Well, we had a baby!

Last Friday my wife Katie showed me the true meaning of ultra, and the result was a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

Here we are with Elizabeth (Eliza) after returning home from the hospital:

(Check out that onesie!)

Isn’t she the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen? Now I finally understand why all new parents say that.

As you can imagine (or have experienced yourself), the waiting game during the final days before Katie went into labor were both exciting and nerve-racking.

Will everything go as planned?

Will baby and Katie be healthy?

What’s she going to look like?

What kind of father will I be? 

And naturally, I couldn’t help but hope Eliza would develop a passion for trail and ultra running like her father — just as her mother dreams of sharing the yoga mat.

Not just because it would be fun to run stride for stride with my offspring, but because of what trail and ultra running has taught me on a much deeper, more practical level.

Life’s Lessons, Taught Through Trail Running

I’ve been lucky enough to have many great teachers and mentors throughout life, but as great as they are, I’ve learned much more through actual experiences than I ever could from someone else. Many of the most life-changing experiences happened in the woods, on the trail, and when I was tired, vulnerable, and tapping into a part of me I didn’t yet know.

It was and is still those most difficult moments on the trail that shape me into who I am.

So yeah … I’m basically saying I want my daughter to go through some tough shit. But I hope it’s shit she places on herself through the trail.

Most runners will say the lessons and takeaways from running are endless, but when I think of what values or messages I hope she’s able to fully grasp, a few stand out:

Trail running teaches you how to be uncomfortable.

… Both physically and mentally.

Trail running places you in the heat, the cold, the rain, and face forward into the wind. You get dirty and wet. You chafe. You hurt, blister, and fall.

And it tests every inch of willpower you posses. At times all runners want to quit, and must actively choose whether or not to keep going. They have to decide if the hurt is enough to break them down, or if they can use that discomfort as motivation to move forward.

And the better we are at being uncomfortable — at managing and ignoring the discomfort — the stronger we become.

Life is uncomfortable. Life means dealing with harsh realities, illnesses, and situations we wish we could avoid. But the better we are at getting past the discomfort — and fighting through it — the stronger we become.

Trail running teaches you to appreciate nature.

A few years ago I wrote about forest bathing, or the idea that experiencing the stillness and quiet of nature for just a few minutes per day can drastically improve our moods and stress levels.

These days nature is something of an ignored source of entertainment. Our phones, computers, and tablets provide immediate pleasure that’s a lot simpler than gearing up to go out in the woods. And the disconnect from our natural surroundings not only has a direct impact on how we treat the natural world, but also our health.

Trail running gives me an excuse to get outside, on the dirt, almost every single day. It’s an excuse to be alone, disconnected, playful, and quiet. And it tunes me in to weather patterns, seasons, wildlife, and nature in a way that I’ve never been able to before.

I want that for Eliza. I want that for her health and sanity, and for the earth’s health and longevity.

Trail running teaches you discipline.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something, so for most of us, we’ll never come close to mastering anything but sleep, work, and Netflixing. As adults, we get comfortable in our daily routines — going to work, being with our families, and rarely pushing ourselves to try something new.

And because of that, most of us have lost the practice of discipline. Sure, we may show up to work on time or never miss church on Sunday, but that’s all comfortable and expected. As soon as a hobby or extracurricular gets hard, we flee.

Running, on the other hand, requires us to show up day after day, and to constantly push ourselves. If we don’t, we never get stronger or faster, and our routines become stale.

To show up, improve, and push requires discipline. Because running is hard, and there’s always another excuse (yeah you know what I’m talking about …).

But once you’ve learned discipline, it makes it’s way into everything you do.

Trail running teaches you to dream big and redefine the possible.

I can only hope my daughter is a dreamer, but unfortunately, kids are often taught not to dream. They’re taught to follow a certain structure, or to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy doss of realism is necessary, but the absence of “what ifs” and big, outlandish dreams gets us nowhere.

Not that many years ago I never thought I could run 100 miles. It was such an outrageous goal that I didn’t even consider it possible. But then I started to dream, work hard, and make progress, and suddenly that outrageous goal felt within reach. Turns out it was.

