Last Updated on January 22, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
Have you signed up for your first 100 kilometer ultramarathon, and you’re in need of a training plan? Or perhaps it won’t be your first 62(ish) mile ultra finish, but this time, you’re looking for a schedule to follow? I’ve got you covered with this free 100K ultramarathon training plan & guide.
If you’re new here: hi, I’m Heather Hart. I’m an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, full time running coach specializing in ultramarathon distance clients, and an ultra runner myself. Together, my husband and I run Hart Strength & Endurance Coaching, where we’ve helped countless runners cross finish lines from 5K to 100+ miles.
The first time I finished a 100K ultramarathon, I had two very polarizing thoughts. On one hand, I couldn’t believe that my body had just run 62 miles! It was the furthest I had ever run at once, by over 10 miles, and I was incredibly proud of myself. On the other hand, it occurred to me that I’d have to run 38 more miles to reach a 100 mile finish line. I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud at that realization, and at how impossible running another 50K+ felt at the time. It’s for those very reasons that I think the 100K is such a rewarding distance – it’s long, it’s tough, but it’s not 100 miles.
Am I Ready to Run a 100K Ultramarathon?
If you’re familiar with my blog and other training guide posts, you’ll know I don’t sugar coat this topic. Do I think anyone can, in theory, run an ultra? Yes. Do I think just anyone should run an ultra? Well…not necessarily.
In short: I don’t want to see anyone get hurt because they were woefully unprepared to hop into ultra distances.
So that said, I personally recommend aspiring ultrarunners have a few years of shorter distance endurance running/ regular training experience before deciding to tackle a 100K. Having that physical experience and a solid running base will give you the best chances for success in both completing your race and making it through your training cycle injury free.
In addition to beginning your training cycle with a solid running base, aspiring 100K ultra runners should feel comfortable running long runs over 20 miles, and should be regularly running 35-40 mile weeks while remaining injury free.
With this training plan, you should be prepared to run upwards of 50-70 miles per week (depending on your pace) across five days of workouts. Ultra training is definitely a time commitment, so I always recommend that aspiring ultra 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.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS 100K TRAINING PLAN:
Though I am a full time running coach, I wanted to provide a basic, first time 100K ultramarathon training plan for those who prefer to be self guided, do not need a detailed plan, or who simply aren’t ready for the commitment of working with a coach. While the benefits of working with a coach are invaluable, believe me, I understand it’s not for everyone, or may simply not be financially feasible.
Which is why this plan is 100% free.
The beginner 100K training plan is very basic, and frankly, pretty similar to the 50 mile plan. I prescribe distances, and will give you a general outline of what you should do during those distances. The exact workout? That’s up to you.
This plan also does not address course specifics: is your race flat and beginner friendly? Or is it super technical with a ton of vertical change? These are things you need to take into consideration – and train on similar terrain.
If you need – or want – more specific help, Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching would be more than happy to discuss the possibility of one-on-one coaching to give you a more detailed outline and support to reach your specific ultramarathon goals.
The mileage in this plan slowly and safely builds over 24 weeks, with cutback weeks every 3-4 weeks, to allow your body – and mind – to recover and rebuild. The plan finishes off with a cutback week followed by a 3 week taper, ensuring you are rested, recovered, and ready for race day.
A brief run down of what to expect while following this 100K training plan…
Base building runs:
The majority of your runs should be done at an easy, aerobic pace. I tell my clients that they should run these at a “conversational pace”. In other words, a pace where you can carry on a conversation with a running partner, without feeling as though you are gasping for breath or struggling to speak.
Bonus points if you can actually sing a song instead of simply talk.
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.
Hill and speedwork
Wednesdays are designed to be a strength building run – either a speed or hill workout. Unless you are racing an incredibly flat course, chances are you will cover a significant amount of elevation over the course of 62 miles. It’s imperative that you train your legs not just for distance, but for climbing – and descending – as well.
