Last Updated on December 14, 2023 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Looking for a 200 mile ultramarathon training plan to get you through a 200 mile race? You aren’t alone. The 200 mile distance is gaining popularity at a rapid speed among the ultrarunning community, with runners looking to continue pushing the limits of their endurance.
But, much like making the jump from a 50 mile ultramarathon to your first 100 miler can feel wildly intimidating, making the leap to the 200 distance may feel overwhelming.
I’ve teamed up with Brian Passenti, a UESCA certified ultrarunning coach, and two time finisher of Moab 240 Endurance Run, to bring you this detailed 200 mile ultramarathon training guide and 28 week training plan.
Brian, an accomplished ultrarunner, ran his first Moab 240 in 2020 with a time of 95:34:55. In 2022 he returned to finish with a time of 81:52:21, placing 10th male and 11th overall.
Training Plan vs. Running Coach: Which One Do You Need?
Training for a 200 mile ultramarathon is no doubt a large undertaking, and for some runners, may feel like a daunting task. So do you need a coach to train for a 200 miler?
The answer is…maybe.
As professional coaches ourselves, we recognize that not everyone is an ideal candidate for working with a running coach, for a number of reasons. In these instances, pre-written training plans can be incredibly beneficial, rather than just “winging it”.
So, if you are comfortable and confident in knowing how to alter a training plan as needed, based on your own personal progress throughout the training cycle, then you may be just fine following a pre-written training plan.
However, if you:
- Struggle staying motivated without accountability
- Feel very unsure of how to adapt your training if you end up missing a workout
- Find a training plan to be too difficult OR too easy
- Or simply want the most personalized training approach based on your fitness level and goals…
…then we highly recommend reaching out to a running coach for assistance.
200 Mile Ultramarathon Training FAQ’s:
Let’s dive into some commonly asked questions about training for a 200 mile ultra:
How Far is 200 Miles in Kilometers?
For all of our metric friends out there, 200 miles is equal to 321.869 kilometers.
A 200 mile ultramarathon is NOT a stage race, where participants run a set distance each day, stopping to sleep for the night. Rather, the goal is to cover the 200 miles as quickly as possible, stopping only when the runner deems necessary. The race clock does not stop at night.
How Long Does it Take to Run 200 Miles?
On average, it takes participants of 200 mile races between 50-100 hours (that’s 2-4 days) or more to complete the distance.
Like any ultramarathon, the length of time it takes to cover 200 miles will vary greatly based upon the terrain.
200 miles on a rubberized track will take significantly less time for a runner to complete compared to running a course with significant elevation gain and loss across more rugged terrain.
For example, Kyle Curtin currently holds the trail 200 mile record, having run the 2018 Tahoe 200 in a time of 49:27:22.
Compare that to Aleksandr Sorokin from Lithuania, who currently holds the insane record of running 319.61 km (that’s 198.6 miles) in 24 hours (which he ran in September of 2022 at the IAU 24-hour European Championships in Verona, Italy).
Examples of current course records and cutoff times for some 200 miler ultramarathons include:
- Bigfoot 200:
- Women course record – 66:43:45 (Sofi Cantilo, 2019)
- Mens course record – 51:33:45 (Michael McKnight, 2019)
- Course cutoff: 107 hours
- Tahoe 200
- Women’s course record – 49:54:36 (Courtney Dauwalter, 2018)
- Men’s course record – 49:27:22 Kyle Curtin 2018
- Course cutoff: 100 hours
- Cowboy 200:
- Women’s course record – 57:33:40 (Gibson Kelley, 2022)
- Men’s course record – 52:10:56 (Brian Kutz, 2022
- Course cutoff: 84 hours
- Hell Hole 212:
- Women’s course record: 69:29:14 (Karen Jackson, 2017)
- Men’s course record: 67:52:33 (Chris Varnadoe, 2020)
- Course cutoff: 78 hours
How Much of a 200 Mile Race Do You Actually Run?
The amount of running versus walking an athlete does during a 200 mile ultra varies greatly across the board. But it goes without saying that even the professionals walk at some point during the race.
According to Coach Brian: “strategy plays into how much is runnable. If an athlete sleeps for two hours at a few aid stations, will that rest make up for and exceed the lost time spent sleeping? It’s the age old question of the tortoise and the hare.”
Brian says that he ran approximately 80-100 cumulative miles in 2020 of the Moab 240, while walking and hiking the remaining distance. In the 2022 event, Brian ran 120-140 miles cumulatively, while walking/hiking the remaining distance.
Do You Sleep During a 200 Mile Race?
The majority of runners will sleep at some point during a 200 mile ultramarathon, but how much they sleep will vary greatly.
