﷯How do I train for an ultra... So how exactly should you train for a multi stage ultra marathon? My approach to training is very different from most training plans you will find on the internet or in a running text book. Contrary to popular belief and also against most long distance runners advice (I’m sure there’ll be headband wearing individuals turning in their graves everywhere) just running long distances and trying to have ridiculously high mileage weeks just isn’t necessary! “What!? I shouldn’t I just be running?” I hear you say. Definitely not! Before any race, everyone wants to know how fast you can run a marathon and how many miles you have been running every week in training. A sub 3 hour marathon on the road is impressive, but means nothing in a multi stage ultra. Do not be intimidated by impressive marathon PB's or even stories of mega high weekly training running miles. As i touched on in my previous blog, your ability to plod on when things get tough (and they will) is far more beneficial than PBs. If you can run an average 10 min mile pace every day of a multi stage race you will either win it or be right up with the leaders. I have seen many very good and fast marathon runners fail to finish , or finish badly having raced off on the first few days thinking they can maintain their road marathon pace. There really is truth in the old saying slow and steady wins the race. In the ultra marathon world the tortoise really does more often than not triumph over the hare. During the Himalayan 100 stage race in 2009 one guy said to me that he had run 100 miles per week a couple of times before the race itself. Why? I thought to myself. I thought the challenge of the event was to run 100 miles in 5 days so why would I run it before the race, because then I would have already successfully achieved the challenge I set myself to do. If your planning to win the race then I accept that the following approach probably won't get you across the finish line in first place, and that high weekly milage is more necessary. However, even if you are hoping to be competitive with the front runners, I still don't believe it's necessary to run 60-100 miles every week. Whatever your goal, if you train in all areas of fitness you will end up with a more functional level of fitness. Your body will be fresher at the start line, more resilient to fatigue and injury, more efficient and quicker in recovery and you will have more strength endurance in your legs , particularly handy when crawling up those steep hills. It is also likely that you will have suffered less injury during your training for the event. If you do nothing but run all your body is good for is running, and more susceptible to injury. If you use a cross training approach to training, hitting the body with a variety of different sports and exercises, you will achieve a more balanced and functional fitness. You will still be fit enough to finish not just a stage race ultra, but good for all running distances, as well as an all round ability and level of fitness to participate in a magnitude of different sports and events as well as everyday life. So, is it possible to finish an ultra marathon stage race having only run 20 miles per week in training. If you train regularly 5+ times a week (proper training and not just going through the motions – you know who you are!), have a good base level of fitness and currently cross train in lots of different areas of fitness, the simple answer is yes with some simple direction and a little more focussed running training to supplement your current activities. In October 2012 I finished the Jungle marathon in Brazil having run just one full marathon back in April 2012, and in the few months before the race my longest single run was 18 miles and my highest weekly mileage was between 20-25 miles. I ran the race with CA Coach Jon who also used the same approach to training. His post race review / blog can be viewed at http://www.commandoactive.com/my-jungle-marathon-blog.html. Most of my training for the Jungle was either circuit training or cross training (1-2 hour cardio sessions using a mix of running, stepper, cycling, mountain biking, rower and cross trainer). I have already posted some examples of the type of circuits I do for stamina, and will post more in the future. I ran 2 or 3 times a week, as I would usually do as part of my weekly training, i just increased the length of time i ran. A lot of the circuits I perform involve some running. I find mixing up running intervals with high repetition exercises gets the legs used to running when seriously tired and fatigued, as well as building strength endurance and resilience to fatigue. A great way to get used to running with fatigued legs other than back to back running days (recommended) is to do a circuit session lastly about an hour and then go for a run straight after. You will experience a similar level of fatigue that would normally only occur after 2 hours of running so this is also great if you struggle to find time for the long training runs. There is another really good way of getting used to running on seriously tired legs, and pushing through your threshold , that point if time when your really started to flag, without having to run for hours. As you get fitter your threshold will increase, and can get to 3 or 4 hours if your training is going well. But if your short of time or not a big fan of running hours on end ( apart from during races) you can get that threshold fatigue in your legs in much less time. Gently jog for 10-20 minutes to warm up, and find a nice hill, or serious of rolling hills close to each other.Try to find a hill anywhere from 200 to 800 metres In length ( circular route would be ideal but not necessary) and do hill repeats about ten times or for around 40-60 minutes. You can either jog slowly up the hill or walk up and then run back down reasonably quickly (say roughly your 10k race pace). After the hill repeats your legs will feel mashed and running steady after will feel like you have been running for much longer! I would not advise a first time stage racer to train with such little weekly mileage, but if you have been running for a few years and have previously done a fair volume of running you definitely can finish an ultra on such little weekly mileage. If your training for your first ever multi stage ultra I would advise that you don't worry too much about distance, but focus more on time on feet. As a general guide though I would suggest starting with 20-30 miles per week ( or the equivalent time on your feet) rising to 30-40 miles towards the end. However, as part of training i would seriously recommend taking part in a few long distance races that will increase your weekly total for those weeks you do so. Try to do at least one 30 plus miler and it would also be good if you can get a night run under your belt as well. No matter how fit you are, or how much you run, you will definitely be walking quite a bit of the race, yet a lot of people don't practice or prepare for that in training. Walking up hills, especially with a 8-12 kg rucksack, is very different from jogging. You're stride length will obviously be shorter than running and therefore your muscles will be working very differently. I would recommend running at least 3 times a week, 4 if you really enjoy running and have some nice hilly trails to run on, but no more than that. I would suggest 2 or 3 core conditioning and stamina circuit style workouts. Hill training is more beneficial than speed sessions, although interval sessions can also be helpful if done properly. Other things I have found very beneficial are swimming, yoga or Pilates , or just your own stretching and using a foam roller to help speed up recover between training sessions. If you can afford massage that is also extremely useful. Happy training and thanks for reading . Coming soon......food and nutrition, kit and weight saving tips.