Take your time.
Credit: Courtesy Ed Ayres

According to Ayres, an ultramarathon is within the reach of most of us. "Anyone who can run a marathon – who has demonstrated the patience and dedication to put in the mileage – can run an ultra," he says. And while some marathoners might naturally assume that a 50-mile race would be twice as hard because it's twice as long, Ayres insists that it's not harder, just different.

Obviously, those with substantial long-distance running experience have a head start, but Ayres suggests a base level of eight to 12 months of regular running, with a minimum average of 30 to 40 miles a week – ideally working up to 60 to 80 miles per week (mpw) – to build the cardiovascular capacity and endurance needed for an ultra. But he cautions that more isn't always better. Don't jump to the target mpw quickly. "Once you can comfortably maintain 60 mpw, then the race becomes a pleasurable, exciting experience, not a terrible ordeal," says Ayres. "Some people think of marathoners and ultramarathoners as masochists, but I'm not a masochist."