Low weekly mileage ultra


Can you build a decent level of fitness during off season training to transition to ultra by running as little as 3 times a week on 30 miles per week? I was thinking 5 miles + 10 miles + 15 miles each week.

I've done a 3 marathons. During my off seasons I run 5 times a week around 20 to 25 miles per week. I'm thinking about moving into ultra world and am also exploring if there is a way to train smarter so I don't run as many days. Does a 'less is more' approach work? I've read how some people do run less days and focus on 'quality' runs with more recovery in between.

Obviously when (if) I decide to register for an ultra event I would of course gear up by following a proper program which would no doubt involve more running.

Grateful for your views



  • In general I would say that this maintenance mileage is probably enough to get you started, especially if you have been through a marathon plan a few weeks or a couple of months before. For example, the ultraladies newbie 50 km starts at 36 mi/wk and then immediately has a cutback. (Don't be insulted - they have well-respected plans.)

    On the other point of minimising number of sessions/wk I'm not too sure but you could look into it with books such as Bryan Powell's "Relentless forward progress" or Hal Koerner's "Field guide to ultrarunning".

    Caveat: I've only stepped up to 50 km with this approach, so YMMV and there will be more experienced people out there.

    Edit: The second part of your question is covered in chapter 14 of the book "Runner's world run less run faster" which used advice from Hal Koerner. Basically, they say that their marathon programme (FIRST 3+2) can be added to with a few extra miles on long runs to get you to 50 km. To get to 50 miles one can add a fourth run a week and bring in back-to-back weekends.

  • If you give yourself enough time to train, the answer is yes.

    If you’re thinking about a 50km ultra, then you’re almost doing that distance in a week, and half of it on your long run, so it should be fairly easy for you.

    Training plans are quite varied for ultramarathons, but some recommend time on your feet (walking and running time), and running on consecutive days. Three runs a week is probably not unreasonable as you will need rest and recovery which could be cross-training, strength or flexibility sessions.

  • Thanks Steve and Ala1n. It is about maintenance for now and gradually preparing for the transition if I decide to try an ultra programme.

    If I decide to try for another marathon instead, will this maintenance schedule help me become stronger for marathon distance? Again I would obviously follow a proper marathon programme which would entail another couple of runs
  • GeeeMGeeeM ✭✭✭

    Maintenance - yes, if you did a 20-25 mile run every 3-4 weeks that would be even better IMHO. If you keep "marathon fit" then you'll be in great shape to start an ultra training plan when ready.

    I did FIRST when training for my first marathon, it's a tough programme - all runs are tempo/interval or long at near marathon pace. Plus you're supposed to do 2 cross training sessions on top, so it's run less, run faster but not necessarily train less, run faster.

    Endurance is slow to fade, so keeping your aerobic base is easier than maintaining speed which fades quickly, (at least mine has) keep a few short fast sessions and do a long(er) run every few weeks should be OK at least in the short/mid term...


  • Thanks GeeM. That's helpful
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