Your first 50K ultra marathon training plan

Your first 50K ultra marathon training plan

As well as the distance you need to cover, ultra marathons pose other obstacles to overcome. The terrain and weather conditions can vary widely as races take place in all conditions in all parts of the world, from deserts to mountains and jungles.

Navigation for your ultra

If you’re used to a well signposted race with plenty of people to follow, the world of ultrarunning may take a little getting used to. The length of races mean the field of runners will spread out, and signage is likely to be sparse. You’ll be issued a route map so it’s wise to learn how to read one and to use a compass. Some races are easier to navigate than others, and if you’re nervous about finding your way look for events that follow paths and bridleways. You can also use your training runs to visit sections of the course to familiarize yourself with it.

ultra marathon kit

You’ll need to find your own way and carry your own supplies – there isn’t a water station every three miles like you might find at a big city marathon. But all of this adds to the allure for many runners and is all part of the challenge.

Most races will issue a mandatory kit list of items that you must carry with you in order to be allowed to race. Your kit may be inspected by the organizers to make sure you’ve got everything on the list. It’s likely to include things such as a foil blanket, a certain amount of water, a mobile phone or running watch and a waterproof jacket. It might feel like an added expense, but remember that these items are listed to keep you safe. And, of course, you’ll need something to carry it all. An ultra vest (like a backpack but smaller) is more comfortable on long distances. Trail shoes, which have more grip for the uneven terrain, are another must buy particularly if it’s likely to be muddy.

Training for your first ultra marathon

It’s important to replicate your race conditions as much as possible during training. As your race is going to involve mostly trail running, you’ll need to train on the trails where possible. However, if you’ve never run off-road before, build up your time on the trails gradually. You don’t have to head off into the mountains, just running on the edge of the grass in the park will get you started.

check out our trail running tips for beginners.

Like all things running, it will take your body a little while to get used to the new terrain and you may find you ache in new places after your first few runs as your muscles have to work harder to stabilize you. If you’ve chosen a hilly course, seek out hills on your long runs. Practice your hill running technique and even walking up them.

Following your ultra marathon training plan

training volume

More than any other distance, ultra marathons are all about training volume. You need to run a lot of miles in training if you’re going to run a lot of miles on race day. You’ll be using your aerobic energy system which uses fat as fuel, so you need to train this way for the majority of your runs by running nice and easy.

Back-to-back runs

Back-to-back long runs are a staple of ultra marathon training. You’ll go into your Sunday run with tired legs from your Saturday run. This will help you get used to running on tired legs which you’ll definitely be doing at some point on race day.


If you’ve recently run a marathon, give yourself enough time for recovery from your race, then you can join the training plan at a point that feels right for you. You should join at a point where the total weekly mileage is less than your peak marathon training week.


On your long runs you are encouraged to walk 1 minute every mile. When you’re tired, it can be difficult to start running again after a walk. These long runs are an opportunity to get used to walking/running. You’re welcome to do this on your other runs too.

Your ultra marathon training plan

You can find a taster of this 30-week ultra marathon plan below. Click the button underneath to access this and all of our training plans for free.

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