6 hour race advice

Hi All,

I'm starting to think about doing my first Ultra this year, but going for a fairly "gentle" introduction (if that's possible). There's a 6 hour race in August that I'm quite tempted by. It's on a flat 2km loop (part gravel path and part asphalt). Some food & drink will be available at every passing of the start-line.

The idea raises a number of questions. Does training differ greatly to "regular" marathon training? How much longer should the weekend long-run be (if at all)? Are back-to-back long run days worth doing? When it comes to race day, how do you go about pacing? Is it start slow and then slow down?

Sorry for all the questions and sounding like a complete newbie, but I'm into unchartered territory here.

For the record: I've run 2 marathons and currently training for my third (Boston). Running about 55-70 miles a week. Long runs are currently at 20 miles and will build to around 22 before race day.

All tips & advice greatly accepted.


  • Hi OsloNeil. I am in the same position as you (nearly). I am planning to do my first ultra this summer - a 50km which is also a gentle introduction to ultra running. I have asked a couple of people for advice and they seem to be telling me that training is much the same as for marathon training and that long runs should not be any longer than the training for marathon long runs - 33-36km max.

    I have also be told that the focus for the first ultra should just be to complete. Forget about time and pace, take it really easy to start with and just concentrate on finishing.

    (for the record, I have run 6 marathons and log between 58 and 70km per week, peaking at 78km with a 36km weekend run)

    I hope that is just a little help.... until someone with lots of experience can come along and help.

  • SP13: Sorry about the belated reply. Thanks for the tips. Sounds sensible and pretty much what I was aiming for. I'll be reading the advice on your "First Ultra" thread with interest.

    Good luck with your 50k image
  • Thanks for that Oslo Neil. I got some really good advice on my thread, which was great.

    Good luck with your 6 hour run too image

  • For some of us 6 hours won't be an ultra imageimage.
  • Is that Boston 6 hour you are doing?

    I think that it would be useful to know your marathon time as if 6 hours is not going to be an ultra then you just train as you would for a marathon! If you are a 5 hour marathoner then training would be pretty similar too but if you are a 2.30 marathoner then you are going to be out way way longer than you are used to so will need to train differently!

  • ooops that submitted before I finished!

    I have done Boston 6 hour 3 times now, it is a great race.  I covered 37 miles last time.  What was very interesting was looking at other peoples terrible pacing! Not saying mine was perfect but I didnt tail off anywhere near as much as others.  Some people lapped me several times in the first 4 ish hours but then they were spent and I unlapped myself and finished ahead of a lot of runners who are faster than me.

    So its not just about getting the training right but also the pacing.  Its all too easy to go off as if you are running a marathon but that doesnt work as you are then just hanging on for ages in the last few hours.

  • In general, Ultra training is less about speed (for most mortals, anyway), so reduce the speedwork, increase the long runs.

    I just completed my first 50K in five hours (to give you an idea of my speed, my HM PB is under 1.44). In contrast to what SP 13 said, I went for long training runs working up to 26 and 27 miles, AND back-to-backs - so I did a 10-mile run on the day after my long run. Yes, it was tiring during training, but the 50K was then quite easy. Next I'm reducing mileage and adding speed work for my first marathon, then I'll be going long again for my first 50-mile event - and the B2Bs will be key in training for that.

    On the day, don't start too near the front and be tempted to try to keep up with the fastest people...

    There are Ultra training schedules available - I can point you to some if you'd like to see how they differ from traditional marathon training schedules.

  • Debra - if you have any sensible training schedules I'd be interested in seeing them too. I'm doing the Croydon ultra (30m) - I think you are too? The ones I've seen tend to be for offroad races, or much longer ones.

    At the moment I'm training for the Paris marathon, which will be my third marathon in 12 months. I've adjusted my schedule so I'm doing my mid-length and long runs back to back, so I'll be peaking at 10 miles on Saturday, 20 on Sunday. Once the marathon is over, I'm planning to drop the speed work and maybe extend the long run a bit. Does that sound sensible?
  • Hi Running Rodent, yes, I'm intending to do Croydon 30 on my way to NDW50 the following month. Okay, the two schedules I made use of/adapted are:

    http://www.runforthetoad.com/trainingprogram.html. Advantage: it starts from weekend "long runs" of only 6 miles /10 K. Disadvantage: It's in kilometers; you need to convert to miles. Also, the second long run gets up to 15.5 miles, so you HAVE to get them in Saturday & Sunday unless you have a lot of free time on a Monday.

    I started 21 weeks before the race and used this to about week 11 (except not doing the hill intervals, just a run of 7-8 miles). I then switched to:

    http://www.trailrunevents.com/ul/schedule-50k.asp (Ultraladies (and Ultraladies Men) 50K Event Schedule.  I couldn't have used it from the start, because 21 weeks from the London Ultra my longest run ever was about 14 mile, I was training for a HM, s and this schedule starts with a long run of 16 miles, then 18. However, once my LSR mileage was up, this was good because it was giving me every other week as an "easy" week, reducing the risk of overtrainig, and since I was nursing a hamstring niggle... Also, the second of the long runs was only 10 miles, which I could fit in by taking a two-hour lunch break, the weeks where the main long run ended up being Sunday rather than Saturday.

    I didn't get the midweek long run past 8 miles, but I made the two either side about 6 miles each - so about the same mileage.

    I didn't worry too much about matching the schedule exactly, but I made sure I'd done 20,22,24,26 and 27 mile runs, with a 10 mile run the next day, and I tried to run three days midweek but have the day before and after the long runs off - except when I did a parkrun the day before the long run, or....

    Flexibility! But do the long runs. I intend to base my NDW50 training on the Ultraladies 50M schedule probably combined with a Comrades schedule I found.

  • DazDaz ✭✭✭
    Good Luck with it Neil.

    Everyone will have their own advice, partic what works for them. Have a couple of recommendations for you. A book came out last year called 'Relentless Forward Progress'. That will give you all you need to know going forward. If you get podcasts then subscribe to ultrarunnerpodcast. I think they changed the name of the podcast so there may be two listed. Go for the one with the large back catalogue and work your way through - Mike Wardian, Max King and Sunny Blend (great name for a nutritionist) are the interviews you want to listen to - informative and inspirational!

    Personally I'd race on gels with maybe 1-2 bars (with protein) for 6hrs. Prob around 250-275cals/hr inc what I get from the energy drinks from the off. Pop a few electrolyte tablets with water from aid stations. Liquid - some can get by on just 300-400ml/hr. Personally I'd be on around 600ml/hr which is a safe amount. If it's warm, you're a large person and/or heavy sweater then you'll prob need more.

    Pacing - I never race to HR - too unreliable. If a road race up to marathon then you can settle into a spec pace. But for ultra partic on rough terrain then you'll looking for feel. If competitive then limit of comfort - low-mid tempo. Otherwise take it light and build as you go.

    Endurance Coach @ DazCarterFitness.com
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
  • DazDaz ✭✭✭
    Just to add - if you're not going at an 'optimal' effort/pace then you can bump the cals/hr up accordingly. I weigh ~71kg and 250-275cals/hr for ~6hrs and 300-325cals/hr for ~8hrs+ works for me. The heavier you are the more you'll need.
    Endurance Coach @ DazCarterFitness.com
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
  • Thanks Debra - I think I feel a happy afternoon with a spreadsheet and some websites coming on!
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