“I would say that the athletes that finished near me in 2020 & 2022 had much different experiences with moving consistently” says Coach Brian. “Some may have slept 90 minutes and others 6 hrs. I personally fall into the 6 hr category. At the Moab 240 in 2020 I slept approximately 6 hrs and finished in 96 hrs. In 2022 I slept about 6hrs and finished in 82 hrs.”
Brian further states: “Sleep deprivation is real and coming in with a realistic plan on how you are going to manage that is critical. In your training I suggest trying out different approaches to see what works best for you.
For me, I like caffeinated gels and coffee. I can’t do No Doze and I try to only use caffeine in the dark night hours of the event, limiting daytime usage.”
Related post: Ultramarathon Sleep Questions & Strategies Explained
Is Training for a 200 Mile Ultra Different from Training for a 100 Mile Ultra?
It may come as a surprise to hear that training for a 200 mile ultramarathon is not significantly different than training for a 100 mile event. In general, Coach Brian recommends adding approximately 10-15% more volume in an annual training plan with a 200 mile goal versus a 100 mile goal.
Naturally, the longer the race, the more training typically required to successfully complete the distance. However, a common misconception in the running world is that a race twice as long as another event will require twice as much training.
“Basic math will tell you that if I ran ‘X’ amount of miles training for my 100 miler I will need to run ‘XX’ amount of miles to train for a 200 miler and this is simply not true” says Coach Brian. “That idea is a recipe for disaster. Adding just a little more volume to your 100 mile training plan will be plenty enough.”
Brian also recommends adding in additional long back to back weekend days, as well as training with added weight. “Most of these longer events also have required gear and getting used to that extra weight in a larger pack is a smart idea.”
How Do I Know If I am Ready to Train for a 200 Miler?
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: I’m a rose-colored-glasses wearing, dream encouraging, enthusiastic cheerleader for most things in life. BUT, I don’t like seeing people getting hurt.
200 miles is a really, really long way to cover on foot, and should not be taken lightly. Ask yourself the following questions:
Consider You Ultra Training Age
In the sports science world, training age refers to the cumulative amount of time you’ve spent consistently training for a particular sport
I personally recommend aspiring 200 mile ultrarunners have at least few years of ultrarunning and regular training experience. This will ensure that the athlete has properly conditioned their body to safely withstand the stress of the workload training for – and running – a 200 mile ultramarathon requires.
Coach Brian agrees, saying: “As a coach I would really like to see a linear progression. Athletes that follow a 2-3 year trajectory tend to fare well at the 200 milers. Going through all the ultra distances from 50k to 100 miles will allow athletes to gain experience while building up to the 200 mile distance.”
Consider Your Day to Day Life
Training for a 200 miler is undoubtedly a massive time and energy commitment. I always recommend that runners really take an honest look at their day to day life, and make sure that this volume of training will fit without causing unnecessary stress.
Further: make sure your support system (spouse, kids, family, etc.) is on board. Training for a race of the magnitude of 200 miler can be a sacrifice for more than just the runner.
Here’s What You Need to Know About This 200 Mile Ultramarathon Training Plan:
Let’s dive into the specifics of this 200 mile ultramarathon training plan:
Where Should My Weekly Mileage Be to Start This Training Plan?
Aspiring 200 mile runners should begin their training with a solid running base, feeling comfortable running long runs over 20 miles, and should be regularly running 35-40 mile weeks while remaining injury free.
Runners should be comfortable with a moderate to high training volume already from previous events/seasons and should start their base building 8-10 months out.
You should also be prepared to run upwards of 60-80 miles per week across six days of workouts, as well as incorporating injury prevention strength training sessions.
Will This Work as a Moab 240 Training Plan?
Yes, this training plan is sufficient for ultramarathon distances beyond 200 miles.
The following 200 mile ultramarathon training plan is designed for educational purposes, and is not a prescribed training plan for any particular individual. While the program was designed with safety in mind for the healthy, adult ultrarunner, you should understand that when participating in a 200 mile training program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this training plan you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, and assume all risk of injury to yourself. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.
Training Cycles & Workouts:
Under the column labeled “cycle”, you’ll notice a corresponding training phase. The phases are as follows:
Base 1: Easy, Aerobic Effort
All workouts are Zone 1-2 easy effort, base building, endurance workouts. These should be performed at a “conversational pace”, or, a pace where you could easily carry on a conversation with a running partner, without feeling as though you are gasping for breath or struggling to speak.
If you’ve done any sort of lactate threshold test or zone testing, these base building runs should be done in Z1 & Z2.
Keeping the majority of your runs at this lower intensity will help prevent injury and burnout as you begin to push the larger weekly mileage volumes, and the longer distance long runs, both required of ultramarathon training.
The aerobic zone also encourages fat oxidization (using stored fat for fuel), capillary building, and building a solid endurance base. This is essentially where you become better at running slow miles for a long time.
