Dec 21, 2009

From the mailbag - Training for your first ultra

A reader asks,
So how does one train for an ultra?
I get asked this every now and then and figured I'd make a blog post about it.

This writer goes on to say that he has run 6 marathons and is doing to goofy challenge (half marathon and marathon in two days) next month. He's thinking about running the Long Island Greenbelt 50K.

Let me start off by pointing out the fact that I'm probably not the right person to ask, "how do you train", because, frankly, I'm just not that good at it. The reason for my mediocrity (besides my weight) is the fact that my training is way too casual for most people, when I'll show up at a gym, trail, or a track and decide right then and there what I'm doing. The most planning I'll do goes something like this: "hmm, I haven't done a long run in a couple of weeks, better think about getting one tomorrow."

I like to encourage people to run ultras. "just zone out and enjoy running 50 miles through Wyoming mountains, you'll have fun I promise." For some reason, that has fallen on deaf ears.

Anyway, in this person's case, 6 marathons gives all the experience he needs to run, finish, and enjoy a 50K. Frankly, the goofy challenge is going to be more difficult than a road 50K, which is not even 5 miles longer than a marathon. The only rub in this case is that he's choosing the Long Island Greenbelt 50K, which has a few miles of hilly single-track. I would definitely work on getting some trail running in, and hit those hills hard.

Having said that, let me provide some direction for real training advice, from people who are actually smart:

Kevin Sayer's UltRunR site: http://www.ultrunr.com/
I spent many hours reading through all the links. Real gold there, let me tell ya.

Kickrunner's official 50K training program:
http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/dynamics/showentry.php?e=55&catid=32
My friend Meredith is a lot smarter than me and she has come up with this 50K training program. You can also ask questions in the KickRunners Forums.

You should also consider subscribing to the Ultrarunning Listserv and Yahoo group. The signal-to-noise ratio in these email lists can be rather high, but the signals are very valuable when you get them.
Listserv: http://listserv.dartmouth.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A0=ultra
Yahoo Group: http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/ultrarunning/



New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com