Training for an ultramarathon can be very like training for a marathon. In fact, at the shorter end of the ultra scale anyone who has trained for a marathon is likely to be reasonably well ready for a 50k ultra over similar terrain to their marathon runs. (See specificity of training). However, much of being successful in an ultra marathon is your mental attitude and how determined you are to succeed. You need to have your heart set on finishing to complete an ultra and the challenge it presents. That determination becomes even more stretched and tested when taking part in a multi-day race!
Long Runs. Time on your feet. You need to adapt to spending long periods of time on your feet and moving forward. Longer runs (greater than 4 hrs) can be broken up with walking breaks. In fact, learning to walk and then run again is often a key to success in ultra-marathons.
Develop a big base building up your mileage. Increased your mileage gradually but ideally not more than 10 percent per week. Weekly long runs are a crucial component of marathon and ultramarathon training programs. They train the body to run long distances by running long distances. On long training runs, do not worry about speed. They train the body to go far not fast. Cover long distances, and do speed workouts on different days. When looking at ultra training on the weekly level nothing is more important that the long run. You don’t need one every week, but the more the better.
Long runs for ultramarathons are longer than for marathons, but not proportionally so, for a 50 kms race, long runs in the 20 to 25 mile range as well as marathon experience should suffice. To complete a 100 mile ultramarathon, runners need long runs in the 35 to 40 mile range in addition to experience in 50 mile or 100K races.
Runners should gradually increase the distance of their long runs, however not all runners should do very long runs every week. The body may require more than a week to recover from extremely long runs. So it is a good idea to occasionally do a shorter long run or even skip it entirely.
Hills! Hills! Hills! Whether your event is hilly or not, the more hills you do in training, the stronger you’ll be and the better prepared for your ultra. Schedule a number of “training races” that are shorter than your targeted distance so that you can learn how to consume plenty of calories and liquids during your ultra race. During your training, practice eating and drinking the same foods and liquids you will be consuming during the race and stay away from trying anything new and different during the race. Gastrointestinal problems and cramping are often ultrarunners’ nemeses. Both can be prevented through proper training and taking in sufficient amounts of salts, carbohydrates, and liquids. Each runner has a unique disposition, so you will have to experiment to find out what works best for you. It is a common strategy among ultrarunners to weave a number of “training” races into their schedules. Training races can either be organized events or group runs that challenge you to perform at a threshold pace. Running such prep races helps to develop your efficiency, speed, strength, and endurance that are important to ultrarunning.
Running an ultra is all about stress management. A key ingredient to successful training is to condition yourself to adjust to hard and/or long workouts with relatively quick recovery. Try working back-to-back long runs into your training schedule. For example, if your goal is to run a 50k, you may work up to doing a Saturday run of 20 miles and a Sunday of 15, or other various combinations. On weekdays, you may want to roll back the mileage and focus on recovering through active rest and cross training, as well as some speed training, hill workouts, and some shorter tempo runs. Weight training, swimming, and other activities that strengthen your upper body and build muscle mass without impact on the joints will help with your ultramarathon training.