Before we get started on this topic, if you would rather listen than read, check out my podcast episode here.
Okay, let’s get into how to know if you’re ready to train for an ultra.
If you follow me on instagram, you probably saw me talking about a post I saw from the very popular running account.
The post was about when to know if you’re ready to train for a certain distance and basically said that you’re ready to train for a distance when you’re able to run the previous race distance and have a certain amount of time. This post focused on 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon, and finally ultra.
While I agree with most of the time frames that they listed for each distance, I wholeheartedly disagree with their assertion that in order to even think about training for the next distance, you need to be able to run one distance below that. ESPECIALLY for an ultra. Their exact words about training for an ultra are “definitely run a marathon first. Then go crazy!”
This got under my skin so much that I’ve created just about any form of content you can think of around it, but I wanted to write this blog because I have more thoughts that I wanted to fit in a story or caption.
There are 3 main issues I have with this advice,
It’s just plain WRONG.
So let’s start out with my experiences training for a 50k. Let me start out with this: I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE RUN A MARATHON AS A RACE. In fact, the only times I’ve ever run the marathon distance have been in my 50k races. Let that sink in for a moment.
The first time I trained for a 50k, the longest I had run before starting training was 14 miles. 4-5 years before training for the 50k. So at the time I even started training for my first 50k, I was not able to run a half marathon. My longest run during that training phase for the 50k was only 20 miles. The first time I ever ran 26.2 miles was during my first 50k.
My second 50k, my longest run during training was only 15 miles. And you may be thinking, “okay yeah but you’re just one person with this experience.” You’re right. This is my experience, but I also have trained multiple women to their first 50k without having run a marathon before, and I received many messages in response to my feelings about this account’s advice from others with similar experiences.
It’s not uncommon to go from a distance shorter than a marathon to a 50k.
It’s pretty privileged.
It also might not be financially feasible to run every distance leading up to an ultra.
Depending on the race, registration can be pretty steep. Not everyone has the funds to sign up for multiple races in one year, let alone if you need to travel for that race and pay for a flight, a rental car, a place to stay, and take time off work.
It ignores the fact that training for an ultra is not the same as training for a marathon.
The training methods are pretty different, and if you don’t believe me, go listen to or read any of Jason Koop’s content.
Most people think that in order to train for a 50k, you just do the same training as for a marathon but with longer runs. But that’s not the best way to train for an ultra. Typical marathon plans don’t include back to back long runs. There isn’t an emphasis on time on feet. There is more of an emphasis on running economy, which is less important on trails. You get the picture. You don’t extrapolate ultra training from a marathon.
So how DO you know when you’re ready to train for a 50k?
The simplest response: when you want to and have the time to.
If you have the desire to run an ultra, you’re already on your way to doing one. If you have the time to train in a safe manner to get there, you’re ready.
The ideal time frame to prepare for a 50k varies depending on your running background, your current training and what your life is like. In general, I usually recommend training specifically for a 50k for around 4-6 months. If you aren’t already running consistently and don’t have a good base built, I would recommend a longer time frame.
If you’ve been considering signing up for your first 50k and want some guidance or are curious if you’re “ready” or not, let’s talk. You don’t need to be considering working with a coach to schedule this — this is mostly just a chance for you to talk to someone who won’t give you bullshit advice like “don’t run an ultra until you’ve run a marathon.” Schedule some time to chat with me here.
If you ARE considering working with a coach, you can view my programs here and apply to work with me here. I’ll also be leading a 50k group training program in 2022, which will be perfect for your first ultra. You’ll get support from me, from the other women in the group, and receive a training plan custom to you. If you’re curious about that and don’t want to wait for the official launch, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or via email.
The takeaway I want you to have from this blog is that you can train for whichever distance lights you the fuck up as long as you can do it in a safe manner. Don’t listen to an account just because they have tens of thousands of followers.