Help! I’m Running An Ultra Marathon

Although I may have signed up to run this race back in December, it’s been more of an idea; an intangible thing that I set out to do.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that on June 1 I actually will be running 50k.

In less than two months (I’m not even going to look at the number of days) I’m going to *ahem* willingly run for > 5 hours.

What was I thinking?! <– I’m mostly joking here. Mostly.

With this race becoming reality, I’ve realized I need to consider the logistics of the race.

When I ran Disney, I didn’t bother with a fuel belt because there were water stations every mile. I never worried about getting thirsty or dehydrated as the longest I’d go without a stop was 15 or so minutes.

Looking at the course map for the Wild Rose Brewery 50k (can I just say how freaking awesome it is that a brewery is the sponsor for the 50k?! LOVE IT!! I’ll take a Velvet Fog at the finish line please 🙂 ) there are points where I’ll go upwards of 4k (that’s 2.5 miles) without a water stop, and there are only 2 gel stations on course as well.

This means I should probably have some sort of a water and fueling plan.

Or something.

In the past I’ve carried my 3-bottle fuel belt, but even that wasn’t enough to get me through my marathon, so I’ve been considering a camel back.

Someone suggested one to me a few months ago and I scoffed because I’m not sure if I’d enjoy running with something possibly sloshing on my back. But, it’s likely better to have something sloshing around than to get dehydrated and not finish. So I’m considering one, but I have no idea what one to get. Which is really the entire point of this post.

As a first time ultra marathoner, what do I need to know?

I’ve heard of people using real food for fuel when running ultras but I’m not sure if my stomach would be able to stomach it. In the past I’ve been fine with gels, but how many do I need? How much water do I need?

Aside from water and fuel, what do I need to consider?

As Dean Karnazes will be speaking at the expo (along with Bart Yasso!) I’m sure I could ask questions then, but I’m asking them now because I want to be prepared.

I’m running the Calgary Police Half Marathon on April 27 as a training run and I’d like to try out a camel back at that point to see if I like it or hate it. I also hope it doesn’t snow.

What the heck do I wear?!

The Calagary Marathon has also thrown in a bit of a wrench buy offering three amazing prizes for the three best dressed runners. Since the race is celebrating the 50th anniversay of the marathon, people have been asked to dress in costume.

Now, I’m uncertain if I will dress up for a 50k (that’s a long freaking time to run in costume) but I also think it could be fun, and anything to add a smile on my face when running would be a good thing. So if anyone has any (non-chafing) suggestions for a costume, I’m all ears!

Tell me: Please give me any and all advice you have! I’m a total n00b at the ultra marathon!


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37 thoughts on “Help! I’m Running An Ultra Marathon

  1. I’ve typically run with a belt that I can carry one large bottle in. I will carry tabs of Nuun and refill with water from the aid stations as needed. If you plan to carry *all* of your water with you it will be really heavy and quite uncomfortable. I’d suggest taking the belt you are familiar with and plan to fill up from the aid stations as needed.

    If you really want to try a Camelbak I’ve run with one like this and it is pretty comfortable:
    It is women’s specific, does not slosh and is fairly low profile. That being said, on a warm day this may not hold enough for a full marathon and refilling this is a pain in the butt.

    Michelle did a good job detailing out her fueling plans for the Frozen Ass 50 here…that may help!

    • I feel like 2L would probably be enough if I also grap cups at the water stations. I’m not a huge ran of stopping at the stations, which is why I’m looking into a pack as I feel like refilling might be frustrating for me.
      I’m such a PITA when it comes to fuel and hydration when running 😛

  2. I have the women’s specific camel bak and like it! I wore it for my marathon last year and had no issues with it. If you are going to buy one and plan on wearing it, I would do it soon so you get used to it. I found that my shoulders were sore the first time I wore it, but it’s never bugged me other than that.

    • I’m hoping to pick one up in the next week, so that’ll give me 6 weeks run with it before the race as I know it’ll take some getting used to.

  3. I’m no help on the ultra marathon front but when I did my first marathon I brought mink snickers bars with me and they helped big time 🙂 I was sick of gels and chews from training so they were a welcome change. I know a lot of people who swear by running with a camelbak – I’ve never ran with one before but do use one biking.

    • LOVE the snickers idea! I might have to bring a treat along with me on my run, too.

      AGES ago I had a Camelback that I used for biking, but it’s long gone – and I know I’d use this one while biking as well.

  4. I’ve been doing my half’s with a 2 bottle belt and filling at the water stations. there is usually enough time to walk through it to fill the bottle back up and drink some too. However you most likely won’t be dealing with the humidity that disney had (i saw warning signs about it the day we finished the princess) so you may not need as much water as we had there. As for gels.. i stuffed them in my water belt pockets and used your spibelt and i didn’t even use what disney supplied or all the ones i brought. Can you have someone at the half way mark with a water bottle and a bag of gels to resupply you?

