.

Eating too much or too little

If you have yet to master your race day nutrition, keep working on it for 2019. Finding the right balance remains a lifelong mission for many ultrarunners. 

Thinking fancy gear will make you a fancier runner

No gear in the history of (insert brand name) will make up for lack of training, dedication, and passion for this sport. Even if you think you look good on the trail, no one will notice in the midst of their own suffering.

Photo: Unsplash

Climbing all the mountains in training

So you’ve signed up for a trail race that has lots of climbing and elevation gain. Great! Just remember that you will also be running, and to incorporate the running thing into your training. Your legs and feet will thank you.

“Accidentally” forgetting your rest day

We know you like playing outside, and it’s not easy to say no when Betty and Bill ask you to summit a peak you’ve always dreamed of. But if you’re in the middle of a peak training for a goal race, and it’s a rest day–just say no. Don’t forget the most important day of the week.

“Accidentally” dropping your gel wrapper on the trail

The trail elves saw you, and hope this won’t happen in 2019. 

Taking your sweet time at aid stations

Aid stations can be the highlight of a race. Just remember the clock doesn’t stop when you’re at the buffet in the forest. 

Forgetting to thank your crew

When your friends support you in an important race, treat them like you owe them the world–because you do. 

RELATED: It takes a village: how to crew an ultra