A common misconception among many runners is that more running = faster runner, and therefore, many runners loathe rest days for fear that time off will make them lose progress. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rest days are an integral part of the training process. During rest days, your body recovers from the physical stress of workouts, rebuilds damaged tissue, and becomes stronger.
A recovery week, often referred to as a cutback or deload week, is designed to allow your body the rest and recovery it needs to properly make adaptations to the stress of training.
Recovery weeks should not be skipped.
This program includes three rest days during a recovery week. As your body and mind allow, one or two of those rest days can be used as a low impact cross training day (think: cycling, swimming, hiking, etc.). One day should be 100% rest.
Base 2 & 3:
Building on Base 1, every Tuesday during Base 2 & 3 is an interval workout. Short 3-5 minutes of Zone 3-4 effort with equal time recovery.
For more information on interval workouts, and for examples of interval workouts, please visit the post: VO2 Max Interval Workouts for Ultrarunners.
The remaining workouts are all to be done at your easy, aerobic pace.
Build 1 & 2:
During Build weeks 1 & 2, every Tuesday will remain an interval workout, as outlined above.
Now you will be adding a tempo workout on each Thursday. Tempo work is roughly 8-12 minute intervals in Zone 3-4 with roughly half the recovery of the interval- 2:1 ratio.
For more information on, and examples of, tempo workouts, please visit the post: Tempo Running Workouts – Why and How to Add Tempo Runs to your Training.
The remaining workouts are all to be done at your easy, aerobic pace.
Build 3 & 4:
During Build weeks 3 & 4, you will be shifting your workouts once again.
Every Tuesday is a Tempo workout, as outlined above.
Every Thursday is a Steady State workout. Steady state work is roughly 12-20 minute intervals in Zone 3 with roughly 5 minute recovery between.
Week 7: Practice Race
7 weeks out from your 200 mile race, we recommend incorporating a practice ultramarathon to allow you to test out, and nail down, your race day strategy, including nutrition, gear, and pacing.
This event can be a 100k, 50k, 100m event, depending on your personal preferences, and how well your body tends to recover from longer events.
If you find that it takes you multiple months to recover from a 100 miler, then we do not recommend using a 100 mile distance race as your practice event.
Covering the prescribed training volume is important, but it is not the only key to 200 mile ultra success. As always: course specificity matters.
Be sure to train on similar terrain, covering similar elevation gain and loss, and in similar temperature and environmental conditions as your goal race, whenever possible.
Although we view 200 milers as a “running” event, as we already mentioned, there will be a significant amount of hiking.
Coach Brian suggests incorporating power hiking with a weighted pack (the same pack you will be using at the event, with the required gear and some creature comforts- nothing too crazy) into your training.
Adding in an upper body strength routine of body weight exercises and core stability work is beneficial for the long haul with a weighted pack and terrain variations.
Brian says he learned this one the hard way on his first go with 200+ miles.
Further, regular strength training will help support healthy bones, ligaments, and tendons, which can lend to greater chances of successfully completing a 200 mile ultramarathon training cycle and race injury free.
For more information on how to incorporate strength training into your 200 mile training, visit the post: Simplifying Strength Training for Ultrarunners: 7 Moves to Balance Lifting & Running
200 Mile Ultramarathon Final Thoughts:
As an ultrarunner myself, with three 100 mile finishes on my resume, the thought of covering 200 miles is still a bit intimidating. So I asked Brian why he thinks ultrarunners should consider a 200 miler in their future.
“Why not?? In my experience, 200’s are more of a journey than a race (besides those top ten front runners!). Generally, the cut offs are much more generous than your 100 miler. If you are looking for that next challenge it’s right here in the 200 mile distance.
My favorite part of going 200+ miles is how it transforms me.
There are only three things you need to do during the event- eat, sleep, and move forward. Those are the easy things. It is the self-talk, rollercoaster of emotions, and micromanaging the physical distress that becomes the challenge. You come out the other end a better person from the experience.
If you have grown to love the ultra community then you will be smitten with the 200 mile community. It’s twice as nice (if that’s even possible)!”
And Brian’s final tip to prospective 200 mile ultrarunners:
“Volunteer at a 200 mile race. Pace someone at one.
In 2017 I paced at the Moab 240 sixtyseven miles. In 2019 I volunteered as an aid station captain. In 2020 I completed my first Moab 240. I gained so much knowledge from those years of helping out.”
Interested in working with Coach Brian or one of Team HSEC’s other coaches to help you reach your ultramarathon goals? Fill out the form on our website, or send us an email at [email protected].
For more ultramarathon training plans and tips, please visit the following page: https://relentlessforwardcommotion.com/ultrarunning/
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.