Putting in the miles should allow you to finish an ultra, but mixing up your training will help you finish strong.
Logging volume with plenty of miles is generally enough to finish an ultra (unless that ultra has extremely strict cut off times)
Run as much as you possibly can, plenty of ‘time on feet’ to strengthen those legs and prepare the mind for the gruelling challenge to come.
But adding a speed element to your training will not only help you finish strong but you might just find yourself competing near the front.
If you’re training for any distance shorter than ultra you’ll be incorporating speed workouts into your training, or at least you should be, intervals, long tempos, hills sprints, all done at race pace or faster, aim to build strength and increase efficiency.
But what about ultras? Is there such a thing as a speed session for ultras?
Most athletes looking to compete in an ultra be it from the shorter distance of 50k right up to 24 hours will generally include some elements of speed in their training.
Here are 3 workouts that you can do to improve your ultramarathon times.
1. Progression Runs
Start slow, finish fast.
The pace increases over the course of the training run. This change in pace ensures the use of both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.
A good example would be 30 minutes at an easy pace, 30 minutes at a comfortably hard pace, 30 minutes at a hard pace. You increase the pace every 30 minutes.
A shorter version of the progression run can be something as simple as a 6 mile run, starting at an easy pace but going 15 or even 30 seconds per mile faster after each mile, the final mile should feel extremely hard.
Another version would be a fast finish long run. This could be a 20 mile run, with the first 15 miles at a comfortable pace, 4 miles at a hard pace, and the final mile all out. This is great training for that late race surge.
These can be anything from shorter 90 second or 2 minute intervals which are great to get the legs turning over at a faster pace.
Something like 20 x 2 minutes is a good workout with an equal recovery, aiming for between 10k and half marathon effort.
10 x 4 minutes or 10 x 5 minutes are two I like to give my athletes. Both with equal recovery jogs, you should aim to be working for between 40 and 60 minutes.
3. Marathons as training runs
Yes, I really did say that! Sounds crazy to think of a marathon as a training run but in my opinion I don’t think you’ll find a better speed workout for ultras than a marathon race. I wouldn’t suggest you aim for a PB, you don’t want to derail the following weeks training, plus if you’re in the middle of a training block for an ultra you shouldn’t be tapering for other races. Aim to run it around 20-30 seconds per mile slower than your marathon pace, or around 10-15 minutes slower than what you’d run if it was a goal race. Don’t get sucked into racing these though, always keep the end goal in mind.
There are many more workouts and elements of training for ultras that will see you make big improvements, these are just a few you can implement immediately into your plan depending on where you’re at in your training phase. Feel free to message with any questions