Multi-stage training


I'm a marathon runner/long-distance triathlete and i'm thinking about doing a multistage adventure race next February (i.e. The Costal Challenge in Costa Rica)

I've never done an ultra marathon or multistage event and I can't find any training plans online.

Any tips?

It's 230 km of trails over six days, some days are hard, some look easier/recovery days




  • I have no advice for you but I am very jealous as that sounds like an epic adventure. I'm a marathoner and aiming for an ultra in June. What are the mileages per day?

  • As with all training, specificity is the key. You have two challenges -

    Running 6 consecutive days and recovery.

    Terrain and climate.

    Your training needs to reflect these as best you can. I'd suggest building up to running 3-4 days on the trot regularly, with an occasional (once a month or less) week of 6 days running. The structure of these days is really up to you, but try and keep some quality in there.

    Not sure what the terrain on the Coastal Challenge is, but try to simulate this as best you can. Same with climate - many layers on a warm summers day maybe?

  • Hi Andrew

    I did the Sahara Race in the desert in Jordan last year (155 miles in 7 days, essentially broken down as 4 x consecutive days of marathons, 1 x 50 miles and 1 x 3 miles).

    Before I did it I'd only done a few marathons, 1 x 50 miler and 1 x 38 miler so definitely not what you'd call experienced!

    I made up my own training programme, but the first thing I did was get my body used to running on 7 consecutive days (previously I'd only ever run 5x a week). I started off with 7 x 10 miles, then a few weeks later I did 7 x 13 miles and then a few weeks later 5 x 13 miles and 2 x 15 miles. I did these all as pretty easy runs as I just wanted to get my body used to running everyday. For the Sahara Race we had to carry all our belongings with us so I started doing some runs with 5kg rucksack (not sure if you have to carry your stuff in the Coastal Challenge, if so this is one thing you must practice with).

    Apart from the few weeks of running on consecutive days and rucksack running, the rest of my training was similar to ultra training with off-road back to back runs at weekends.

    I was training through winter for a race in the desert in February so I did a lot of hot yoga to get me used to exercising in the heat. I found this invaluable.

    Because I was doing a lot of high mileage every 4/5 weeks I had a really easy, really reduced mileage week, and I think that helped as I didn't pick up any niggles in training. I really neglected speedwork though as I was just focusing on higher mileage and was worried about injuring myself if I tried to do both, and that's the one thing I'd do differently, 

    I'm doing a similar race in Ecuador this summer and because what I did last time worked for me I'll do similar training this time, but with a bit less mileage and throw in some speed sessions.

    One piece of advice I'd give for the race is to go off conservatively on day 1. So many people went off really hard and fast on day 1 and paid big-time by day 3. I found that by setting off conservatively, I actually got stronger and faster as each day went by. I think my first day's marathon-ish distance was 5:30 and by day 4 I was running a similar distance in under 5:00. Again I'm not sure of the format of the Coastal Challenge, but if there is a 'long day' like we had on day 5, make sure you leave plenty of gas in the tank for that!

    Good luck. I absolutely loved it, best week of my life image


  • GeeeMGeeeM ✭✭✭

    Specificity image

    Read blogs and race reports from other competitors, a quick Google shows stuff from Karl Meltzer and Joe Grant with quotes like

    "it was freaking hot"


    “There’s no motel room, no shower, no air conditioning. That would be a lot easier,” Meltzer laughed. “It’s 110 degrees in your tent, you just lie there in a pool of sweat.” 

    It doesn't look like you need to carry all your gear, (MdS style) so training with a heavy pack isn't as essential. You still need to be very comfortable with your kit.

    As far as training goes, there's loads of multi-day races in the UK which would give you good experience and training. XNRG and VO2 both are excellent, with VO2 doing coastal multi-days in Pembrokeshire and in the South West.

    Good luck - I'm not jealous at all image

  • Guys, thanks so much for your responses. Some really great advice!

    It looks like a mixture of jungle and rainforest trails, mountain trails and ridgelines, highlands and coastal ranges. Also, some beaches, rocky outcroppings and reefs, river valleys, river and estuary crossings. Total course elevation gain is around 34,000 feet. Total distance of 225km split as follows. 

    Stage 1: 36.4km

    Stage 2: 39km

    Stage 3: 48km

    Stage 4: 37.5km

    Stage 5: 47.5km

    Stage 6: 23.7km

    @Barbie1976: What kind of mileage were you doing in those weeks in between your 7 consecutive days of running? How long were you back to back long runs on weekends? Thanks! 

  • I peaked at 30/30 but generally they were between 20-24/20-24. I wouldn't go as high as 30/30 again as I think the benefits beyond 24 miles are mainly psychological, but as it was the first time I'd done anything like this, I felt I needed the psychological boost that I could run 2 x 30 milers back to back.