Something that once felt impossible became a reality.

The confidence to chase those race and distance dreams — and the knowledge that hard work, discipline, and persistence can move me towards them — has completely shaped the life I live today. I fear that I would have never fully understood my possible had it not been for running.

Of Course, I Hope She Is Exactly Who She Is

I want Eliza to be a trail runner.

But it’s not about what I want. Everything I listed above can be learned through other means, and as my daughter the only thing I could ever truly want is for Eliza to become exactly the person she wants to be, with whatever interests, hobbies, and dreams she develops.

I do hope, however, that her passions in life do teach her how to be uncomfortable, to love and experience nature, to stay disciplined and work hard, and to most importantly dream big and redefine what she — or the world — believes to be possible.

She’s less than a week into the longest of all ultramarathons we call life, with mountains to climb, bumpy trails, and the type of joy they write movies about …

And I can’t wait to share many miles by her side.

Runners have a deep passion for the sport.

We dedicate months to training, never miss a group run, and are willing to wake up well before the appropriate hour just to log a few miles.

We love to run.

But sometimes … sometimes even the diehard among us hit a slump. Maybe it’s the weather, or a lack of free time. Or maybe because of a missed goal and lack of motivation.

Whatever the reason, there is a time in every runner’s journey when running simply sucks, and quitting or skipping runs becomes more appealing that fighting through.

Today I’ve created a video about those — nasty, depressing, better forgotten — times.

Because it’s how we deal with the challenges that makes or breaks us as a runner.

Ready to face your slump head on?

Video link  |  Subscribe

Remember, sometimes training is going to be hard … but you will get through it.

 

Today’s episode pretty much goes against everything I’ve ever said on Trail Talk. It’s an interview with Sid Garza-Hillman, race director of the Mendocino Coast 50K and recent North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50K finisher.

We talk about his approach to training for and racing in San Francisco, and how it freed up time, energy, and head space to do other things.

While this approach might not be something I’d recommend for most people, it’s certainly a thought provoking and interesting experiment.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

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Support for Today’s Episode

This episode of Trail Talk was brought to you by Discover Your Ultramarathon, the eBook system with training plans, audio interviews, and a 129-page guide to get you through your first 50K or 50 mile ultra.

Pick yours up now at rockcreekrunner.com/ultramarathon.

And by the new Rock Creek Runner hats. Check out the three wicked cool styles at rockcreekrunner.com/hats

Welcome to the Rock Creek Roundup, a new monthly series featuring trail and running commentary, and a selection of articles, videos, products, and stories I’m into this month.

Is ultra running getting too popular for it’s own good?

Last Saturday was the Western States 100 lottery, and it was well reported that more than 4,248 people vied for the 369 spots. That’s an increase of 21% over the last year (which saw a 37% increase over the previous year), and somewhere around a 305% growth over the number of applicants from the 2007 lottery — just 10 years ago.

And that’s for a race that already has fairly strict qualifying standards.

It’s not only the races everyone knows about that are filling up quickly. This year’s Eastern States 100 sold out in three days — the race is only three years old — and next year’s Georgia Death Race sold out in a mere 49 minutes.

What? The growth of this sport is staggering …

… and exciting,

… and I’m a product of it,

… and this blog benefits from it.

But it’s still frustrating as hell when you have to plan out your race calendar so far in advance, and hope that you get lucky (or happen to be free during the 49 minutes registration is open).

It’s no secret this hype, growth, and popularity around races is causing some major riffs within the community. Look no further than this week’s announcement of a lawsuit over the Hardrock 100’s entry process, or the frequent cries on Facebook and blogs that races are becoming too commercialized.

On the flip side, the growth comes with several major benefits. Companies are taking the sport more seriously by investing heavily in gear, research, and runners. New, unique races are popping up every month, and coverage around races improves by the day.

So where does that leave us?

