How will I know what pace to run at?

I'm doing the Kent 50 Mile Challenge in July and so far the furthest I've ran is marathon (will be stepping this up after I've raced Blackpool marathon on 11th April).

I currently run 60-70 miles per week, although this has only really the past few weeks. Before Jan it was more like 40-50.

My current times are:

Marathon - 3.50. That was almost a year ago and am hoping to go around 3.30-3.35 in Blackpool.
Half marathon - 1.41 last month though struggled with a cold so "should have gone under 1.40.
10K - 45min last year, hoping for 43-44min on Sunday.

Obviously I'll have a better idea at the level of fatigue I'll experience on really long distances when I'm training 30 miles +, but how will I know what race pace to go for in the ultra? 

I'm probably approaching it totally wrong as I guess for my first venture into ultra distances I should just be happy to finish, but I also know I'm rather competitive so would like to aim for a time - just not sure what time to aim for!


  • OK, so  it's your first one then it is all about finishing but there is nothing wrong with having a go. I would say, based on experiance of that course, do the first 4 laps 15-20 mins slower than your (at the time) best 10k pace. If you then feel good try to go faster for the last 4 laps but don't just get to the fifth and hammer it, gradually work harder untill you are just hanging on.

    Good luck, it's a great race.

    The trick with longer ultras is to be patient, if it feels too easy at first then it is probably the right pace, a lot can happen over 50+ miles and those who go off too fast soon learn the error of their ways and die like a dog.

  • Thanks, that makes sense. I was worried about my tendancies to feel uncomfortable running relatively slowly, but also know it is a necessity if I want to last the full distance! I will have to practice on my LSR's.

    That makes me feel a lot better having a rough pacing plan. As you say, can take it easy to half way, then maybe increase speed each lap by a few mins... if I'm capable image.

    I'm really looking forward to it.

    Could I also ask your opinion on what sort of time/distances I should be covering on the LSR's?

    As I said, I'm training to race Blackpool at the moment, will take a week off after that, then have 12 or so weeks until Kent. As I run 6 days a week now, I'm quite used to running around 10 miles a day (some of those can be just easy running, others will be speed/tempo work with a long warmup/cool down) then my 20 miler (will be taking that up to 22-24 soon) before having a rest day.

    I've looked at the Comrades plan (9hr) and that seems to max out at 2hrs one day, 4 the next sandwiched between rest days, whereas a plan I've seen by Hal Higdon tends to be more like 3 hours one day, 4 the next, peaking at 4-5 / 3-4.

    Does the latter seem more appropriate? I probably run 20 miles in 2.50 now in training, but would slow that down a bit (3hrs? More?) when doing back to back sessions.

    Also, would you do the longer run on the first or second day?

    You can tell I'm all new to this!


  • How you do your long sessions can be a bit subjective. To me training must keep true to the basic rule of specificity and so I am a fan of the single long run. Having said that many people do not have the time to do one big one and so back to backs as you have seen in the Comrades and Higdon plans are fine. The Higdon one being more realistic in time. As for pace, I personally do long runs at all different paces from very slow (up to two minutes a mile slower than current marathon pace) early on in the training to about a minute a mile slower than currant marathon pace in the last few long runs.

    The Kent course is pancake flat and really punishes your legs so it is worth considering a couple of weight training sessions a week to help toughen the legs, either that or some hilly reps foucussing on the downhill sections, as eccentric work has been found to toughen the legs up and help delay soreness.

    One thing I think is important for ultras if you are doing back to backs is fuelling in between runs. To help simulate the carb depletion of a single long run or event it is important to keep re-fuelling to a minimum between. This way you will be training using similar energy systems to what you would be racing with and importantly be running with legs feeling like they will on the day and not partly revived by an overnight carb boost.

    This can be a contentious issue but is worth keeping in mind when eating after a long run if you are going to be doing another a few hours later. I would eat only a minimum of carbs and have a protein rich meal after. One of the advantages of the single long run is you don't have to worry about that as you eat and use it as you would on the day.

  • Thank you so much, this is all very helpful. One final question, then I'll leave you alone image.

    A single longer run would probably suit me better as I have 3 young children and am very reluctant to be gone what will seem like all weekend to them. I currently do my LSR on a Thursday or Friday whilst the eldest 2 are in school. My youngest will be in playgroup by the time my training steps up, so I do have scope to do a really long run. That would help me better prepare for how I will manage nutritionally on the day too.

    So, if I was to adopt this strategy and not be too afraid of big miles (I say that now, lol), how would you approach a general week?

    I'd roughly worked out - 

    Mon - 8 miles easy
    Tues - Club, can be intervals, hills or tempo (roughly 8 miles including w/u, c/d, run to session, etc)
    Wed - Rest
    Thur - LSR 1
    Fri - LSR 2
    Sat - Rest
    Sun - 6 miles easy

    If I went for a longer run approach, 10 miles for the first run, build up to 35 for the second? I suppose I could alternate, one week do two "shorter" back to backs and the next a short/long?

    Or rather, what does your typical week look like if training for a 50?

    Thanks for the tip of weight training. I do neglect my core work if I'm honest.

  • Your rough week plan there seems good for back to backs like in the Higdon plan. If you were doing just one long one I would say do an easy shortish run on the Wednesday then have the Thursday as a rest day before the long one on a Friday. A single long run is going to be a bit harder on your joints and all the other bits that hold you together so you need to make sure you recover properly.

    I have to admit I always err on the side of caution and will not generally do two long runs (more than 25 miles) on consecutive weeks. It can take two or more weeks for you to feel the benefit of a long run so my logic is until that time your body is still recovering/adapting. I don't see any benefit in stressing the body before it has adapted to the previous stress.

    If you want to mix a single long with a back to back plan then maybe alternate them with an easy week inbetween each to ensure you are getting quality recovery time. Easy as in no long session but maybe doing your club run and other shorter stuff. So if you are doing a 3 week on 1 week recovery week plan it might be something like

    Week1 Back to Backs 15/20 miles
    Week2 No long stuff
    Week3 LSR 25 miles
    Week4 Recovery week

    It will be very much a 'suck it and see' situation. But remember long runs can take it out of you even though the intensity is low (one reason I am not keen on back to backs is that people can tend do them at too high an intensity because they are not as tired during the runs) so take it slow, you have a few months to build up the distance nice and steadily.

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