- 10k Run Training Program for Beginning Runners
- 5k Run Training Program For Intermediate Runners
It goes without saying that these races are not for the faint-of-heart. Ideally runners should have done shorter ultramarathons in the past, including 50 milers or 100k races before attempting this 100 mile ultramarathon training program. While previous ultramarathon experience is not a requirement for some races, the key to a successful 100 mile ultramarathon is race strategy. Those with no race experience at shorter ultras are at a very real disadvantage when it comes to spending 24 hours, or more, in a trail ultra. This training program is for those attempting a 100 mile ultramarathon for the first time and starts out with long runs in the 16 to 18 mile range. Find a 100 mile race about 24 weeks out. If your current long run is more than 18 miles, simply start the training program at the point that matches your current long run and find a race at the appropriate time.
There is no such thing as an “easy” 100 mile ultramarathon, but the terrain varies dramatically from one race to the next, and some are less brutal than others. The Leadville 100 is a race across the sky, run over high mountain passes at altitudes exceeding 13,000 feet, while Lean Horse is run on relatively flat rail beds in the hills of South Dakota. The number one rule of training for a 100 mile ultramarathon is to train in similar conditions, on similar terrain, as the race will be run. If that is not possible, it is going to be very difficult to train appropriately for the race. Some gifted runners will cardiovascular mojo to spare may be able to compensate, but most runners will not finish a race under these circumstances. Move the odds of completion in your favor by selecting a race for which you can train appropriately.
Weekly mileage among ultra-runners also varies dramatically. Those capable of 100+ mile weeks run them, but most ultra-runners cannot handle that much weekly running without causing injuries. The trick is to use recovery strategies during training to work up to a long series of back-to-back runs rather than constant, back-breaking weekly mileage. A peak training week for a 100 mile race might include 3 days of back-to-back-to-back runs of 15 miles, 25 miles, and 30 miles for 70 miles run in those 3 days. All prior weeks of training work up to this level of mileage for the long run Additional runs during the week are included in this training program and these should be considered a minimum. Additional running during the week can be at whatever mileage levels can be tolerated while allowing for sufficient recovery for the long runs. In this training program, the weekly runs are used to manage the total weekly mileage in such a way as to not increase more than 10% per week. Success in the 100 mile ultramarathon will depend on the long runs, not the other short runs during the week.
Almost no one can run the entire 100 mile distance. There are exceptions, of course, and most of those exceptions can be seen holding the hardware at the end of the race. For everyone else, walking is a requirement and a large part of the strategy involved in these races. Most ultra runners walk the uphills and run the downhills. Long flat sections of the course are where decisions must be made regarding how much walking is necessary. Most use a run/walk strategy and it is better to walk frequently in the beginning of the race, even though it is possible to run more. Every ounce of energy must be conserved so that you can continue to run as long as possible. Alternating running and walking uses different muscles and lets you go further than either one alone will. Continue short bouts of running through the entirety of the race, even if you are only able to run for a few yards at a time, or you will be forced to walk exclusively. If you have not trained to walk 40 or 50 miles…you won’t make it.
Hydration is important especially in hotter climates. The potential for being in the heat for many hours adds to the potential for dangerous levels of dehydration. Drink lots of water and check the color of your urine to make sure that it is not too dark. The other significant hydration-related issue is hyponatremia, or an electrolyte imbalance caused by low electrolyte levels. Drinking only water all day without replenishing electrolytes can lead to a type of “water intoxication”, and possibly death. Use electrolyte capsules, such as S-Caps, Endurolytes, or Salt Sticks and follow the directions carefully.
Assuming an average calorie burn of 100 calories per mile, a conservative estimate, a 100 mile ultramarathon will burn 10,000 calories in a 24 to 30 hour period, in addition to the calories you would have burned in a normal day. That is several days worth of food that needs to be consumed in a short period. Practice eating real food with high calorie densities on long training runs and find out what foods work for you. From a race strategy standpoint, no decision that you make will be as important as what you decide to eat during the race. One mistake, eating something disagreeable, will turn an already difficult situation into a DNF. Find out what works and what does not during training so that you have an eating plan during the race.
Long runs for ultra-marathons are broken up into shorter back-to-back runs commonly called sandwich runs. Long runs are sandwiched together over several days to get in the high mileage while allowing for some recovery and reducing the likelihood of injury. For 100 mile ultras, 3 days totaling 60 to 80 miles is common. The distances vary, but these sandwich runs teach you to run with tired legs and force you to use a run/walk strategy, which you will need in the actual race. Don’t make the mistake of attempting runs longer than 30 miles, as the recovery time for these distances is too long.
This plan is designed for those running their first 100 mile ultramarathon with the goal of finishing the race. These mileages should be considered a minimum for completing the race and running should take place on terrain similar to the chosen race. The mileages don’t need to be exact…convert them to hours of running at your pace, if you prefer. Days of the week can be changed as well, just be sure to do the back-to-back runs on consecutive days. This is a very popular article with lots of good information in the comments, but I feel like it’s getting a little out of hand. The format of the comments makes it very difficult for new readers with questions to sort out the information contained in the comments. If you would like to ask a question, please ask in the Discussion Boards. I think this forum for questions and answers will make it easier for runners asking questions to find information and it also gives a chance for other community members to respond, as well.