    My weekly mileage tended to vary between 40-70 miles, and then there were about three weeks where I did 90-100 miles (when I was running on seven consecutive days) but every month or so, I had a really easy low mileage week. I think Rory Coleman advocates something similar with medium, hard, hardest and easy weeks over a four week cycle of training when he's training people for the MdS.

    The hardest thing for me was learning to run with a rucksack as I'm quite a weakling so that is definitely one advantage you have in the Coastal Challenge if you don't have to carry everything. I think the heat is meant to be worse in the Coastal Challenge, although the desert was very hot it was a dry heat, whereas Costa Rica/jungle is a much more humid heat. So anything you can do to get you used to running/exercising in heat will help massively.

    I had no idea whether my training would work (I just cobbled together my own plan based on a few books I read/people I spoke to) and I had no idea how my body would cope with running the 155 miles over the 7 days, but it worked for me and I had no problem covering the distance every day and finished way higher than I expected to in the final placings. 

    The Coastal Challenge sounds amazing, definitely one on my running bucket list image


  • Some good advice on here already, I'd back up that specificity is key. I've done a multistage organised event in a few years and that was VO2's Atlantic coast challenge (Cornwall) which was roughly a marathon each day getting more undulating and challenging underfoot as days went on. Back-to-back long days helped train for that.

    But then last year did a self-organised multi-dayer last year, which saw me running on 5 consecutive days, but the biggest days were middle three at 53, 44 and 43 miles. Hauled all own gear, but travelled quite light as staying indoor accommodation each night. 

    Very different terrain to what you'll probably encounter as mostly undulating light trail and more tarmac as days went on. I'd trained with 30-65m weeks most of the 6 months in advance and had run a single 'longer' LSR most months of 26-50m, with an isolated challenge 85m run one month carrying lots of food and gear. All this mostly on trail. My peak training week was high mileage, 7 days run in a row with back-to-back 18 and 30m runs at higher than expected pace on the upcoming multidayer. Though, this was only time I'd consider I did back to back LSR. Other weeks typically saw an LSR on Sunday and 8m+ commute run with pack on tired legs Monday.

    This prepared me excellently for energy levels, but could have done with more LSR on hard surfaces to try and reinforce my legs and feet against the battering they'd get on multidayer which turned out to have a higher percentage hard surface than I'd anticipated and usually done in training. Lesson here is I guess: know your terrain.

    Looking at your specifics without knowing about the event, the daily mileage doesn't creep over marathon that often so you might not suffer too badly from impact damage, especially if more offroad. And hopefully plenty of time to rest each day after the run. As others say get used to running 5-7 days in a row and make the distance and difficulty variable. That 34k ascent is quite a lot so needs to be considered and factored in to you training as that works out at about 240 foot climb every mile which is not insignificant. If mostly off-road then this will mean quite a lot of walking, so practice LSR routes that are tough enough to make you do some hiking up hills and perhaps do a long hike at hard pace without running every few weeks.

    Best of luck, quite jealous as sounds a good adventure.

  • No advice to offer, but Claire Maxted (editor of Trail Running magazine) did this year's Coastal Challenge. A fair bit on her blog about it and I would anticipate that they will probably be doing a big feature on it soon, so probably worth keeping an eye out...

  • sean Oc 4sean Oc 4 ✭✭✭

    Andry - Ian Corless has a podcast that is worth listening too; he interviewed some guys that done this race a couple of weeks ago.  One of them broke himself.

  • Guys, thanks again for your all advice.

    I've just listened to the Ian Corless Talk Ultra podcast about TCC - it's got some great insights about the race. Key take way being don't go out to hard in the early stages and take good care of yourself. Proper recovery between stages is paramount. As Sean Oc 4 says one guy pushed himself over the edge.  

  • I did the TCC this year but only the shorter category, so my training regime may not be so relevant.  Days 1 and 6 were the same for us but the other days we joined further along the course, at checkpoint 1, or 2.

    Many people found the heat a real challenge (high 30s, total humidity) but I strangely liked this.  What was a real challenge were the hills though - very steep, very long.  If I knew then what I know now I would have done a lot more hill training including speed hiking for those sections just too steep to run.  Some kind of practice tackling technical single-track downhills - rocks and jungle - would help to, though can't really replicate that here.

    The only other thing I would change would be to take a bigger and airier tent - unless you like trying to sleep in a sweatbox!

  • @Orange8 - am I to believe then that the following extract from the organizers website might not be entirely accurate?!

    "Base camp is setup by the race team, to which your luggage is transported. So you can expect your nights to pass physically spent, but pleasurably so, cradled comfortably in hammocks or tents."



  • That's perfectly accurate - but it does depend on your tent. I had a cheapo tent with little ventilation but still managed OK. Best to go for one with a mesh inner that you can leave the outer off, as long as it doesn't rain.  The race is run in the dry season but it is still the rain forest.  We had 2 nights of rain out of the six.

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