50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan For Wannabe Runners
Give Me The Fish (GMTF): A 50-mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan is not that complicated and doesn’t have to consume your entire life. As long as you are already somewhat active and know how to push through pain you can do it too. With three people starting at various levels of fitness and three very different and not that intense Ultra Marathon training plans, we were able to train to the point of being able to run a 50-mile Ultra Marathon in just 16 weeks.
*This is my 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan Excel Sheet if you want to cut to the chase. Or, you can skip to the bottom for two other proven plans, along with tips and tricks.
It All Starts With A Yes
It all started when I messaged two friends about getting breakfast the following Sunday. One of them just moved into town from Florida and I hadn’t seen him in 3-4 years.
We met up at a diner and all of the past years immediately melted away. The ragging started the second we saw Brian getting off his motorcycle. It’s obviously brand new. Brian, a fighter pilot by trade and having just moved to California and buying a motorcycle, makes him the spitting image of a wannabe Tom Cruise.
We hadn’t even said hi yet.
After a couple of cups of coffee, a lot of catching up, and breakfast on the way. I mentioned how I finished an Ironman in the previous year and wanted to take on an Ultra Marathon next. They immediately get stoked about it. Partially out of the challenge, and mostly because of their competitive nature.
I knew this was going to be the case before I said anything, we know each other extremely well. We had met 10 years earlier while in college and had immediately hit it off. A friendship built off a shared love of pain and a secret belief that we were badasses in disguise. After we met, we spent the next few years working out together and going on really stupid outdoor expeditions, until the military had us split separate ways.
Starting Ultra Marathon Training From Scratch
As soon as I told them about my plans, they were in. The only problem. Neither of them had run more than 3-4 miles in the last year and a half. Brian was coming off of an injury. And, I had stopped my serious running after the Ironman 12 months earlier, running once a week for eight miles every Sunday. Needless to say, we had some work to do.
We decided to each train our own way, except for Sunday’s which would be our long run for the week.
The First Day Of Our 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan
The following Sunday we meet up and are standing around at the trailhead talking about how much we ran the previous week. Brian zero, Andrew three, me nine. Saying we wanted to do an 11-mile mountain run that day, this was going to be interesting to say it mildly.
We head out. Andrew, no different than 10 years earlier, takes off at an 8 minute mile pace. My first thought, “I’m hosed if he is already at this level”. We are on a serious incline and he is moving fast. Brian and I are not ones to back down from a challenge, so we take off after him.
15 minutes later, still climbing two miles in, and my muscles are starting to burn. I look over at Andrew. His face is pure determination. I know that look. Most people would think he is in the zone. But we are all Marine Corps Officers with years of practice hiding pain. Andrew is in sheer agony.
I ask him if he wants to slow down. He looks at me with a look that says “f#@$ you”. No way in hell is he going to seem weak.
I’m not offended, that’s standard. Brian and I look at each other, knowing we are both in a little better running shape and start driving up the mountain, rapidly picking up the pace. We quickly leave Andrew in the dust. 10 more minutes and we are seeing red, gasping for air, and keeled over on the side of the mountain. Andrew comes walking around the bend 5 minutes later with a face of pure defeat.
That Was Probably A Mistake, We Need A Better Plan
Only 3.5 miles in and exhausted, we’ve definitely bitten off more than we could chew. We finish the run that day having turned around at that spot and went for breakfast.
After that disaster, we spent the course of the next few months correcting our training. In the end, We each developed our own 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan. All developed off of the mistakes we made that day. While we all had different plans, they all worked. It really comes down to what works for you.
Below are the 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plans that we made; they were not completely stuck to. We would take off any day we felt too exhausted or too worn down to run. This included taking off an entire week if needed.
I also had to include rowing in my workout due to my Grand Canyon trip I was preparing for.
In total, our training took 4 months.
T’s 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan
- Download my 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan
- Squat 2 x 10 at the heaviest weight I could do with good form
- Bench 2 x 10 at the heaviest weight I could do with good form
- 30 minutes of weighted Barbell rows
- 10 sets of pushups, stopping each set just before failure
- 200 jumping lunges alternating each side
- 10 sets of pullups, stopping just before failure
- 30 minutes of inverted rows, resting every other minute
- Something else active (swimming, sprints, sports, climbing, etc.)