Your base runs and long runs should include hills on your run route. However, the Wednesday workout should specifically focus on hill climbing AND descending. The mileage prescribed includes warm up and cool down. Again, what you do for that speed or hill workout is up to you. Be creative!
Long runs are truly where your body adapts to running for long periods of time, physically and mentally, and are a cornerstone of ultramarathon training. You should be doing your long runs at an easy effort pace. (Similar to the “conversational pace” of base building runs, mentioned above).
Further, long runs are the perfect “dress rehearsal” for your actual 100K. Long runs give you an opportunity to experiment with – and perfect – nutrition and hydration plans, anti chafing products, new shoes or shorts…you get the idea. So, that’s my way of reminding you to NOT forget to test these things during training, rather than wait for race day!
You’ll notice that the long runs during the base building portion of the plan give a suggested range of mileage. This gives you options, depending upon how you are feeling that day. Struggling to get through, or short on time? Go with the lower end. Feeling amazing, and don’t want to stop running? Hit the higher end of the mileage.
Back to back long runs
Back to back long runs are done to simulate and adapt to running on fatigued legs, which is something you will definitely experience in the later stages of your ultramarathon. It’s also a safer and more efficient way to increase total volume of miles for the week, without putting in extreme long distance runs.
In this training plan, the second long run is prescribed in time, rather than mileage. I find this allows each athlete to truly listen to their body and complete the long run accordingly, rather than pushing to meet an arbitrary number of miles. If you are feeling strong, your body may allow you to push a little further. Feeling beat up from a long week of training? Take it easy, and use the time as a true recovery run.
Important note: weekly mileage totals in the plan are based upon a 10:00/mile pace for the second long run. DO NOT WORRY if your pace is faster or slower, and it changes the overall weekly mileage. (I get emails about this all of the time! Depending on your pace, your weekly mileage will differ.) Stick with the prescribed time.
If you know me as a runner or a coach, you know I’m a stickler for rest days.
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.
This program includes two rest days. For more experienced athletes, one of those rest days can be used as a low impact cross training day. One day should be 100% rest. In short: for the love of all things, do not skip your rest days.
During cutback weeks, you will notice active recovery days. These workouts are designed to help promote blood flow, encourage healing, stimulate cardiovascular endurance, but remain low impact. Workouts like: swimming, biking, hiking, yoga, elliptical, etc. are all great options. Keep the effort on the lower end (avoid the urge to make this a “hard” effort workout, even if it isn’t running). If your body is exhausted and you are in need of a rest day, you can substitute the active recovery days with rest instead.
Don’t Forget Night Training
Depending on your race, the time of year it’s held, and how quickly you cover the 62 miles, chances are at some point in your 100K, you’ll be running in the dark. Don’t forget to mix up the times of day in which you complete your training runs. Get comfortable with running in the dark, as well as wearing whatever sort of required gear (headlamps, etc) needed for night running.
What about strength / cross training?
I am a huge advocate for strength training and cross training for all runners, but especially for ultrarunners. Strength training is imperative for injury prevention, and building an all around strong, balanced athlete. While I have not included strength and cross training into this 100K ultramarathon training plan, I 100% encourage you to add it in when you can. Again, for more specific and detailed help, please feel free to inquire about our coaching services.
The following training plan is designed for educational purposes, and is not a prescribed training plan for any particular individual. While I am a certified exercise physiologist and RRCA running coach, and have designed this training plan with safety in mind, you should understand that when participating in a 100K 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.
Click HERE to View the PDF version of the free 100K Ultramarathon Training Plan
Other Helpful Resources:
Check out my Ultramarathon Training & Racing tips page for countless other articles to help you on your 100K training journey. There you’ll find articles about things like ultramarathon training and racing nutrition, to how to pack a drop bag, or what to do during your 100K taper, and more.
Have any questions about this 100K ultramarathon training plan?
Do not hesitate to reach out to me, either in the comment section below, or via email ([email protected]) . I hope this training plan serves you well. If you enjoyed it (or struggled with it), please reach out and let me know !