So you have just run a marathon. Whether it was your first one ever, or another finish to add to your long history of 26.2 finishes, you have decided that you want to take it just a little bit further.
This first installment of “The Transition From 26.2 To Ultra,” is merely going to touch on the core principle of running an ultra; mileage. There are all different types of training plans out there, but the shift can be quite simple for a seasoned marathoner. Most runners take the first step into the ultra distance with the ever-so-popular 50k, or in more familiar terms, 31 miles. In a typical marathon training plan, one finds that they never actually reach the full distance of 26.2, but top off a long run somewhere in the range of 20-24 miles roughly three weeks prior to their event.
When preparing for a 50k, oftentimes the runner doesn’t skew very much from that marathon training plan, as the extra five miles have proven to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. One of the best ideas is to sign up for a local marathon three to four weeks prior to your ultra marathon in order to use that as your longest training run. It is advised not to do this race in a typical marathon pace, as you don’t want to risk burnout or injury for your ultra event. This way, you could wear any extra gear or carry any nutrition that you wish to use for that first ultra in a higher stress and populated environment.
If you plan on training for a distance longer than the 50k, there are many more factors to be taken into consideration, one being that there is no rest day following a long run. Experienced distance runner, Mike Blaze shares his number one challenge by saying, “the biggest adjustments I had to make with regard to transitioning from 26.2 to 50 miles is doing back to back long runs on the weekends (many times with tired legs). As a result, I had to be more conscious about including cutback weeks every other week which helped me recover much quicker, stay strong, and injury free.”
If you are considering getting into ultras, follow the New Leaf Ultra Runners Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NewLeafUltraRuns, where you can meet lots of experienced ultra runners to meet up with to help ease you into your first ultra experience. The more popular marathons are run on pavement in large metropolitan areas, but you will come to find that the more popular ultra marathons are done on trails. Keep subscribing for future installments on the transformation from pavement to trail, nutritional information and the gear you need for a successful ultra.
This article was written for the New Leaf Ultra Runs bi-monthly newsletter, “The Leaflit.” View the full issue here.