Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The 50 Mile Training Plan

"But Kristin how many times did you say you weren't using a training plan??"

I know, I know, and technically I didn't use a training plan, but that doesn't mean one didn't evolve on its own. Life tends to be a lot of pattern. Wake up, shower, go to work, go to class, go home, study, eat, sleep, repeat. So it was no surprise that even without a firm training plan I ended up doing a lot of the same things week by week.

This post is for anyone who was ever thinking about running 50 miles and wants to know what I did. I should also mention that even though I didn't use a prescribed plan that doesn't mean I completely made everything up. By the time July rolled around and I started training I had already read tons of blogs and books about how to train for a 50 mile run. So, here are the basics:

  • 20 week training cycle: Prior to day one of training I was holding steady at about 45 mpw. 17 weeks of build, 3 weeks of taper. For the first month I tried to hit 50 mow, the second month 55, the third month 60, and the fourth month 65-75.
  • Back-to-back long runs: The cornerstone of any ultra training plan. A typical weekend included a long run of 16-25 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. I usually decided what my long runs would be the week of.
  • Weekday runs: For the first two months I ran five days per week - three weekdays and both weekend days. Over the three weekdays I usually tried to hit 25 miles total. In my third month of training I decided to start running six days a week and made every Monday a rest day. I feel like my training really started in the third month and I felt much more focused. Since I added the extra day of running I now focused on hitting 30 miles during the week instead of 25. 
  • Double days: Every week I had one double day with an AM and PM run that usually totaled between 10-13 miles.
  • Cutback weeks: Every two to three weeks I tried to cut back my weekend mileage and give my legs a rest.
  • Peak month: I went into my fourth month with a pretty good idea of how I wanted things to look. I knew I wanted to run a marathon and 10 miles the day afterwards (I ended up with a huge PR and was so sore I could only make it 6), back-to-back 20 milers the next weekend, and close out my peak week with a 50 mile weekend (20 Saturday/30 Sunday). Everything went really smoothly and I got through the fourth month according to plan, peaking at about 75 miles in the final week.

The important thing to note is that while a pattern did evolve, not having anything firmly written down meant that I didn't stress over the exact numbers each week. If my goal was to run 30 miles between Tuesday and Friday I could get do it in whatever increments I felt like. And if I felt an injury coming on I could back off completely and skip mileage all together. I learned all too well last spring that having a training plan written down just doesn't work for me. My head gets too wrapped around on hitting the goals and I injure myself.

I was very nervous going into this training cycle without a plan. I am an OCD planner by nature so going blindly into this was a big step for me. Thankfully it worked out great and I plan to use the same strategy in the future!

How do you feel about training plans? Do you use one for every race you do? Or do you just "wing" it?


  1. I do like training plans but I tweak the crap out of it to make it my own. I like ultraladies 50M plan.
    And I have yet to work in those doubles! Maybe the next go round!

  2. This sounds so much more organized than what I did! List this on your tabs for your blog or something so I can refer to it next time. I did "follow" two plans but I deviated quite a bit and sort of made things up week to week. I like having a set weekday mileage and also incorporating back to back runs. Also I think if I had set cutback weeks I would have been in better shape, just knowing they were on the horizon. Instead, I sort of just waited until I was absolutely DONE and needed to cut back, and then majorly burnt out and failed tapering. This is a seriously great post.


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