A Dubai Ultra-Marathoner Shares Her Tips for Long-Distance Running

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Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Jones

Running has elevated my life, my physical endurance, my mental fortitude, and my emotional wellbeing. Six years ago, I ran my first marathon in San Fransisco, California. Shortly after that, I participated in seven ultra-marathon races – that’s more than 50k – across the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Needless to say, taking on such a challenge involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and tapping into your true potential. Here are six tips that have helped me and will hopefully help you develop a strong mindset and become a successful marathon runner.


Run with a Purpose

First, it’s important to identify why you want to run in the first place. When you run with a purpose, you naturally begin your journey with a stronger mindset than when you prepare with no rhyme or reason behind it. Having a clear “why” is what’s going to get you out of bed in the morning so you don’t miss your early morning run. It’s what enables you to say “no” to social events so you can participate in the run over the weekend. Lastly, it’s what keeps you going when your internal dialogue is begging you to stop at the 30k mark.


Believe in Yourself

When you’re training, you must experience each day and training as it comes, which means focusing on the progress you make, rather than solely focusing on the end result. In preparation for a big goal, set yourself smaller goals to work towards and celebrate each time you achieve one. Recognizing your small wins during the process serves as building blocks for your self-esteem and confidence. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Jones

Embody the Qualities You Need to Succeed

By listing the qualities and traits of successful marathon and ultra-marathon runners, you will be able to identify the qualities you’ll need to embody and integrate before embarking on your journey. Some of these qualities include:
– Focus
– Commitment
– Resilience
– Learning from mistakes
– Pushing boundaries 

In terms of the marathon lifestyle, endurance runners often:
– Spend a lot of time outdoors.
– Get up early and go to bed early.
– Train in place of socializing.
– View food as fuel.


Set Up Success Rituals

When training for a marathon, it’s important to create an environment that helps you stay motivated and positive about your goal. Success rituals are things that you do on a daily basis that lead you to your goal and result in a positive mindset. Some examples include:
– Keeping a food diary and evening reflection journal.
– Tracking your training.
– Reading or listening to an inspirational podcast.
– Beginning the morning with a green smoothie.
– Checking in with your weekly accountability partner.

The majority of the time, I only think about the steps I’m taking; it’s my method of meditation. I never run with music, but rather focus on how I feel during the run and allow my mind to take a break from thoughts and the world.

Some days, I feel inspired and come up with some of my most creative ideas, or I use the time as an opportunity to figure out solutions to problems or challenges I’m facing. 

During a tough training session, I think about my “why” and repeat it over and over again in my head so I can continue running. Having a purpose behind your run helps eliminate any negative self-talk, like “This is too hard,” “I can’t do this,” or “I would rather be doing something else.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Jones

Pick the Right Gear

If you plan on running on a trail, I suggest investing in a pair of sneakers designed specifically for the terrain you will be running on. If you’re going to be running longer distances, I recommend getting yourself a lightweight hydration vest or pack (base the size of your bladder on how long you plan on running for).

In the Dubai heat, I suggest one liter minimum per one hour running. It’s also a good idea to pack two additional hydration bottles; I freeze them the night before so I have a cool and refreshing drink in the morning. I also suggest bringing some coconut water for after your run. In addition to that, some foods I usually bring to my run include oat bars, dates, and bananas.

For hot, sunny climates like the UAE, a pair of sports-specific sunglasses are great as they do not slip off your face when you are hot and sweaty. A visor and high factor sunscreen are also great for face protection. To keep track of your distance and time, bring a sports watch. Additionally, if you’re running in the mountains, pack a small medical kit, map, and a charged mobile phone. I also recommend running with a friend or at least letting someone know how long you plan on being gone, as well as where you’re running to.

Here is some of my favorite running gear:


Invest in Yourself

This includes:
– Eating non-processed, whole foods.
– Taking care of your gut health (endurance runners are more prone to illness due to the stress they put on their body).
– Supplementing for recovery.
– Strength training.
– Resting and recovering.
– Hydrating with plenty of electrolytes and water.
– Working with a coach.

Heidi Jones is an integrative health coach and an ultra-marathon runner. You can learn more about her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram.