The Simplest-Ever Guide to Running Your First 50K Ultramarathon

Runner on grassy cliff top trail with sea in background

The biggest fear I hear from coaching clients asking about ultramarathon training is about whether or not they can handle it.

It’s almost as if just adding the word “ultra” before marathon makes it sound too long, too extreme, too … ultra.

But that isn’t the case.

As Matt pointed out many years ago, if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultramarathon. It’s just a matter of setting your mind to it, letting go of fears, and making smart, simple adjustments to your training.

Simple enough that the transition to a 50K ultramarathon doesn’t have to include major training volume increases to time commitments.

Just straightforward adjustments to the type of miles you run.

Why Ultramarathon Training is Different

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but ultramarathons are longer than marathons. Even though a 50K ultramarathon is only 5 miles longer than a marathon, it may take two or more hours longer to complete.

And with added distance come added challenges …

… Slower running and increased time on your feet.

… More intense mental doubts and low points.

… Fueling to keep you energized late in the race.

So when we talk about making adjustments for ultramarathon training, we’re talking about preparing the body — and mind — for the increased distance, hours, and challenges.

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The Vegan’s Guide to Traveling to a Destination Race

people running paris marathon france

This post was written by Doug Hay.

Race week is all about routine.

What you eat, how you taper, and the amount of sleep you get are all calculated and practiced.

When it works, you stick with it, race after race — it’s one less thing to worry about.

But even the best routines get thrown for a loop when your upcoming race requires travel.

I was reminded of this firsthand during a recent trip to Northern California for the Mendocino Coast 50K. My wife and I traveled around the area for a week before the race, sleeping in new beds, eating different foods, and not exactly staying off our feet.

It was a total blast, no doubt, but not ideal the week leading up to a race.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost when traveling to a destination race …

Today’s post is a 4-step guide to taking a smart approach to race travel, and the extra considerations you should take as a vegan.

And it all starts before you ever leave home:

1. Make a List, Check it Twice

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5 Powerful Breathing Techniques To Soothe Pre-Race Anxiety

Tired after jogging/exercising.

This post is written by Jessica Blanchard of

Despite your best intentions, it’s happening again.

Race day arrives, and you’re freaking out.

You’ve spent months training for this big goal race. You’ve put in the miles. You’ve kept a training log. And you’ve even put more emphasis on eating healthier plant-based meals.

Then — out of nowhere — while waiting at the starting line, this nagging sense of doubt creeps in. “Am I prepared? Am I hydrated? Am I going to crash after the first few miles?”

Your heart starts to pound. You feel the knot of anxiety right between your ribs, and it makes you struggle to breathe without sucking in the air.

You’re panicking.

You know you’re prepared, so why is this happening?

It’s simple: you’re scared, and your body has turned on its fight-or-flight response. The downside of stress is elevated heart rate, suppressed immunity, anxiety, and shallow breath — all things that can sabotage your race.

You need to soothe your stress and turn on your relaxation response while holding onto your edge. And you have a remarkably simple method right under (or in) your nose.

Your breath.

By strategically manipulating your breath, you can use your lungs and heart to send feedback to your brain, convincing it that things are peaceful and calm. It’s easier than you think.

How to Soothe Pre-Race Anxiety with Your Breath

Use the following five techniques to soothe your race day anxiety so that you won’t miss a step:

1. Shut your mouth.

Breathing through your nose quells your body’s fight-or-flight response. The flow of your breath over your sinus cavities produces nitric oxide, related to laughing gas, which relaxes your body.

You also engage the diaphragm muscle because your lungs have to work a little harder to pull air through the nose. This deepens your breath.

More carbon dioxide is released, and more oxygen is brought to your cells.

Breathing through your nose gives you more control of your breath. My teacher used to say, “When breath control is correct, mind control is possible.”

Shut your mouth, take control of your breath, and you’ll quell your anxious mind.

2. Breathe like Darth Vader.

Ujjayi breath — a technique in which you make a soft aspirant sound when you breathe — is practiced in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga because it helps to lengthen the breathing cycle, creating a relaxed mental state.

Try it now: while you inhale and exhale with your mouth closed, gently spread the glottis at the back of your throat, so that when the the air passes over your vocal cords, it makes a soft aspirant sound. (Here’s a video demo.)

Some call it the sound of the sea. Some call it Darth Vader breathing. Some may say this one is better practiced in the car than at the crowded starting line.

Breathing with sound also calms our minds and brings us to a meditative state because it drowns anxiety-producing thoughts that grab our attention.

Focus on the sound of your breath, and imagine your anxiety crashing and disappearing like waves gently washing onto a shore.

3. Exhale (for a long time).

Inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of eight. As you exhale, gently pull your abdominal muscles back to help the process. Repeat this at least ten times. If your feel strained, shorten your exhale and inhale a bit.

Think of the exhalation as a long steady wave that moves through your body. Then when you inhale, focus on filling your chest like a balloon, breathing through your nose.

