Junko Kazukawa is a marathoner, ultramarathoner, and two-time breast cancer survivor as well as the first athlete to compete in the Leadville series and the Ultrarunning Grand Slam in a single year.
On September 23rd, she will be competing at the XTERRA Golden Gate Canyon 8K/22K in Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Golden, Colorado. Below she shares her tips on how to up your distance, stay healthy, and prepare for the mental challenge of running the longer XTERRA distances.
1. Start Slowly
Most experts advise that if you want to increase your weekly mileage, you only increase by about ten percent per week. That means if you are running 25 miles a week now, then next week you can add 2.5 more miles to that number. This is just an estimate though, and adding miles depends on a variety of factors including how fit you are, injury, and training intensity.
"Going from a 10K to a marathon or from a marathon to an ultra race is a big jump," said Kazukawa. "Go from a marathon to a 50K, then a 50 miler. Then train for a 100K before you attempt a 100-miler."
2. Get a Coach
"Many people try an ultra run and then decide they want to get better, so they find a coach," said Kazukawa. "But if you have never done it then hiring a coach first is smart."
Coaches also ensure that you are not only training harder, but that you are training smarter. In order to handle the physical and mental challenges of a run longer than an hour, your body needs to be efficient in taking in nutrition and water and strong enough to handle the training. A coach is also extremely helpful in making sure you have enough rest to avoid injury.
3. Know that it's 80% Mental
"A physical limitation can and should stop you," said Kazukawa. "But if it's not physical pain, then you need the mental strength to push past the pain for running for a long time. Your body will be screaming at you to stop, and you need to learn how to keep going."
Kazukawa suggests putting two hard workout days back to back if you are fit enough. "It's really hard to gear up for a long run when you don't want to do it or you are tired. But that is how you practice doing it in a race."
Kazukawa also plays mental games with herself. "When I'm finished with my run and I'm back at my car, I see if I can run another mile."
4. Get Excited
Kazukawa knew that she couldn't just think about doing a marathon. She had to actually sign up for it, write it on the calendar, tell people about it, and get excited.
"Once you cross that finish line you are going to feel such a sense of accomplishment," she said. "Get excited about that. Get excited about what is possible for you."
Learn more about the XTERRA Golden Gate Canyon 8K/22K.