An ultra marathon is classified as any footrace longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Unlike shorter challenges or even Marathon distances, ultra runs requires unique preparation. Setting aside the psychology or physiology of the ultra runner there is a swath of tech that can make a difference when you run for more than five or six hours.

Over the past couple of years I’ve transitions from half marathon to ultra marathons of up to 34 miles. I’ve tried out a range of gadgets and nutrition over that period. Some really haven’t made the difference I was hoping for while others have won their way into my staple running kit.

Ultra Run Kit

This year I’ve whittled the list down as I prepared for the excellent Dartmoor Discovery ultra marathon. Here’s my top six nutrition and running technology favourites.

Forerunner 735 XT

Having tried the Fenix 3 from Garmin GRMN +0.11% and found it too bulky this Forerunner 735 XT has proved the perfect balance between features, battery life and weight.

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

At 40 grams it’s almost half the weight of the Fenix 3 but with many of the same functions. Add to this its ability to measure heart rate on the wrist, its super-long battery life and smart notifications from my iPhone and it really does tick a lot of boxes.

The battery life has been a key factor in tempting me away from my Apple Watch. It lasts almost 2 weeks in watch mode and up to 24 hours in its battery efficient UltraTrac mode. This means I use it as my main smart watch as well as my training partner. This is more than just a nice convenience as more than once I’ve wanted to hit the road for a quick run and been glad to have the watch already on my wrist.

This longevity also means that on competitive ultras I don’t need to worry about the watch giving up the ghost. It will happily outlast any distance I can run in one session (for me that’s 6 hours).

Being able to download different running read-outs, watch faces and apps is also a nice touch. My favourite at the moment is an app that plots your run graphically from the GPS data. It’s a simple addition but is a great failsafe for getting home — I’ve got a little lost more than once on a long run in the hills.

Simply, it’s the best all in one watch I’ve tried to date.

Tailwind

A big part of ultra running is the eating and drinking. It might sound strange but getting this right is (almost) as hard as the running itself. I aim to drink around half a litre of fluid each hour I run and eat something substantial every 45 minutes.

I’ve tried all sorts from breakfast cereals, chocolate bars, flapjacks, bananas and even jelly babies. The further I’ve run the more proper food I want to eat. This has steered me away from gels and towards mixed bars.

Tailwind Nutrition

Therefore, Tailwind was a different way for me to fuel. It’s an endurance drink powder that you add to water. It aims to provide energy, electrolytes and hydration all in one and without making your stomach seize up.

I’ve been experimenting with it in training and gave it a proper test on the last 10 miles of my 32 mile moorland ultra. It comes in a variety of fruit flavours and feels a little bit like drinking Sherbert. It takes a little getting used too and so far I still find I want to eat something alongside it. This may just be the need for a tasty reward as much as my fuelling needs.

Still, in my arsenal of ultra run kit Tailwind is now a solid component. Particularly when you’ve been running for four of five hours and don’t want to eat anything, having energy in liquid form is a godsend. Read more...

Published by General Olomu