Can we do the London Ultra 50 with our limited long distance experience?

Here is our situation: we are 4 guys in our 40s (one is early 50s, actually), reasonably fit, exercising and running regularly. We have similar abilities, i.e. can run a 10k under 50 minutes without too much training, have PBs between 45 to 48 minutes, we've all done at least 1 half-marathon achieving a time between 1h44 to 1h55, one of us did a couple of marathons (the older guy). 

We ran the Old Deer Park 10k in times indicated above yesterday. We all agreed that we were a bit tired with these 10k's and wanted to try something different.

I came up with the idea of entering the ultra 50 which is in 3 months time. My view was that, given an appropriate training plan, aiming at a reasonable pace, and providing the weather is not too inclement, we should be able to run it.

Is this completely unrealistic? Or do you guys think we can do it and reasonably enjoy ourselves? Or are we going to be a liability to the organisers and make idiots of ourselves? Also, how does these events work drink and foodwise? Do you have to carry your stuff with you, or can you refill at the checkpoints?

'Ultra for dummies' guide needed, please!


  • Yes. No. Yes. No. Lots. Either.
  • Wot he said   image

  • Right. OK. Next question, then: do you think we should just get more time to train, or do you just think it is idiotic to go straight from half-marathon experience to 50k? Marathons are so crowded, these days...

  • I'm probably not helping am I?
  • Err... No, as just don't do it? Or no as it is not completely idiotic?

  • No I don't think it's idiotic. It really depends on you as individuals, no one else knows what you're capable of, in fact in truth you have no idea either.

    So ask yourself why you want to do it and what your realistic goals are
  • Ah, that's better. OK, but you seem to think 3 months is just not enough. Fine, I'll do a bit more research.

  • I definitely didn't make myself clear. We have a lot of new posters coming on here and with their first post asking ' can I do this race in three months or that race at under six minute miles, by the way I once ran for a bus and I've just ought some new trainers'

    What I'm saying is I don't know. I don't know you, your history, fitness, injuries, genetics, mental strength or indeed anything about you so I'd never say yes you can or no you can't. What I will say is that only you can tell and in doing so you might answer another few questions like why would you want to? Like because you would really enjoy long distance running or becaus you've heard of ultras as being talked of as the new triatholon and thought you'd give it a go without really thinking about it
  • Fab: look at and (sorry, that one's in km - you'll have to calculate for miles) to see approx how much training you need to do, then look at where you are now, and whether you could jump in a few weeks into the schedule/whether it's realistic to get the "miles in your legs" between now and mid-February.

    I went from HM in October last year to the London Ultra, on my way to my first marathon at the end of April. I was coming back from injury so basically I ramped up from almost zero at the start of June to 50K by mid-February. (I'm in my mid-40s).

    If you're going to give it a try, you need to concentrate on distance/time on feet and not speed.

    There will be water & some food on the route, but it's best to carry some with you as well, so I'd advise you to start getting used to running with e.g. a small (say 5 litre) backpack holding a 1 litre water bladder, or a waistpack and a water bottle.

    You may enjoy it more (both training and race day) if you look for one a bit later in the year - see listing at

  • I went from a good level of fitness (10 K) to a marathon in 15 weeks and I think most reasonably fit people can achieve that .....the variable will be performance out for effort in - ..... but I nearly made the novice's error of not working a taper into my plans so suddenly 15 weeks becomes 13 weeks - so your 13 week plan is really an 11 week plan ........if you have yet to hear the term taper then do some reading and talk to some experienced runners I applaud your bravado but the best approach for a novice distance runner is to get a couple of iterative cycles into your schedule so you peak and ease back a bit then peak and ease back a bit for that resaon 11 weeks looks too tight as there is not enough time for your body to do a bit of recovery in between peaks ..... your group seem a bit like me .....daft / enthusiasts ....up for a challenge .....I was 50 this year hence the kick back on the age thing and doing the marathon .....but  surely you want to do youselves justice ? i.e you want to complete the thing with a degree of competence I would agree with some of the experts input on here and go for it but just push it back 3 months ..........but thanks for the post as i said I am still fairly new to the whole scene I have just complerted my second marathon and just signed up for my third ..... I don't have the time to dedicate to Ironman challenges but a 50K seems a short hop from a marathon (once you have moved up from 10K to 42K) so I am off to do a bit of research ........ good luck and let us all know if you go for it .....    