How can we continue to grow as a community without outgrowing what we can handle, and how can we keep the grassroots feel while still embracing the new excitement, money, and popularity? I don’t have a solution, but here are a few ideas to lessen the pain:

  1. Encourage and support new, well organized races and race directors. It’s your local 50Ks and mountain runs that will keep the grassroots feel alive.
  2. Think outside the box, and try races you may have overlooked in the past.
  3. Commit and get behind big adventures outside of races. There’s nothing wrong with structuring your season around a run that doesn’t show up on Ultra Signup.
  4. Encourage races to be transparent in their selection process, whatever process that may be.
  5. Stay involved with the races you couldn’t get into through pacing or volunteering. In many cases that will help with entry into future races, plus it’s just straight-up fun.

What I’m afraid will happen is the opposite. That the growth will come with more name calling, blaming, and bitterness. So here’s what we can’t do:

  1. We can’t blame popular races for their success.
  2. We can’t divide ourselves or point fingers at newcomers who take up race spots. After all, the vast majority of us are a product of the growth and relatively new to the sport.
  3. We can’t accept new sub-par, dangerous, or mismanaged races, just because we can get in them.
  4. We can’t lose the welcoming culture trail and ultra running is known for.

Like it or not, the sport will continue to grow and races will continue to fill.

These are exciting times, even if it is frustrating to not get into a race, and I can’t wait to see where this growth with take us.


What I’m Hooked on this Month: December, 2016

Talk about Beast Mode

Did you see this footage of Zach Miller during the final 2 minutes of the TNF Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50 miler?

Whoa. Just watch for yourself:

That is a level of determination most of us only dream about. Big props to Jamil and Run Steep Get High for capturing the footage, and congrats to Zach on the epic run.

Want more? Here’s a longer version recapping the full race.

janji-hoodieJanji’s New Hoodie

Have you heard of the running apparel company Janji? They donate 10% of all sales to help fund clean water projects across the globe, and they’ve designed some of my favorite running tops over the past few years.

I recently got my hands on their new Mountain Ninja hoodie, and I can’t take it off. Could make for a great last-minute gift.

Learn more here. (Not an affiliate link.)

Thirty Hours

“I really like running, so I don’t really know about stopping. I’d like to run until the day I die.” – Wally Hesseltine

Thirty Hours, a short film that chronicles 72 year old Wally Hesseltine’s 2016 Western States 100 journey, came out about three months ago, but I find myself watching it again and again this month.

Growth from Vulnerability

Often viewed as weakness or softness, those of us who find ourselves in vulnerable positions sometimes resort to avoidance or denial rather than acceptance. It’s a challenging proposition as vulnerability, by definition, leaves us exposed and alone. When vulnerable, we are susceptible to attack and easily wounded. – Andy Jones-Wilkins

AJW beautifully shares the vulnerability many of us have felt through running in his recent article on iRunFar.

As runners, we train and prepare for a race as best we can, but nearly every race will present a challenge out of our control. We can try to manage those challenges, but sometimes they push us to our limits, vulnerable, and having to accept whatever the trail presents.

The Lumo Run Sensors

A few weeks ago I shared a review of the Lumo Run Sensor. The more I run with it, the more I get into the data.

Watch the review here:

At the end of each episode of Trail Talk, I invite listeners to submit questions or topics. Usually I respond quickly on Twitter or email to any questions, but sometimes they’re topics I think most runners could benefit from hearing.

So today I’ve picked two recent questions that fit that mold, and answered them on the latest episode.

They’re questions on running shoe replacement and rotation, and everyday nutrition for runners. Both common concerns for runners of all abilities.

And a quick (but important) heads up! That big 90% off sale on the fitness and nutrition bundle I shared last week ends in about 24 hours.

If you didn’t see, it’s a bundle of plant-based fitness & habit guides, meal plans, and cookbooks from 21 of the top plant-based authors and fitness & cooking experts online.

Including a couple of my favorite units from the Next Level Runner program.

And as a special bonus, I’ve decided to throw in the Discover Your Ultramarathon eBook System (including the 129-page eBook, 50K and 50-mile training plans, and audio interviews). Just forward me your invoice, and I’ll give you access right away.

Get the 21 guides plus Discover Your Ultramarathon here: www.rockcreekrunner.com/bundle-2016

Here’s what we talk about in today’s episode:

  • When should you replace your running shoes?
  • The benefits of multiple pairs of shoes
  • My secret obsession
  • Why weight-loss and training don’t compliment each other
  • Everyday nutrition for runners (it’s simpler than you might think)

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

Or subscribe and download on:

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Support for Today’s Episode

This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious.  Visit healthiq.com/trailtalk to learn more & get a free quote, or check out their life insurance FAQ page to get your questions answered.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the States, and I gotta say, it was pretty perfect.

I woke up early, ran a Thanksgiving 5K with my cousins, and joined family (ranging from my 95 year old grandmother to my 18 month old niece) for a feast.

I drank a few winter ales, laughed (for hours), and ate lots and lots of plants.

An absurd amount of plants. Like I’m embarrassed to admit how much food I ate. But it’s Thanksgiving, so I don’t regret it. 😉

If you only know me from this site, you may or may not know that I’m vegan. I don’t mention it often on Rock Creek Runner because I’m much more concerned with helping you run long on trails than I am about what you eat.

So you’ll never hear me preaching a specific nutrition agenda here on Rock Creek Runner.

But … my plant-based diet is a big part of my life and work with No Meat Athlete, where I also write and co-host a podcast.

Today we’re launching something I’m so excited to be a part of that I’m breaking my normal rule of not talking diet. So if you’re vegan, vegetarian, veg-curious, or simply like tools that make you healthier, here’s the deal:

The No Meat Athlete Black Friday Bundle is back, and this year it includes plant-based fitness & habit guides, meal plans, and cookbooks from 21 of the top plant-based authors and fitness & cooking experts online.

Including two monthly units from my popular Next Level Runner program.

Here’s everything else included:
  • A 3-Month Plant-Based Meal Plan from Heather Crosby
  • Plant-Powered Meals: Purple Carrot’s Top 10 Recipes
  • Marathon Roadmap 2.0 by Matt Frazier
  • Shred It! Your Step-by-Step Guide to Building Fat and Building Muscle on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet by Robert Cheeke
  • Approaching the Natural by Sid Garza-Hillman
  • Two Next Level Runner Units by Doug Hay: Building a Consistent (and Sustainable) Running Routine and Perfecting Your Running Form for Power, Efficiency, and Speed
  • Two Cooking Webinars with Chef AJ: Secrets of Ultimate Weight Loss and The Sweet Tooth Party!
  • Plant-Powered 15 Cookbook by Dreena Burton
  • Creating Healthy Children by Karen Ranzi
  • Eco-Vegan Pal by Whitney Lauritsen
  • Presentations from Remedy Food Live from Garth Davis, Michael Greger, Jason Wrobel, Brenda Davis, and Matt Frazier
  • Create Your Own Super Food Protein Shakes by Ella Magers
  • Dude, Where Do You Get Your Protein: The Complete Guide for the Plant-Based Endurance Athlete by Jackson Long and Aaron Stuber
  • The 30-Day Fresh Start Program by Pamela Fergusson
  • 12-Minute Kitchen Starter Kit by Matt and Regan Yager
  • Habit Experts by Jeff Sanders
  • Eaternity Cookbook and the Simple Vegan Classics Recipe Video Tutorial by Jason Wrobel
  • Healthy Habits 101 Course by Luke Jones
  • Vegan Fitness Food for a Lean Healthy Body by Crissi Carvalho
  • Jacked on the Beanstalk by Samantha Shorkey
  • The Food Revolution Summit Empowerment Package, featuring John Robbins interviewing 24 food luminaries
All together that’s $1,015.68 worth of plant-based fitness and cooking products for a crazy low price that I don’t even want to type in an e-mail (over 90% off).

Check it out now because this is going to be over soon: http://www.rockcreekrunner.com/bundle-2016

(Note: You may see this promoted elsewhere, but if you purchase through my links, you’re helping to support RCR, and for that I will be eternally grateful.)

