50K Training

50K Training Plan

Congratulations on plunging into the wild world of ultra running!  You may be here looking for advice on running your 1st 50K race or seeking out some different strategies.  Either way, I hope you find something helpful below.

You're probably a road runner coming off a marathon training plan so just realize that in the world of ultras a 50K does not necessarily mean you will run "31 miles."  Many trails just don't come out to exactly this amount and in some cases I've seen a 50K course be closer to 35 miles.  Don't worry, you'll just get more for your money.

Before you read any of this please understand a few things:

1. I'm not a doctor and you should always get a health professional to clear you for training before running one step.

2. I'm not trying to win races. Most of the time, I'm not even pushing myself into "race" mode where I go as hard/far as I can. I enjoy the experience of running a ultra and finishing it is my primary goal.

3. As of writing this, I've only finished 51 ultra marathons. I'm not really qualified to write something like this, but so many people ask me about training I just thought it would be easier to post a copy. At the time of writing this there were a few other training plans available on the net. It may be wise for you to consider several of them and work with what you think is best for you.

4. I believe in low mileage training. If you're looking for 50+ mile week training plans then this is not for you. I don't have anything against those plans, but I'm sharing what is working best for me. I've tried both and this is the one I prefer. I'm married with two children, have a full time career, and other things I enjoy doing in life. Running fits around my life, my life does not fit around running.

5. I've stolen nearly all of these ideas from other runners with more experience than me. I'm still learning too.

How do I know when I'm ready to take on a 50K race?

In my opinion, you should have been running for at least a year. The more 13.1 and 26.2 race you've completed the better.  I highly suggest at least running one marathon before going after your 1st 50K,

If you don't have a burning passion to run a specific 50K race, then don't sign up for it. This passion and fire in your belly will help you finish when the going gets tough during the race. Signing up for a race that doesn't really mean anything to you opens the door for poor training habits and a DNF (did not finish) on race day.

50K Training Plan

This plan takes into account that you already have a big enough endurance base built up to complete a moderately difficult marathon under five hours.

I'm going to explain workouts day by day instead of giving you a long list of numbers and weeks in a chart. You're smart enough to build your own plan from whats provided. 

I believe that simply adding 10% more mileage to most marathon training programs is adequate preparation to complete most 50K races.  Here is how I have trained and completed them.

Monday - Speed or Hill Workout. Do whichever you like, but alternate them at least every two weeks. There are a ton of these workouts at your disposal online. Try them all - it will be fun! Your mileage will be between 3-6 miles. Always warm up & down for 5-10 minutes before and after every workout.

Tuesday - Easy Run. 3 miles. Keep an easy pace, even if you feel like going hard. If you're very tired from Monday mix in some speed walking.

Wednesday - Easy Run. 4 miles. Keep an easy pace, even if you feel like going hard.

Thursday - Tempo run 4 miles. Once again, search online for Tempo Runs and you will have plenty of training ideas to use.

Friday - Rest Day, Cross Train, or run 3-4 easy miles if you are on a low mileage week. You may even consider power walking this day because you will need this skill during your 50K. Don't be ashamed to power walk, you may end up needing to do this during the race!

Saturday - Long Run 10-22 miles. At least once per month or every other month try to use a race as a training run for your 50K if possible. Or include running friends during your long run. Be sure to try and do these runs on a similar course that you will run your 50K on. Your goal during these long runs is to find a comfortable pace that you can keep doing, even after your run is finished. Experiment with your gear & nutrition on these runs too and find what works best.

Sunday - Rest or about once every six weeks do a 4-8 miler on this day as a back to back run in conjunction with Saturday. If you do run, then take Monday off or run just a few slow miles.

Your goal will be to average about 30 miles per week leading up to your 50K mile race over a 6-12 month period. Ocassionly putting in a 40 mile week and sometimes as little as 15 miles. You will be ready to tackle your 50K on race day if you stick to this plan.

You should never go over 45 miles in a training week.

As you train use the popular method of building mileage by adding 5-10% onto your weekly mileage and then cutting back 25% every three to four weeks. In other words, you should have a relatively low mileage week around 15-20 miles at least once per month.

If you get sick, then rest. If you get injured, then rest and/or go to the Doctor. Rest is just as important as training. So is your diet - try to eat as much nutritious food as possible.

The race!

As I said earlier, only sign up for a 50K if you REALLY have a passion to run and finish it. There are so many to choose from now with varying terrain and locations. Pick the one that excites you most. Don't be afraid to make a financial investment into the race. This will also help you push forward during your toughest moments.

The course will determine a lot of your logistics, but here are some tips for your first 50K:

Realize that the race will NOT go exactly as you've planned it out. Anything can happened during 31 miles and it will. The runners who find themselves crossing the finish line are the one who adjust well while on the course. If your gear fails, you get blisters, you lose a headlamp, etc, don't let it get you down! There is a way to fix just about everything and get you back into the run.

Live in the moment. As you pass over the 26 mile mark it is easy to get intimidated and frustrated knowing that you have so many more miles to go.  You may be running into "unknown territory" at this point and not sure of how you body is going to respond.  Enjoy the "Now" and the beauty & friends you have around you. You should constantly be thinking what do I need to do to take care of myself? Eat, drink, change socks, take a salt tab, etc...If everything is fine with you, then don't be afraid to reach out to another runner who may be struggling. This can give you both a big lift.

I'm certainly no expert on ultra running, but hope that these tips may help you in your journey to finish a 50K race. If you have a specific question that is not covered here email me and I will try to help you with it. If I don't have an answer then I can probably find someone who does. jasonsullivan27@gmail.com

Best wishes on your 50K Race!


  1. Thanks for this post! I'm running my first 50K in a few weeks and am feeling nervous about my training. This makes me feel a lot more confidant!