Exhaling for longer than you inhale creates a vacuum effect and allows a better inhalation.

When we exhale for a longer time than we inhale, our hearts slow down just a bit.

This is a powerful way to calm your heart when it starts to race before you’ve taken your first stride.

4. Sync your breath with your stride.

What if you get nervous in the middle of the race?

No worries. Kidnap your attention away from your anxiety-producing thoughts, and bring it to your breath.

Count your exhale against your stride. Now do the same for your inhale. Exhaling for three strides, inhaling for three strides. If four feels better, use four counts.

This technique brings your focus to your breath and your pace. The result is deeper breath and razor-sharp focus.

A word of caution: don’t try to breathe too deeply by forcing long breaths. See what feels right for your pace.

And if you need to breathe through your mouth for a while, do so; just keep the focus on your stride and breath.

Before you realize it, your anxiety will evaporate.

5. Name that thought.

So you’re counting your breath with your stride, but then these thoughts smack you out of nowhere: you’re not fast enough, you’re losing steam, you didn’t prepare enough, you should have trained harder.

You keep breathing, but they keep coming.

Don’t panic. And don’t suppress these thoughts.

Instead, let the thought float in, then name it “negative gibberish.” Or “untrue,” or, “obsessing about the future,” or “wallowing in the past.”

Then come back to your breath.

Studies have shown that suppressing thoughts only makes them come back stronger. So let the thought in, but don’t believe or buy it.

If you name your thoughts, you won’t suppress them. When you acknowledge repetitive worries by labeling them, they tend to dissipate like clouds in a gentle breeze.

Now you’re ready to conquer your anxiety

Competing is tough, even if you know deep down winning isn’t your goal. But you shouldn’t let a bit of anxiety ruin months of training.

And with the right strategies you can soothe anxiety before it takes control. To make this easy, I’ve put together a free audio guide walking you through all five techniques.

Just imagine how Zen you’ll feel when you run those miles without worrying about things that you can’t change at that moment anyway.

So next time you feel that knot rising in your chest, close your mouth. Breathe like Darth Vader through your nose.

And before you know it, you’ll be in your zone.

So, ready to tackle your next race?

About the Author: Jessica Blanchard, Registered Dietitian, longtime Ayurvedic practitioner, and yoga teacher is on a mission to improve your health with super simple wellness strategies that work. At, she blends Western science with Eastern wisdom to bring you a unique approach to health and happiness. Ready to crush your Race Day Anxiety? Download your free cheat sheet and audio guide here.



12 Monthly Running Challenges for Your Strongest Year of Running Ever

Woman jogging down an outdoor trail

This post is written by Doug Hay, from Rock Creek Runner and NMA Radio.

What if I told you that by this time next year, you could be a completely different runner?

You’d either assume I’m some sort evil internet scammer, or want me as your best friend. Well I’m not a scammer…

But it’s true: this time next year, you could in fact be a completely different runner. Over the course of the next 12 months, you can get stronger and faster, build a massive endurance base, and become a smarter, more well-rounded runner.

That sounds pretty good if you ask me.

As a coach, I’m regularly approached by discouraged runners. They’re frustrated from lack of progress and the constant battle against injuries, even after months (or years!) of hard training. What I’ve discovered is that for the most part, all their frustrations stem from the same problem.

It isn’t lack of discipline or motivation — they wouldn’t bother contacting me if they didn’t have at least some motivation. Instead it’s that we runners get so caught up in a grand big picture goal, that we lose sight of the fundamentals. The smaller, daily challenges that craft a strong foundation for improvement and growth.

But that’s where the real progress takes place. And that’s exactly how I want you to focus your next 12 months.

Now here’s the thing … it ain’t easy. If you want quick-fix guarantees or magic pills, you’ve come to the wrong place. You have to do the work, log the miles, and push new boundaries.

But if you want to truly make 2016 the year you really step things up, then stick with me. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an adventure. And — hopefully — you’re going to challenge yourself in new ways each month.

So, ready to find out what this is all about?

12 Months, 12 Challenges

Running is a complex sport.

On the surface, it looks simple … we’ve run since we were children, and even as adults it requires little more than a pair of shoes (if that). But if you’ve been training for very long, you know there’s a lot more to running well than simply lacing up. Speed requires one skill set, endurance another. A well-balanced runner builds on their foundation through well-balanced training, and regularly challenges herself through variety.

Your route to becoming a well-balanced, stronger runner? 12 months, 12 challenges, 12 unique ways of pushing yourself.

Below I’ve outlined the monthly challenges, which, all put together, can make this your best year of running yet.

Here’s how it works:

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7 Running Workouts to Build Strength and Endurance

Pronto a correre

This post was written by Doug Hay of Rock Creek Runner.

When did running get so complicated?

I ask myself that all the time, usually when frustrated by a tough workout on my training plan or a confusing training concept.

