The 50 miler is an awesome distance to test your ultra-running mettle – in this article, I’m going to run through our top tips for 50 miler training, share advice for race day itself, and provide you guys with our free downloadable 50 mile training plans (PDF and Google Sheets formats) – enjoy!
Running 50 miles is well into ultra-running territory, and means you have to train and prepare accordingly.
While shorter-distance events such as marathons can often be completed in a blaze of adrenaline and pain, an event like the 50 miler should be approached with discipline and rigour! Going out too hard, or skipping training and attempting to wing it, doesn’t work when it comes to running ultramarathons!
50 miles is 80.47 kilometers
A 50 miler is almost twice the length of a marathon – the strategies you may have used to run 26.2 miles won’t get you to 50 miles.
How To Approach a 50 Mile Run
If you’re new to the world of ultra-running, my advice is to be rigorous in your preparation.
When your race lasts for 7 hours or longer, practically anything can happen during that time – whether it’s injury, fatigue, stomach issues, gear problems, mental games going on . . . and it’s harder to power through any of these issues once you get into ultra-running territory. Trying to ignore those nagging blisters when you’ve still got 30 miles left on the clock is a tall ask!
That means focussing on: run training, mental training, nutrition, hydration, gear, pace strategy, and knowing what to do when the wheels come off.
For more on general ultra-running pointers, check out my other articles:
Training For a 50 Mile Race
How Long Does It Take To Train For a 50 Mile Race?
It typically takes somewhere around 4 – 6 months to get ready for a 50 miler.
A lot of this depends on your current running ability, your running history, and your race goals.
If you’re new to the world of ultra-running and don’t have a few years of solid running experience, best to give yourself up to 6 months to get yourself ready.
If you’re coming off the back of a marathon, or have previously run ultras, you can get ready for your ultra in around 4-5 months.
Regardless, I typically recommend to allow as much time as you’re willing to in order to get ready for a 50 miler.
The 50 mile training plans I share at the end of this article are designed around a 6-month schedule so suit a variety of backgrounds, and are available in PDF or Google Sheets so you can customise it around your own time frame!
50 Miler Run Training – Long Runs
Much of your training – especially if you’re new to the world of ultra-running – is going to be about preparing your body to comfortably run for several hours on end.
The Long Run is going to be the staple of your weekly training schedule. These are typically done at the weekends (as it’s when everyone has the time), and are designed to gradually increase your maximum running distance.
You want to run your long runs at a comfortable, sustainable pace – don’t try and meet any preconceived pace targets if you’re new to ultrarunning.
Your long runs essentially help you run further – specifically, they . . .
- aid in capillary development, which is the blood vessels which deliver nutrients and oxygen to muscles.
- Stress all the muscles used in your kinetic chain, the idea being you then take a break and let them recover.
- improve your cardiovascular fitness, training your heart to power your body for longer.
- boost mitochondria – these tiny cells convert fat and carbs into fuel that powers your run.
- Are great mental preparation and an opportunity to test gear, fuel, and hydration strategies for your 50 mile race.
How Long Should My Longest Long Run Be?
The ‘longest long run’ discussion is something that always rattles around ultrarunning communities, and every coach will prescribe something different.
My recommendation is that you should have completed at least one 28-30 mile run in training prior to your 50 mile run.
If you can fit in a few > 30 milers, better – as long as you aren’t over-stressing yourself.
Figuring out what the maximum long run length should be is always a trade-off between ensuring you’ve booked sufficient mileage, and avoiding overtraining issues – whether that’s injury, burnout, or mental fatigue.
My 50 mile training plans each reflect this – grab one in PDF / Google Sheets format at the bottom of this article.
50 Miler Run Training – Other Runs
Your 50 mile ultra training weekly schedule should be peppered with between 2 and 4 other runs to complement your long runs.
These mid-week runs should be moderate in length and intensity – they exist to add to your overall running mileage and continue your training, without over-stressing the system at any point.
I often include a post-long run recovery session in 50 mile training plans- this gets you used to running on tired legs.
If you’re looking to push your performance during your 50 miler, you can include 1 (or 2 max.) speed sessions per week, doing activities like interval training or hill sprints to improve your overall base speed.
Cross Training For a 50 Mile Race
Alright, guys – this is probably the number one piece of advice I want to share:
Incorporate at least one good cross training session into your weekly ultra training schedule.
Most ultra-runners don’t need much encouragement to get their miles in, but soooo many of us neglect cross training, and it hurts me!
All our 50 mile training plans – available below – include one cross-training session per week.
Cross training is important for two reasons:
- Injury prevention. By incorporating some simple core, hip, glute, and quad exercises into your routine, you’re going to massively reduce your chances of getting injured while in ultra training mode.
- Speed and Power. Focussing on those same muscles are gonna tighten things up, make you faster, more powerful…and increase your longevity on the trails.
Cross training doesn’t have to be some arduous gym session either – Youtube is filled with simple, 20-minute bodyweight workouts for runners.
