The Ultimate Guide to Ultra Running

The Ultimate Guide to Ultra Running

Interview with SAYSKY athlete and ultra runner Markus Volkmar

If you're intrigued by the extremity and enduring nature of ultra running, then we'd encourage you to read this guide carefully. We've had a talk with SAYSKY athlete and passionate ultra runner Markus from the Sons of Running.

Recently, he took on the TorTour de Ruhr, which was no less than 230km of non-stop running. That's a pretty impressive feat, so this guy definitely knows how to keep the legs and feet rolling on the longest distances. Listen to his words and maybe you'll be inspired to take on your own ultra running adventures in the future.

You'll find the full interview and guide to ultra running below the picture.

SAYSKY Athlete Markus Sons of Running

Markus is joined by two friends with just 15k to go and 215k behind him


You’ve just finished the TorTour de Ruhr – can you tell us some more about the race and how it went?

I know that I can run, but I didn't know if I could run 230km in one setting and this was the exciting thing for me. When Jens Vieler (author: The Desert Runner) invited me to the ultra running adventure “TorTour de Ruhr” about 6 months ago, I felt very honoured and had my deepest respect of the experience ahead of me.

In the end, my crew and I rocked the TorTour de Ruhr together in 28 hours and 38 minutes as 5th overall on the 230km non-stop course. You can find my whole running report here.


Who are the Sons of Running and can you tell me some more about it?

The Sons of Running are Domi and Markus from Munich in Germany. Two friends, two running maniacs, with two happy mothers and the smallest running community in the world - because we are only two!

We prefer to run 100km instead of 100m, which is called ultra running and combine/enrich our running adventures with new landscapes/locations we've never been to before, a decent local meal and mostly some beers.


Ultrarunning is your thing? How did you get into this?

Yes it is - I love to be outside and discover new locations . Also, for running I don't need any equipment, I can start anywhere and it's available all year round. I ran my first marathon when I was 30 years old and ever since then I've just loved running, especially long distances above the 100k mark.

Two years ago, Domi and I tried to run from the “Bavaria Statue” in Munich (located right at the Oktoberfest venue on Theresienwiese) to the Zugspitze – the trail is 125km long with 2800 altitude meters.

Unfortunately, we did not make it all the way to the top in the first year. Ultimately, this just bumped up our motivation and kickstarted our passion for the long distances. Since our first attempt, we've successfully finished the Taubertal 100, Karwendelmarsch, Race across Mallorca and finally we've also completed our Zugspitze project from last year.

You can find the Zugspitze running report and coverage right here. 


Are you driven by the competition or is more about the exploration and pushing limits?

On the one hand it's a real test what I can do with my body and mind and on the other hand it's fantastic what you can explore while running - whether it be nature or foreign cities – running is always the best way. But, of course it's also great to run in the top 10 at a big race.


When you’re not running, what do you do for a living?

I have a full-time job as a Sales Director at one of the most exciting brands in the world - Red Bull.

Besides my work, I have a fantastic wife and friends who fortunately all share my love for nature and sports, but also for good food / drinks. That's actually a good way to reconcile everything.


How many hours a week do you train on average? Does this change a lot leading up to a big race?

Normally I run between 80 - 100km a week, including two months of regeneration in winter, which usually amounts to 3500km a year. This doesn't really change when there's a big race coming up. I run when I feel like it and never according to a training plan.


What are your running goals for the future?

I want to run the Spartathlon in Greece at some point and also across Germany. This year I will start with Domi at the Gore Tex Transalpine-Run in September and try to run a new PB on 100km at Taubertal100 in October.



Is ultrarunning something you’d recommend to all runners? Maybe not full on, but just once in their lives?

Being outside and running around is not only healthy - it also makes you happy and it's for free. I'm neither a doctor, psychologist or sports economist - I can only say that (ultra) running has made me more balanced, happier and ultimately fitter.

Personally, I'd recommend running to everyone - although, I don't know if it has to be more than 42km!


A lot of people might be scared about getting into ultra running because of the extreme distances, but if you wanted to, how would you start up?

The most important thing at the beginning is that you share this new adventure with someone else.

When Domi and I started doing long runs over 42km, we chose exiting routes and tried to combine running with some nice post-running activities. So we ran around all the big lakes in Bavaria during spring (they all have a distance of 45 - 55km). Mostly, at a halfway point we'd make a stop in a beer garden and thus divided the route into two.


How do you prepare for a big race or even the first race?

I look at the route profile, then I set my personal milestones. At the TorTour de Ruhr I had the following approach and countdown technique:
  • 230km - 200km: from that point on, I counted down from 200
  • 200km - 180km: my first 50km in the pocket
  • 180km - 160km: now there are only 100 miles left
  • 160km - 146km: two marathons in the pocket
  • 146km - 115km: halfway there
  • 115km -100km: only 100km to go
  • 100km - 84km: only two marathons left
  • 84km - 50km: only 50km to go
  • 50km - 42km: only one marathon left
  • 42km - 30km: just a long run like every other Saturday
  • 30km - 15km: that's the distance of the course around my house
  • 15km - 10km: you run this distance almost daily
  • 10km - 5km: just to work and back
  • 5km - 1km: the fast way to the surfing wave in Munich in the English garden
  • 1km - 0km: the morning jog to the bakery


What’s the most important equipment for ultrarunning?

The most important thing is that you only use equipment you know. On 100km you go crazy, when suddenly the new shirt itches, the marathon pant scrubs or you suddenly sweat in your socks. My most important equipment is baby powder, I put it on my feet and always get through without blisters.


How do you best avoid injuries? And what to do, if you get unlucky?

So far I'm super happy because I've never had an injury before, during or after a race.


Any good advices or pro tips for people interested in ultra running?

You need four characteristics:

  1. A passion for suffering
  2. The right focus
  3. Responsibility for you and your environment
  4. Fun and enjoyment, because in the end you don't run with your legs, you run with your head

That's it for now. We hope that our little talk with Markus inspired you to go for the long haul. We haven't had any complaints from Markus about the SAYSKY gear, so we fully trust that it lives up to his strict ultra running standards. We'd definitely recommend our long distance favourites, the SAYSKY 2 in 1 shorts, for your next adventure. Check out the selection here.

If you want to keep up with Markus and his running buddy, Domi, then just head over to the Sons of Running SAYSKY athlete page or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

SAYSKY Athlete Markus Sons of RunningThe face of an exhausted, yet very happy 5th place finisher at the 230k TorTour de Ruhr