See you on the trails,

Doug

PS — If you scrolled here instead of reading this message, there’s a crazy plant-based fitness product sale going on today that you need to take a look at: http://www.rockcreekrunner.com/bundle-2016

PSS — I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and the always inspiring RCR community is a big part of that. So thank you. I look forward everything to come.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with my 18-month old niece. The last time I saw her she was just taking her first steps, but now she’s all out sprinting.

We did laps together around the dinner table, and ran down the driveway as fast as she could.

It was joyful — as running should be — clumsy, and beautiful to watch.

Unlike most sports, we learn how to run at an incredibly young age. We teach ourselves the mechanics and body movements, not because we’re trying to get faster or run longer, but because it’s playful.

And for most of us, that’s probably the last time we think much about running form.

Even regular runners, marathoners, and ultrarunners — who understand its importance for efficiency, power, and injury prevention — rarely pay attention to form.

Why?

Because it’s incredibly difficult to examine form on your own. Without a coach watching or filming your stride, it’s nearly impossible to see what your hips, feet, knees, and upper-body are actually doing. Even when we try to do things on our own like count cadence, there’s only so much we can measure.

So when I first heard about the Lumo Run, a small device that monitors form, I was excited … and a bit skeptical.

Can the Lumo Run Improve Your Running Form?

A few months ago I was contacted by Lumo BodyTech about their new product, the Lumo Run. It’s a sensor you attach to your shorts while you run that tracks and analyzes your form, and offers real-time feedback on how to improve.

Skeptical as I was, it sounded like something I had to test out.

Here’s my full review of the Lumo Run, where I share:

  • How it works,
  • The metrics it tracks,
  • The Lumo Run app’s functionality,
  • What they did right,
  • How it could improve, and
  • Who could benefit from using it.

Watch the review here:

Sorry for the terrible audio. I tried to use the camera’s built-in mic … that was a bust.

Interested in the Lumo Run? Here’s a Discount Code

If you like what you see, use code ROCKCREEK10 for 10% off the Lumo Run.

Learn more here.

Note: While I received the product to review for free, Lumo BodyTech is not a sponsor and the comments in this review are completely my own. By purchasing with the discount code, you’ll not only receive the discount, but Rock Creek Runner will also receive a small commission for each sale. Thanks for the support.

Coach Greg McMillan and Rebecca Shultz on Running Form and the Lumo Run

If you want to learn more about the Lumo Run philosophies, check out this week’s episode of Trail Talk. I chat with running coach Greg McMillan and Rebecca Shultz, PhD, the Product Researcher and Designer, and Biomechanist at Lumo BodyTech.

You can listen to that full episode here:

Final Thoughts

Everyone should have regular check-ins on their running form and work on problem areas.

The Lumo Run offers an easy (and relatively inexpensive) way to get quantitative data on form strengths and weaknesses, and the coaching features allow you to immediately take action and set goals for how to improve upon any inefficiencies.

 

Running form … incredibly important for efficiency, injury prevention, and endurance, but difficult to measure and evaluate on your own.

In today’s episode I chat with Coach Greg McMillan and Rebecca Shultz, PhD, the Product Researcher and Designer, and Biomechanist at Lumo BodyTech, about their running form philosophies, the Lumo Run, and how you can become a more efficient runner.

Here’s what we talk about in today’s episode:

  • The most common running form issue
  • Where to start with correcting your form
  • How Lumo Run selected the five metrics
  • Why vertical oscillation is such a big deal
  • Can the Lumo Run help improve your running form?

Lumo Run Promo Code

Interested in the Lumo Run? Use code ROCKCREEK10 for 10% off.

Note: By purchasing with the code, you’ll not only receive the discount, but help support Rock Creek Runner as an affiliate.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

Or subscribe and download on:

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Support for Today’s Episode

This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious.  Visit healthiq.com/trailtalk to learn more & get a free quote, or check out their life insurance FAQ page to get your questions answered.

Links from the show:

There are few racing concepts that intrigue me more than the multi-day stage race, especially when it’s set in the mountains.

