What's your real weekly mileage?

I've signed up for my first Ultra (Chilterns Challenge 31 miler in July). I've read a lot of training plans, and I must admit, they're very scary! Most of them recommend 5 runs a week and 40miles/wk at a minimum.

I can only find time for 2 or max 3 runs a week, mostly a 15-18 mile long run on a Sunday and then one or two 5-6 mile runs in the evenings after work on about 50% trails. Last year I did my only marathon and I had a very similar training profile, which was about half the total mileage the training plan demanded, but I finished comfortably with 4:12. I'm definitely not after speed, just the experience!

So formal training plans aside, how often and how far do you real ultra runners actually manage to run on a weekly basis ahead of a race?


  • tricialitttricialitt ✭✭✭

    I just completed a 53 mile ultra about 45 mins within cut off, off the basis of peak weekly mileages of about 32 miles, so don't stress.

    I did the same run last year, and took 11 minutes off my time this year- I think going up from 4 runs per week to 5, and about 25 miles to just over 30 gave me the extra 10 minutes of pace, and I enjoyed it more, being less stressed about the whole thing, but don't be frightenend into thinking that you can't do a short ultra on marathon- sytle training. The difference is that you'll want to practice carrying more stuff, walking a bit, and eating proper food (gels are no good for longer races- you need pork pies, pizza, rice pudding, and crisps!).

    Im sure you can't get away with low mileage trainig for a 100 miler, but you definately can for short ultras of 30-4- miles, as long as all you aim to do is finish inside cut offs, and you don't mind bein gat the back of the field ( which is a lovely, friendly place to be!)

    As far as finding time... can you commute to work etc to get in a  little extra running?

  • I've been running marathons and ultra's for over ten years and my recent thinking is that I'm not sure of the value of big weekly mileages for ultra's if each session doesn't address a specific training need. Say, ask yourself what real value running 5m x 5 days a week adds other than to bulk up the mileage. I also recall an old marathon training plan saying the LSR shouldn't be more than x% of total mileage, I'm not sure its sensible to apply this to the non-elite ultra runner with a 9-5 and other commitments.

    I've looked more and more over the years to try and have a purpose for each training session throughout the week, no junk miles run at a non-challenging pace or distance (or this is my aspiration), all the while fitting it around my life. Barring the weeks I do an LSR longer than 20m I probably usually hit 30-50 mpw. An example of a normal week for me:

    Sun - LSR - Usually off-road and at a pace that is comfortably challenging if I'm doing up to 15m. Usually done pre-breakfast as part of a drive to become more efficient at running on fat stores. Practicing or experimenting with hydration/nutrition for upcoming events on run or without any nutrition during for some of these.
    Mon - After work, 4m, at a semi-challenging pace (legs might be a bit tired from day before).
    Wed - Long warm-up run to local track, track session with club, long cool down run back. This can add up to more than 10m and with the hard work in the middle is my key strengthening run of the week. I believe more efficient at speed will translate to the long and slow too.
    Thu - Short WU, Step reps, Short CD - Might be as little as 1-1.5m. But run on tired legs this is good for me.
    Fri - Medium-Long run to work - before breakfast, carrying my work gear, breakfast and lunch in pack. Usually with some off-road in there as my target events are usually trail.

    From above you might notice a lack of real long LSR that would be needed for an ultra? Well I know some people have time to maybe do an LSR exceeding 20m on various occasions in a month, but I don't want to be sacrificing family time at weekend too often. So per above I do my weekly LSR quite fast usually, then once per month if I'm training for a 50+ miler I'll take a Monday off work and do a proper LSR with a whole day to play with. I believe this works well for me and this year I have topped up my 'pretty average' weekly mileages with 30, 40, 50, 60 and back-to-back 30 and 40 milers. Ok so I had two days off for the last runs - but this is specific to the event I'm doing which is a multi-dayer, so the second run on tired legs seemed a good conditioner and progress check.

    So in summary my thoughts are think quality, not quantity and tailor that to your own time constraints. Some quantity is needed, but running 20-30 LSR every week, and 40m+ MPW isn't strictly necessary if your not fighting it out with the elites.

  • I think a lot depends on your history. You've only run one marathon and now going onto an ultra.

    I think you'll struggle more than people who have just more miles in their legs.

    So if you want comparisons you need someone in the same boat as you.

    Last year I almost PB'd a marathon off one long run of 13 miles - but I've done lots of marathons and the odd ultra. I'd not recommend that as a valid strategy.

    If you're pushed for time - why run ultras?
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭

    I'd echo Cougie's point that if you're pushed for time then why not aim for shorter, but faster, races?
    I've done a few ultras and multiple marathons, and the staple I found was weekend back to backs, i.e. around 30-40 miles over two days with another 2-3 midweek runs of between 6-9 miles.

    I think most of us have mustered a marathon off poor (by conventional standards) training: I've done London off a 10 mile long run and did the Brecons marathon at the weekend after one 16 miler and 3 x 13 milers in the past 6 weeks.

    Bottom line is you can probably get away with 30-40 miles a week but be aware that this won't be sustainable long term.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Agree with Cougie and Dustin. If running 5 times and 40 miles a week looks scary then ultras may not be for you. You may be able to make it round but it won't be a fun experience.

    Just for reference I've benn running seriously since 2011 and currently train for Marathons (mainly) and the odd 50k and 50miler and average somewhere between 50 and 60 miles a week over 6-7 runs.
  • PG3PG3 ✭✭✭

    I think you could probably get away with it doing 3x runs a week but not 2.  You could follow the 3days a week marathon plan but add a few more miles on to the longer runs and make them a little slower.

  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭

    30ish but I struggle over 50m and think you need to put in more miles if you are going further. 

  • Steve RileySteve Riley ✭✭✭

    Typically 20-30 miles a week here. I did my first trail marathon off a longest of 15, and first ultra off a longest of 21. They do get easier as you do more and like Cougie above I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a strategy, but if you're reasonably pig headed you can normally get round.

  • OP hasn't been back. Maybe out getting the miles in?
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