Beginning Runner’s Ultramarathon Training Program
Surprisingly, there are some runners for whom the marathon is not enough. Those who have completed a marathon and who wish to tackle an ultramarathon of up to 90 km can do so by following the 22-week training schedule listed in Exercises 6.5. For example, the coding of this Exercises on Day 1 of Week 148 (8 km)means that you should run for either 48 minutes or for 8 km, whichever is shorter.
It should be apparent that these distances and times are calculated for an athlete whose normal speed is about 6 min/km, the training speed of the bulk of recreational ultramarathon runners. If your training speed is faster than 6 min/km, pay attention to the distances given on the training schedule. If your training speed is slower than 6 min/km, pay attention to the times given in the training schedule. The slow runner who tries to run the distances listed will be doing too much.
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The major difference between training for 10 to 42 km and for over 42 km is the length of the long weekend runs, which gradually increase from 16 km to the longest of 60 km. I believe that the long weekend training run is the most important feature of any training program for marathon and longer races. If you were to drop some of your training, the only thing you should not drop is the long training run on weekends. Anyone able to complete two 32-km training runs in the final 6 weeks before a marathon can be confident of finishing that race regardless of how well the rest of the training has gone. More advice about training, including training for distances up to 1,000 km, is provided in post 9.
A Final Word
The training programs listed in Exercisess 6.4 and 6.5 have been designed solely for neophyte runners who wish to complete races of 10 to 90 km in relative comfort. Almost anyone can follow the first 25 weeks of training on Exercises 6.4, and for many this will be sufficient. Those who continue training at that level for the rest of their lives will expend between 6,000 and 7,000 kJ of energy per week and
Can expect reductions in heart attack risk of about 25% (see Exercises 16.4) and increases in life expectancy of 1 to 2 years, depending on the age at which they first started running (Paffenbarger et al, 1986).
Before advancing to the ultramarathon program listed in Exercises 6.5 you should either have run your first marathon in under 3:45 or have been running for 1 to 2 years. However, if you wish ultimately to be a very good marathon or ultramarathon runner, you should not follow these programs. Rather, you should first race at short distances on the track, on the road, and cross-country. Only when you are running your fastest possible over 10 km should you consider entering marathon and ultramarathon races. In post 8 we discuss further this concept that the training that is best for 10-km races is, with some minor modifications, also best for races of up to 100 km. As Grete Waitz (Waitz & Averbuch, 1986) wrote, “The roots of every great runner, and all great running, are on the track” (p. 102).
These programs should be followed in spirit rather than to the letter. Daily training sessions should be modified according to your feelings on the day. Take particular care to avoid the symptoms of overtraining described in post 10. Set aside 2 days a week for rest, more when you are fatigued.