Often you hear of those who have amazingly pulled off a marathon with very little training and in some instances in great times too. I have been one of those who have managed to get away with as little training as possible but I can assure you I have not enjoyed the experience as much as those I have successfully trained for.
Trail Ultra Marathons are a whole different story; firstly, we are talking about mileage in excess of the 26.2miles of a marathon. The Wall… all of a sudden is a little further on but I kid you not when I say it is a whole lot bigger if you do not get the nutrition and training right!
There is also the terrain to consider, often including anything up to 5000m vertical ascent and decent, it can be mountainous, coastal, hilly, forestry, the track not well defined or newly ploughed fields. The training is so important!
It can be broken down into 5 stages, so taking you from beginner to a marathon or ultra-runner is without doubt achievable. Consider a minimum of 16 training weeks, to allow the body time to train, improve and recover in preparation for the race.
Initially you need to look to increase your mileage base, consider gradually increasing your mileage until you are averaging 40-60 miles a week, with at least one long run of more than 20 miles each week. You also need to be practising running on back-to-back days so that your legs are used to running under fatigue conditions. Remember to keep these mileage runs slow important in keeping you injury free.
Conditioning training is vital in ensuring balance within the muscles is maintained, working core focused compound exercises are a great way of improving running strength and muscle balance. During this phase you will be increasing the number of muscle fibers in your legs, allowing your muscles to produce more energy and break down lactic acid build up more effectively. By increasing your leg’s muscular profile you will be better able to cope with the terrain you are running on and avoid injuries.
Speedwork and Temp runs are important in any running training programme, when training for an ultra-distance event the speed run could be in the form of a 10K run completed at 85-90% of maximum effort. The beauty of adding speed training to your schedule is the precision and strength it adds to your running style. A tempo run is basically to start with a 1-3 miles warm-up pace followed by 7-10 miles at 70-80% of maximum effort and then finish with a 1-3miles cool down pace. Consider 1 session of speed or tempo a week.
The Taper – I have found this is personal to the individual, for me I like to taper over 3 weeks. I rarely run during the week before a race instead I may Aqua-jog but generally I spend this week walking my dogs – I think they like Taper week, they get to recover too. The importance is that you enter the race with no niggles, no fatigue in the legs. Consider Yoga, Aqua Jog and lots of flexibility work.
Race Day! Throughout the 16 plus training weeks, you will have found the nutrition strategy that works for you, tried and tested your kit, developed your running style and have well and truly tested your mental strategy for when the going gets tough. You will have run at night, in the wind, in the rain, in the heat and only your own preparation will be between you and the finish line.
Be prepared, Be focused, Respect the distance….
For more training related topics check out the Training category on my blog