  • another beginners view here...  I am pretty new to this too but have completed a couple of Ironman races and a few ultras and marathons...  the jump you are considering up from 10k to ultra is enormous.  You will not have a Forest Gump moment and keep going.

    Rather than waste £40 on the London Ultra, and have a near certain chance of walking most of it, why not start the training gently and enter a lower key LDWA Challenge event (google will throw up a timetable of events) and see how you get on. These events are geared to runners and walkers so marshalls will not be too pissed off with being out for a long time and you won't miss a cut off and get pulled. Alternatively, and just to prove a point, get your mates together and run a 20 mile training route together.  You can pre-dump water every 5 miles in a bush and just go for it.  I do advise (a) having a phone with you so that you can ring someone for collection, and (b) keeping half a brain on how you are feeling as this sudden jump in mileage will almost certainly lead to injury.  I would also say that this is not like Sunday league... your motivation will differ to that of your mates (probably) and I suggest that you all discuss that as the friendship could suffer if one or more of you drop out through stresses of training, or spending too much time running not enough time with the OH/family etc.  

    I don't want to put you off...  the buzz I got from completing a 50 miler was enormous - but I was quite realistic about my likely finish time and walked lots!

  • depends on your goals .to do a great time or to it 50 miles or 50 k.make s adifference.....

    If you are relatively fit and are prepared to run/ walk it then you will have no problems doing it in the timescale..............

    if you want to run the whole thing flat out then you need a longer timescale..

    My son wanted to do the walk across wales 2 years ago.....its 42 miles...he was used to running up to 10k distances occassionally......

    we did 3 walk /runs of about 25 miles..enjoying it and picnicking on the way and we managed the 42 miler on the day no problems....but we did walk large chunks of the final third.......

  • ha agreed 42K to 50K is a short hop and I fancy a crack at running that one......but running 50 miles completely different challenge .....

  • London Ultra is 50K (just for clarity in this discussion). There's no time limit; last year the slowest finisher was over eight hours, if I remember correctly, and i know a slow runner who is entering and will probably be over six hours but under seven.

  • I went from a couple of half marathons to running 56 miles with 6 months training. Just get on and give it a go. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
  • Lirish wrote (see)
    I'm probably not helping am I?

    Lirish, you never helpimage

  • Thats not true, Lirish stopped me getting stones in my trainers
  • agree with lot of the above really. only you guys know your fitness, how willing you are to train (winter and dark nights upon us remember)..i like Debs went from HM level this time last year to 35miles in may and a 50miler 6 weeks after, but again it depends on WHY you want to do it and if you really WANT to. i always think the worst possible reasons for doing a marathon and more so an ultra, are 'to prove a point' 'for a bet' or 'because someone else did it' .

    i agree with PSC in that it could be better to pick a smaller event with less pressure regarding cut offs. LDWA are good for wide cutoffs and practising with kit and getting an idea of if you like the distance.  as regards to timescale going from HM to50k in 3months isnt that drastic as i went from 13miles to 26 between last oct and  end of December  , but again it depends on how much you want to do it. just be aware of ramping up miles quickly and being injured...enjoy!!image

  • John MacKenzie 2 wrote (see)
    Thats not true, Lirish stopped me getting stones in my trainers

    did he steal them so you had no trainers to get stones in?image

  • as one of those interlopers to ultras referred to by lirish up there, take what i say with a large pinch of salt ...  i think it depends on what you guys are used to running regularly.  if you normally run 10ks as your long runs and the 21k races are big efforts then your legs probably will take a while to get used to the longer distances and build up.  If you are used to running regular long runs of 20k +, and maybe even have some history of running further than this then you might be ok.  have any of you ever run more than 30k??

    You can train for a marathon in 3 months, but you wont be running fast, you will need walk breaks i expect, it will hurt and it will hurt afterwards.  50k isntmuch more than a marathon (says the girl who has never run-raced further than a marathon )

    so i would say, maybe, depends and welcome to the world of considering an ultra... 

  • sensible advice here.

    what's your hurry? building up the miles is the fun part.

  • Haha, no he didn't steal them but he kept it brief and told me everything i needed to know in one word. Nothing worse than having to troll through loads of waffle to get to the point, got to respect the man!
  • Well, thanks all for the comprehensive advice. What's my hurry? Good question, maybe I am a too impatient dude. 

    Anyway, let me think about it, I'll keep you updated on this thread.

  • Maybe you can do it. That's enough to know. What's the point of setting youself a challenge you are certain you can do?
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