Running is such a simple act — exactly what drew me to it in the first place — until you complicate it with drills, exercises, and complex workouts.

Of course, it probably comes as no surprise that the workouts on your training plan aren’t there just to piss you off. They’re included to help you run stronger, faster, and for longer distances.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less complicated, so today I’m going to break down seven common running workouts, and share a few examples of how you can put them into practice with your training.

The Importance of Variety

Before we start wading through the details, let’s first talk about variety. More specifically, why variety in your training is so important.

There’s a little running phenomenon I like to call “Single Speed Running,” where a runner logs nearly all of his or her miles at the exact same effort. Day after day. That speed is usually around 75 percent of max effort — not fast enough to really make your body work hard and adapt, but too fast to build much endurance or count as a “recovery” run.

Sound familiar?

Chances are it does, since that’s exactly what most runners do.

Not only does Single Speed Running keep you from getting stronger; it also significantly increases the risk of injury: our bodies need variety.

We need uber slow runs just as much as we need Lightning Bolt style sprints. The variety works the cardiovascular system and muscles in different ways, and makes room for both strength-building and recovery.

By understanding the importance of each workout, you’re more likely to begin incorporating a variety into your training, and in return, reaping the benefits.

But first, those workouts need to become less daunting and confusing … the goal of this post.

7 Common Running Workouts, Explained

Below you’ll find a description of seven most common running workouts for endurance runners. With each explanation, I’ve also included one or two examples of how to put the workout to use.

Let’s start with the easiest:

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The Discouraged Runner’s Guide to Boundless Consistency

This post is written by Doug Hay, co-host of NMA Radio and author of Rock Creek Runner.

“Self-discipline doesn’t actually exist.”

That’s what one of my blogging mentors (yes, that’s a thing) Jon Morrow said to me at a recent conference.

It’s a jarring statement considering we live in a world that talks about having or losing self-discipline all the time.

But after he finished the conversation, it all made sense. Jon’s point was this:

No one is born with self-discipline. Successful business people, professional runners, the President, they don’t have some self-discipline gene that the rest of us lack. And as we know, will-power is a finite commodity.

On one hand this is bad news. It means we can no longer rely on the “no self-discipline” excuse when it comes to running. Or doing or not doing anything else in life, for that matter.

But on the other hand, it’s great news.

Because it makes it possible for us to change. It means our failures as runners, our inconsistencies and lack of routine are only temporary. That we too can become the highly energized running routine superstars we’ve always wanted to be.

Consistent runners have fewer injuries, a stronger base, and greater long-term running success.

So if self-discipline isn’t a trait we either have or don’t, and a consistent routine is something we all want, what sets a successful runner apart from her discouraged counterpart?

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The Surprising Secret to Achieving Your Race Goals Sooner

Everyone knows you’ve got to pace yourself in a marathon.

Go out too hard, and you’re toast before the race is half over. And you won’t just lose a few minutes, either: starting too fast can turn race day into an utter disaster.

This is exactly what happened to me during my first marathon. My friends and I took off at Boston-qualifying pace, aiming for a 3:10:59 that we truly had no business attempting.

By mile 18, we crashed. And instead of a 3:10 or even a 4 hour marathon, it took us 4 hours and 53 minutes. Over 100 minutes slower than the time we had naively set out to run when we signed up on a whim six months earlier.

But what if I told you this same concept of pacing should apply not just on race day, but to your entire next few years of running?

Don’t make the mistake I did …

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Rich Roll on the High-Energy, Plantpower Diet (Plus, Win a Copy of His New Book!)


In just a few short years since he gave up cheeseburgers and decided to train for a triathlon, Rich Roll has gotten his name on the short list of people you mention when somebody asks if a plant-based diet can work for athletes.

It started with his surprising finish at Ultraman, essentially a double Ironman over the course of three days in Hawaii.

Then it was being named one of the 25 Fittest Guys in the World by Men’s Fitness, and in 2012, sharing his story in his first book, Finding Ultra. 

Recently, it’s been spreading the message with his uplifting and thought-provoking podcast, and traveling the world giving talks about his story and the power of a plant-based lifestyle.

Today Rich’s new cookbook, The Plantpower Way, hits the shelves, and it’s my immense privilege to bring you a new interview, recipe, and giveaway from one of the most recognizable people in plant-based fitness.

The NMA Academy Seminar with Rich Roll

Just after we ran the 5K at the Marshall Healthfest last month, Rich and I sat down to record an hour-long, in-depth seminar for the No Meat Athlete Academy. Although these seminars are typically private for our members, I’m excited to make Part 1 of that interview available here, in celebration of the release of The Plantpower Way and the one-year anniversary of the NMA Academy:

In this portion, we focus on diet and Rich’s new book. In Part 2 of the interview, which you can get when you subscribe for free to NMA Radio on iTunes, we dive into Rich’s low-intensity training philosophy, his approach to mindfulness, and his now-famous advice that you should quit lifehacking and instead invest in the journey.

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