How Do I Train For Mountain and Ultra Races?

When doing track and road running competitively as a teenager, I’ve had a coach for most of that time. Now things are different. When I started running again after years of quitting, I decided that I did not want the pressure and expectations of a coach (for now, at least).  

I wanted to be flexible and just do the training that I want to do. In all honesty, with a coach I probably would do the same amount. But I am free in my decisions now. And don’t need to give account about what I have done and why. 

Although sports science is constantly pumping out new results and training approaches, there are a few basics that I remember from the old days: 

  1. Building a solid aerobic base is the most important thing for endurance running. 
  1. Don’t forget to strengthen your core muscles. 
  1. Don’t overtrain. Recovery is part of the training as well. 

With these things in mind, I set out to draw up a rough training plan. Nothing rigid, just some structure to ensure a balanced distribution. I did some research on how to prepare for ultra distance and mountain races and came up with the following guidelines I adhere to more or less. 

Workout per week: 

2x strength and core 

1x long run on hilly terrain (20k currently, moving up to 40k over time) 

3x something like 5-15k on trails around my house 

1x hill repeats 

1x intervals 

 

I try to keep the high intensity sessions (intervals, hill reps and long run) evenly spread across the week. Additionally, I try to put a short run back-to-back with the long one to get used to running on tired legs.  

For strength work, I try to get myself into the gym early before work twice a week. Leg exercises include grinding on a stair climber for 10-15min, squats, lunges, deadlifts, glute bridges and box steps. Core and arm exercises include plank, Russian twists, rowing and push ups. 

As I progress through my training and prepare for the double marathon in June, my training will gradually change. I will step up the weekly volume a bit and focus on getting that hill strength. I will (hopefully) gradually extend the runs on the weekend into something like 40k on a Saturday and 25k on a Sunday.  

The most important thing in my training is listening to my body though. If I feel exhausted, I might slow down, substitute it for something shorter or easier or even skip a session altogether. If I feel a twitch in my knees, I give it some rest and then go swimming or spinning until it’s fine again. 

While I used to think that I was running recreationally, I am starting to doubt that now that I have written down my training regime. Either way, I continue to do my research on good exercises and workouts to do in preparation for my two key races this year, Race to the King and Ring of Steall Skyrace. I’m so excited for both of them! 

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