Stage races take place over the course of multiple days, where you have a set distance to cover during each leg of the race. For example, the three day Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race consists of 18 miles on day one, 22 miles on day two, and 20 miles on day three.

And these multi-day events are growing in popularity.

Races like the TransRockies Run, Marathon des Sables, and the Grand to Grand are moving to the top of runners’ bucket lists because they’re very different — in concept and execution.

So it came as no surprise that a few months ago I received a tweet from a Trail Talk listener asking about training for a multi-day stage race. Unfortunately I didn’t save the tweet … but the question I wrote down went like this:

About to start training for my first stage race. What tips do you have for training and racing for multiple days?

Great question, unknown person. Just one small problem …

While I’ve done several multi-day adventures, I’ve never run a stage race and don’t have firsthand experience on how to answer it. So I set the question aside.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago and I’m interviewing ultrarunner and Exercise Physiologist Heather Hart for Next Level Runner. We’re talking strength training — not stage racing — but it occurs to me that she’d be the perfect person to answer this question.

Heather and her husband Geoffrey just competed in the TransRockies Run, a team race covering 120 miles through the Colorado Rockies over the course of six days. With big mountain trails, 20-thousand feet of gain, and several peaks over 10-thousand feet, the training for two runners living at sea level needed to be focused and well planned.

In today’s episode, Heather shares her TransRockies Run journey, and breaks down how to train for, race, and recover during a multi-day stage race.

Here’s what we talk about in today’s episode:

  • Training for multiple high-mile days with back-to-back training runs
  • How do you prepare for altitude while living at sea level?
  • Fueling a stage race, and Heather’s new favorite energy food
  • Mid-race recovery … yeah, about that
  • You got engaged on Hope Pass?!
  • The mental and emotional side of stage races

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

Or subscribe and download on:

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Support for Today’s Episode

This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious.  Visit healthiq.com/trailtalk to learn more & get a free quote, or check out their life insurance FAQ page to get your questions answered.

Links from the show:

Half marathon … check.

Marathoncheck.

Ultramarathon … … …

Even though a 50K ultramarathon is only 5 miles longer than a marathon, just saying the word “ultra” makes it sound intimidating. And it’s that intimidation and the accompanying unknowns that prevents many runners from ever giving it a shot.

We can’t have that.

If you’re to peek behind the curtain of ultramarathon training, and see what it’s really like — the differences and similarities to marathon training, what you can expect once you kick off a training cycle — you might be surprised. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.

This is my attempt at putting it all out there, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into … and what you’re not.

If You Can Run a Marathon, You Can Run an Ultramarathon

When I first considered training for a 50K ultra several years ago, someone told me that if I could run a marathon, I could run an ultramarathon.

“Really?” I thought to myself. It was a life-changing realization at the time, and just the confidence boost I needed to pull the trigger.

That simple motto has shaped my approach this blog, coaching, and running in general.

And here’s why I believe it to be true:

  • Training for an ultra requires discipline.
  • Training for an ultra requires patience.
  • Training for an ultra requires courage.
  • Training for an ultra requires perseverance.
  • Training for an ultra requires mental toughness.
  • Training for an ultra requires a base level of fitness.

Sounds like a lot, but these are all things also required to get through marathon training and racing.

Now let’s take a look at what’s not required for running an ultramarathon (contrary to what many believe):

  • Training for an ultra does not require an absurd amount of mileage.
  • Training for an ultra does not require an absurd amount of time.
  • Training for an ultra does not require super human powers.

So if you can train to run a marathon, you can train for and run an ultramarathon.

The 4 Big Differences (Between Marathon and Ultramarathon Training)

But, of course, you can expect a few big differences in how you approach training. The differences don’t necessarily require much additional time or energy, but they will shift how (and where) you run.

Let’s take a look at the four biggest differences:

1. More Low-Intensity Mileage

For most first time ultrarunners, expect a shift away from speed work and towards more low-intensity mileage and time on your feet.

Which makes total sense. Longer runs require a sustainable low-intensity effort, making speed work less important. While the weekly mileage may increase, the intensity of those workouts will decrease.