    • I might be able to have someone to meet me? I don’t want to count on it incase they sleep in or forget. It’s kind of hard to convince a non-runner friend to stand for an hour or so to see you for 30 seconds….I’m thinking I’ll need 6-10 gels and that won’t fit in my belt and pants, which is why a pack would be nice, because I’m sure I can cram enough gels in there 🙂
      Logistics are a pain 😉

      • Yes very true! In that case a camel pack won’t be a bad idea, i don’t think they bounce around too much either?
        The logistics on planning the out of town running was a pain too lol

  5. if you like running with your bottles, run with them – they will refill them at the aid stations. You should be able to go 2.5 miles or further between refills. Also, a hydration backpack is actually quite comfortable and, added bonus, if it is filled with ice, it helps keep you cool on a hot run. Check out my (new) blog at

  6. Ange,
    I don’t blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, nor do I ‘instagram’. I am training for the Iron Legs 50miler in August, though, and have a good number of ultra running friends.
    If ultras are something you are interested in then don’t waste your money on a camelbak. If you want to chat more, fire me an email.

  7. A 50k is really like a slightly long marathon. You will be fine approaching training and the race as you would a marathon. If you use gels in a marathon, just use one or two more. For hydration, you can use a belt, a camelback type pack or even a handheld bottle. The belt system or handheld you would have to refill, so if you would feel uncomfortable stopping and waiting for the refill, the camelback may be the way to go. In any event, don’t be nervous; it’s just a marathon plus five. But it’s often a gateway to bigger things. Be concerned about the addictive qualities of the ultra. You may find yourself at the starting line of a 100 miler someday soon.

  8. I don’t have any experience with ultra marathons to give you. But I think a camel back would be a good idea but start training it with now so you are used to it. As for real food vs gus. Nutrition on runs is super individual. If GU’s work for you and that’s what you usually train with, continue using that.

    • Yes, I definitely plan on picking one up in the next week so I can get used to running with it.
      I think I prefer the gels just for the whole lack of chewing part 🙂

  9. Ok, so I have zero advice for an ultra marathon, because, well, I’m not much of a runner. My husband and I did a Spartan Super last summer (among other obstacle races) and he wore a camelback for that because we were planning for 3-5 hours. It didn’t seem to bother him, but it was also probably an equal mix of running and what I would describe as speed hiking (which is less jostling obvi).

    PS I”m so glad you found my blog so I could find yours. 🙂

  10. Ok, so I have zero advice for an ultra marathon, because, well, I’m not much of a runner. My husband and I did a Spartan Super last summer (among other obstacle races) and he wore a camelback for that because we were planning for 3-5 hours. It didn’t seem to bother him, but it was also probably an equal mix of running and what I would describe as speed hiking (which is less jostling obvi).

    PS I”m so glad you found my blog so I could find yours. 🙂

  11. I used to have a camelback and I HATED the bite valve. I bought an Ultraspire Spryrace vest last year and I am a total convert. the valve is more like a pull valve on a bottle so it is just like drinking from a straw once you pull it open. Plus – all the pockets are amazing for holding everything you need. I can hardy wait for summer when I can wear it again. They sell the Ultraspires at Gords or Tech Shop.

  12. I run with a “hydration vest”. Camelback and Nathan Gear seem to be the best brands out there. They fit on your back snug so no sloshing, and lots of pockets for GU, Nuun, etc. You can usually get them for about $100 or maybe a little more. Pricey I know, but TOTALLY Worth it! Good luck and I hope to see lots of pics and posts on your first Ultra!! 😀

    • I TOTALLY think $100 or so would totally be worth it for a vest!
      There will definitely be lots of words on the race, but I’m not certain about pictures – I’m awful in that I’m too busy running to take pictures 🙂

  13. What Fred said. 50k is like a marathon with lousy course markings. If you can run a marathon, I’m fully convinced you can do a 50k. I ran my first 50m this weekend, and I know the feeling, but if you relax and take it easy, you’ll be fine – I think, haha…

    • Haha – great advice on the marathon with bad course markings 🙂
      You’re right, I need to relax and refrain from doing “running math” throughout the race!

      • I also have the female camelbak and it’s pretty good, but I’ve heard amazing things about the Nathan vests, and if I was replacing mine I’d try them on for sure.

        If you’re looking for friends to add mileage to the police, some of us are doing an 11 km warmup to make it a 20 miler. DM me if you’re interested. 🙂

  14. Pingback: Link Love: 4/12 | Cowgirl Runs

  15. Good luck on your race! My personal favorite is hand-held bottles for super long, technical trails. I’m mostly running in California and Arizona, so a pack is just a sauna on my back. I posted about the pros/cons here: …. So far I’ve finished five 100-mile races and several more shorter distance ultras – going for my 6th 100miler next month with my trusty bottles 🙂 You got this!

    I wrote a book about trail & ultrarunning that may inspire you. I’m happy to mail you a free copy, just email me your mailing address at Here’s the book description on Amazon:

    Go get ’em!!

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