My plan had to be cut short due to leaving for the Grand Canyon. I missed the long runs on weeks 7-9 in the training plan due to not having places or time to run and changed week 12’s Sunday into a 41-mile run (not recommended, stick to the plan). Then I took the following week off and resumed the plan on week 14.
Brian’s 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan
- By far the simplest, twice a week he would run between 3 and 10 miles depending on injury level and feel.
- Sundays: He ran with the group, increasing Sundays run 2-4 miles every week until we did a final 41 mile run at the climax of our training program. For the last 4 weekends we did: zero miles (recovery), 25 miles, 15 miles, 10 miles, Race.
- He stopped lifting weights and moved to body weight. Every week he would complete 500 pullups and 1000 pushups, completing them in small sets.
Andrew’s 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan
- He followed this 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan with the exception of Sundays.
- Sundays: He ran with the group, increasing Sundays run 2-4 miles every week until we did a final 40 mile run at the climax of our training program. For the last 4 weekends we did: zero miles (recovery), 25 miles, 15 miles, 10 miles, Race.
- He kept lifting throughout, to include increasing his lifts following the Juggernaut Method.
A Few Lessons We Learned Along the Way
Go way slower than you think.
- The distance is way more important than time. Especially when starting. To complete a 50 miler you only need to hit a little over an average 16-minute mile pace, to include, walking hills, eating, refilling camelbacks, etc.
Figure out a chafing plan.
- We found using excessive amounts of Vaseline before we started and then carrying a small tube of Carmex for areas that started rubbing worked well. We nicknamed this “Ballmex” for obvious reasons.
Ensure you are always drinking water.
- Twice we had to leave someone behind so we could run and get a car for heat injuries. Which was stupid and is completely avoidable. Always carry water and have plenty of stops planned along the way.
Eating food is extremely important.
- While I usually don’t eat sugar and processed food, all of that went out the window. For me, sweet and salty granola bars and Skittles became my go-to. I rotated between the two and ate one of them every hour. Andrew was a big fan of using gels. And, Brian likes eating energy waffles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Don’t be competitive on your long days.
- Distance always comes first. Time should not be a factor, or you will quickly find yourself burning out long before you hit the needed distance.
The mental part is the hardest part.
- We planned for a 40-mile run, a month out from the race just so we would be confident in our abilities to finish. Unfortunately, we pushed this to 3 weeks out from the race, which was an awful mistake in terms of injury. But, this mentally made us feel prepared going into the race. I would not recommend this for everyone, and definitely not this close to the race. But, I still think it was worth it for us.
Make the race your sole focus.
- This is some advice I should have followed. We didn’t, and it made training way harder than it needed to be. Hell, I was forced to take 16 days off due to my trip down the Grand Canyon a month and a half from the race. Andrew kept lifting, but he will be first to admit that his running suffered. But Brian actually took this advice, and he looked strong on the runs.
Don’t be afraid to walk.
- 50 miles is a long way and there is no use in draining your energy on up-hills. A lesson our first run taught us in the form of a lot of pain and embarrassment.
- This kind of running is way more doable then you think, just go slow and enjoy the run. We B.S.’d and talked every step of the way.
Buffered electrolyte salt pills are a godsend.
- I used them on my Ironman too, they stop cramps in their tracks.
Sunday long runs were essential.
- They not only boosted our confidence, but they were the only time we could truly train our bodies to be on our feet for that amount of time.
Find a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan that works for you.
- As long as it is practical and keeps you motivated and improving it’s a good plan. There are a million plans out there, all of them are extremely different and they all tend to work. Don’t over analyze it.
Ultra Marathon Running Is Within Your Reach
While we have been extremely active in our lives and have ranged between being active and not so active. The time leading up to our race was almost completely devoid of running with the exception of my own Sunday runs.
We made a lot of mistakes, but our 50 Mile Ultra Marathon training plans were sound, despite their differences. Our 40-mile training run was done in a little under 11 hours, including having to move our cars (took 15 minutes). Having to go into gas stations and buy food and water for stops and getting distracted in the parking lot and talking about random things for 25 minutes. And while we were tired, we weren’t exhausted when we finished. We knew we were ready for the race.
None of this is that complicated. If you have a reasonably active lifestyle and are willing to put up with some pain, a 50-mile Ultra Marathon is well within your reach. All it takes is the willingness to make the effort, find a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Plan that works for you, and just get out there and run.