Note: This does change as you get more comfortable at the distance. Once you have the mileage down, speed work — tempo runs and longer threshold workouts — become a bigger priority.

2. Course Specific Training

As a general rule (there are plenty of exceptions), road marathons are held on city roads and don’t include much change in elevation, surface, or conditions.

Ultramarathons, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly run on trails, which introduces a number of new factors. To get a better understanding of the course, I always check out the race’s course description and read race reports at the very beginning stages of training. I can then use that knowledge to adjust my training for those course-specific conditions.

Here are the questions I try to find out, and what to do about them:

  • How technical are the trails? Are they smooth and wide, or rocky and harder to navigate? Once you have an idea of the type of trails you’ll be racing on, find trails near you that best mimic those conditions for your long runs and key training runs. Further resources:
  • What’s the overall elevation change? A course could have several big climbs or major descents. Significant elevation changes can make or break a run, depending on how you’ve trained, so always prepare for what’s to come. Further resources:
  • Will altitude be a factor? If you’re running high in the mountains, training for or at least preparing mentally for the altitude may be important.
  • Are you running in the dark? Many ultramarathons start before sunrise or run past sunset. If you don’t have experience running trails in the dark, be sure to headlamp it for a few training runs. Further resources:

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

3. Longer Long Runs and Back to Back Long Runs

As expected, long runs will be longer than what you’d typically see in a marathon training plan. For most runners training for a 50K, they’ll run a 24-26 mile long run on their own, which can feel like an overwhelming task when you haven’t done it before.

Unfortunately, there’s no medals or finish lines on a training run, but you can make it a fun adventure that’s just as rewarding. Plus, there’s always beer and pizza to throw yourself a party.

Back-to-back long runs are also part of most ultramarathon training plans. At certain times throughout training, you may find two long runs scheduled on the same weekend. This trains your body and mind to run on tired legs, and is a great way to get additional time on your feet without scheduling a massive single long run.

4. Nutrition Exploration

While a single energy gel and water from the stations may be enough to get you through a marathon, most runners need a lot more during an ultra.

Even a 50K ultramarathon may take two or three hours longer to complete than your road marathon PR.

I always recommend that new ultrarunners explore nutrition, hydration, and gear strategies during long training runs. Practice and strategize, so that when you show up at an aid station on race day, you know exactly what your stomach can handle.

Sample Training Weeks

What your exact training plan looks like will depend largely on your running history, injury history, and the race you’ve registered for. But to show that training often isn’t that much different than what you may already be used to, I thought I’d share a few sample weeks.

The weeks are written with first-time 50K runner in mind:

Beginning of Training

  • Monday: Off/Rest day
  • Tuesday: 50 minutes with hills + Strength routine
  • Wednesday: 60 minutes at an easy pace
  • Thursday: 50 minutes on trails + Strength routine
  • Friday: Off/Rest day
  • Saturday: 12 miles on trails
  • Sunday: 40 minute easy recovery run + Strength routine

Middle of Training

  • Monday: Off/Rest day
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes with specific hill workout + Strength routine
  • Wednesday: 90 minutes at an easy pace
  • Thursday: 60 minutes on trails + Strength routine
  • Friday: Off/Rest day
  • Saturday: 3 hours on trails
  • Sunday: 40 minute easy recovery run + Strength routine

Peak Training Week (4 Weeks Out)

  • Monday: Off/Rest day
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes with specific hill workout + Strength routine
  • Wednesday: 90 minutes easy
  • Thursday: 70 minutes on trails (in the dark) + Strength routine
  • Friday: Off/Rest day
  • Saturday: 4.5 hours on trails
  • Sunday: 30 minute easy recovery run

Behind the Curtain, Things Aren’t So Bad

So there you have it, an honest look at the differences between marathon and ultramarathon training.

What do you think?

I hope it helps to ease any concerns, and remove much of the unknown. Because remember …

If you can run a marathon, you can run an ultramarathon.

And if that’s your dream, you should chase it.