If you can add some weights, all the better. Simple exercises like kettlebell swings, squats, lunges, and glute bridges make all the difference.
At the finish line of your 50 miler, look for the runners who still look comfortable and finish with a smile…they’re the ones who cross train.
Running a 50 Miler – Practical Tips From The Experts
As well as following the workouts in your 50 mile training plan, it’s important to be prepared with gear, fuelling, hydration, and mental strategies. Here are our top tips:
1. Run on Rate of Perceived Exertion, not Pace
Rate of Perceived Exertion is basically a fancy way of saying you should estimate how hard you’re pushing yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. The following table should help a little…
Unless you’re an experienced ultra-runner, your long runs and your race should generally be done at around a 5 out of 10.
In other words, it should be a pace at which you could comfortably maintain a conversation, and feels sustainable.
If you’re pushing harder – especially in the first half of your run – then there’s a good chance you’re going to pay for it in the second half.
Don’t get hung-up on some pre-ordained pace or finish time – listen to your body, run on RPE.
2. Get a Good Ultra-running GPS
A decent GPS device is pretty much mandatory, in order to log your training and race itself.
This way you can easily follow your mileage and compare with your 50 mile training plan, and chart your progress.
The bad news is that once you get into ultra running, most regular GPS watches don’t cut it. Their battery isn’t designed to be in GPS mode for several hours, so they crap out. The Apple Watch tends to last for about 5-6 hours, for example.
So invest in a decent ultra-running GPS – here are my current recommendations.
3. Trial Your Gear, Fuel, and Hydration – Extensively
Use your weekly long uns to stress test all your gear, as well as your nutrition and hydration strategy for your race.
If you’re planning to eat one gel every hour during your race, trial this approach a couple of times in training.
Same goes for all your gear – running shoes, socks, clothes, backpack, hydration gear…the works!
4. Realise That Ultrarunning Is As Much A Mental Game As A Physical One
Ultramarathons are where things get …weird.
When you’re out on trails running for several hours without stopping, the brain plays funny tricks on you.
It’s easy to lose track of your nutrition or hydration, to have bursts of adrenaline followed by troughs of despair.
And when you’re having a hard time, your noggin can start to tell you it’s time to throw in the towel. It’s easy to start to rationalise reasons for pulling out, for returning to the comfort of the hotel or home, and why you didn’t really care about your ultra in the first place.
You should prepare yourself for these mental battles:
Be conservative in your pacing strategy to avoid hitting the physical lows that lead to tough situations.
Remember that anything can happen during an ultra, and dropping out is a distinct possibility – no matter how prepared you are.
Don’t get too attached to a specific pace or finishing time – focus on just putting one foot in front of the other, not over-exerting yourself, and getting to the finish line.
Grab Your FREE 50 Mile Training Plan
We’ve developed our FREE downloadable 50 mile ultra training plans (PDF and Google Sheets format) for you to grab, customise, print out, and use as you please!
Each training plan has been developed by our team of certified ultra-running coaches, and road-tested by thousands of ultra-runners.
Our 50 mile training schedules are divided into three categories:
- ‘Just Finish’ 50 Mile ultra training plan
- ‘Improver’ 50 Mile ultra training plan
- ‘Performer’ 50 Mile ultra training plan
This 50 Mile training plan ‘Just Finish’ is designed for runners who are simply looking to comfortably complete their event.
With 6 months to prepare, we focus on very gradually increasing the weekly mileage at a manageable rate, so you don’t end up burning out.
Ideally you should be able to run 3-5 miles without stopping before you begin this plan, but you can choose to adopt a run/walk strategy too!
This ‘Improver’ 50 Mile training plan is designed for runners who are looking to challenge themselves – perhaps to set a new PR, or simply to run their best race.
Designed to be run over 6 months, the plan features one speed day per week, and more mileage than the ‘Just Finish’ plan – so you’ll have a stronger base and better running economy.
This Performer 50 Mile Ultramarathon training plan is for experienced runners looking to push themselves!
It features six days of training per week, including two days of speed work, long runs, and recovery runs (which get gradually longer in length).
Take Your Training Further With The Ultra Runner’s Playbook
We’ve just scratched the surface with this article…if you’re looking for a deep-dive into the world of ultra-running, then check out my Ultra Runner’s Playbook!
The Playbook is my premium course for anyone looking for a complete online ultramarathon coaching solution…
With over 5hrs of video content and a ton of downloadable material, we cover:
- Detailed daily training plans for ultramarathons, based on running ability
- Ultra training modalities broken down; in other words, how to train smart
- Ultra running strategies for success
- Expert videos and guides on . . .
- Having an ultrarunning mindset
- Balancing training with your other time commitments
- Maintaining motivation throughout your ultra journey
- Having an ultrarunning mindset
- How to become an injury-free ultra-runner
- Strength and resistance training for improving performance and reducing injury
- Fuelling and nutrition for ultrarunners
- How to achieve your ultramarathon goals
- And plenty more expert interviews, articles, and guides!