Prepare for an Ultramarathon with This 12-Week Training Plan

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This article and training plan was written by expert running coach, Greg McMillan, from McMillan Running.

So, you wanna run an ultramarathon (31-50 miles)? Good for you! It is certainly not for the faint of heart, but by dialing in your nutrition and following this 12-week training plan, you can be primed and ready for this incredible challenge. It should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway, that an ultramarathon is not for those just starting their overall running/racing journeys. I have designed this plan for novice to intermediate ultramarathoners, not novice to intermediate runners. You will be logging plenty of miles during your training, but this plan also incorporates cross-training such as rowing, yoga, and mobility, as well as rest, so that you stay healthy and injury-free.

How Long Does it Take to Train for an Ultramarathon?

Running an ultramarathon is one of the most physically and mentally tasking endeavors that humans can undertake. Therefore, even with an ultramarathon, I want you to ease into your training. This will allow you to learn the workouts and let your musculoskeletal system, muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments and fascia adapt to the rigors of ultramarathon training. Further, by not pushing the miles in the beginning, it helps you stay injury free which is the most important aspect. My main goal in designing this plan is getting you to race day, and that is why I like to take what I call a "conservatively aggressive" approach. By committing to a 120-day plan, I have found that runners are not worn down by race day, but it also provides plenty of workouts that will simulate the type of physical and mental fatigue that they will face on race day.

Why You Should Follow an Ultramarathon Training Plan

An ultramarathon is going to push your mind and body in ways that you may not have known possible. There are always going to be unknown challenges during a race, but by following a plan, you will be very well equipped to handle any hurdles head on. Further, following a training plan that helps runners progress gradually allows your body to adapt to the demands that will be put on it during the ultramarathon. Training plans will leave runners feeling confident that they have enough endurance, stamina, strength, and speed to conquer 31-50 miles. Furthermore, proper training strengthens the mental toughness that will be needed when racking up that kind of mileage.

The Ultramarathon Training Plan - Know the Lingo

It is important for runners of all levels to stick to training plans, and that includes getting familiar with some of the jargon and learning how to evaluate your progress.

  • Cross-training: Cross-training incorporates a variety of other exercises, such as yoga, rowing, resistance training, and mobility, into your weekly plan. Cross-training increases your overall fitness, trains other muscle groups and helps reduce injury. It is important to not skip these days.
  • Steady-state run: When running at a steady state you will keep a continuous easy-medium pace.
  • Intervals: Although your ultimate goal with this plan is to crush a marathon course, intervals will play an integral part in getting you there. Intervals are short, intense runs that are repeated several times. There are small breaks between each interval.
  • Tempo run: Tempo runs are also called "threshold runs" because you run at a pace slightly below your current marathon threshold pace—approximately 25-30 seconds per mile slower. They help your body learn to run at a harder pace for longer.
  • Rest days: Just as our bodies need exercise, they also need rest. Rest days allow our muscles to restore and rejuvenate. They also help keep us from burning out during our training.
  • Down week: Down weeks consist of running less mileage than the weeks leading up to them. They can help you stay healthy and energized for an upcoming race. Like rest days, it is critical to adhere to your schedule for down weeks.
  • Progression run: Progression runs start a slow, comfortable pace and then build to a faster pace at the end.
  • 3rds progression run: On these runs, you will break them down into thirds. The first third will be a slow, comfortable pace. During the second third, you will increase to a steady running pace, and the third third will be done at a strong, fast pace.

rowing machine workout

Ultramarathon Training Schedule

The cross-training programs featured in this marathon training schedule are provided by Hydrow. To access these trainer-led videos, shop Hydrow.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Pivot
  • Day 4: Hill sprints - 6-8 sets of 60-75 sec.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Stress and Tension Release
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 12-14 miles

Week 2

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Resistance Row
  • Day 4: Steady-state run - 20-40 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Opening Restorative Yoga
  • Day 6: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 14-16 miles

Week 3

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: 80s Runner's Prep
  • Day 4: Hill sprints - 6-8 sets of 60-75 sec.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Mobility for Running
  • Day 6: Long run - 8-12 miles
  • Day 7: Long run - 16-18 miles

Week 4 (Down Week)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cross-Training Row
  • Day 4: AM (Morning) - 8 miles | PM (evening) - 4 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Steady Endurance Row
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: 3rds progression run - 90-120 min.

Week 5

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Rowing for Runners
  • Day 4: Steady state run - 30-45 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Stretching for Runners
  • Day 6: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 18-22 miles

Week 6

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Setting Goals Row
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 15-25 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cardio Burn Row
  • Day 6: Long run - 12-14 miles
  • Day 7: Long run - 12-14 miles

Week 7

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 60-80-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Low Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: AM (Morning) - 10 miles | PM (evening) - 5 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Post-Run Mobility
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 20-24 miles

Week 8 (Down Week)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 35-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Power Marathon Row
  • Day 4: Steady state run - 40-60-min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Opening Flow
  • Day 6: Long run - 12-14 miles
  • Day 7: Long run - 14-16 miles

Week 9

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 60-80-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cross-Training Row
  • Day 4: AM (Morning) - 10 miles | PM (evening) - 5 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Bodyweight Hip Strength
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 24-28 miles

Week 10

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Low Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 20-25 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Full-Body Mobility
  • Day 6: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: 3rds progression run - 90-120 min.

Week 11 (Peak)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Marathon Training Row
  • Day 4: Steady state run - 20-40 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Happy Hamstrings Align Yoga
  • Day 6: 30-40-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: 3rds progression run - 90 min.

Week 12 (Peak)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Lower Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 10 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: 80s Runner's Prep
  • Day 6: 20-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Ultramarathon

Hydrow offers several full-body rowing workouts that fall into three categories of intensity: Breathe, Sweat, and Drive. Tackle them individually or combine them for a dynamic cross-training program to help reach your running goals.

How to Prepare for a Ultramarathon

One of the best things about running is that it does not take a lot of gear to get started. With that being said, due to their length and the fact that they often take place on rocky or uneven terrain, ultramarathons will require more gear than a 5K or even a marathon would.

Therefore, you will want to make sure that you're outfitted with the proper gear and fuel that will power you through an ultramarathon. Additionally, although we can't change the weather, we can be prepared for it. Take a look at some of the best running accessories, ways to fuel and hydrate on the go, and the items to make you comfortable when the climate is less than ideal.

Accessories and Gear

Fuel and Hydration

Outdoor Conditions

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