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20week 50k Training Plan - Outline

Updated: Apr 13


Runbum FREE 50k training plan

Who I am

Sean Run Bum Blanton, race director and founder of Run Bum Races. I’m a 300 time ultra-marathon runner. I’ve finished in first place, last and everything in between. Thanks for supporting my 12 years of races and my “Bend Don’t Break: Running Podcast”. With Run Bum Races, I put on 10 trail running races a year throughout the South East based entirely on scenery and the experience. I have been running ultra-marathons for 15 years and want to share that knowledge and those experiences with you! I personally feel that any day if I need to or have to, I can pick up and run a 50k. Now I may not be able to win or race all out based on that but I always try to just keep my body in a state of being able to run that distance. After all, 50k is the new marathon. I also find them easier and more fun than a marathon. My goal for running, personally, is to run until I die and to keep it fun. I try to never be in a rush with training or with trying to progress. You have to accept the slow build of things and do the work.


Disclaimer


First things first. I am not a coach. I have and used to coach people online for many years prior to race directing. I also was the head XC coach for a high school in Atlanta. This entire plan / guide is a suggestion. Everyone always wants what I have to do to be sure that I can finish the said distance. The answer is you will never be sure you can finish something. That’s the point of ultra running. You train hard and constantly and the race should be easy. This is just a training guide and I recommend for the actual race itself you refer to my HOW TO RUN A 50K. I also think if you have the money and dedication to do so then you should hire a coach. Make sure it’s someone who’s well known, respected and liked with many runners they have helped. Coaches charge $75-$450 a month. Famous runners = more money. Sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes not. I prefer a local coach if you’re not an elite runner. You want someone to hold you accountable while being knowledgeable about training with heart rate, telling you how to race and someone who’s going to analyze what you’re doing. You want them to adapt to you. I would love to help everyone finish all the races in the world but time simply does not allow it so thus I have made this guide. I truly hope this helps you, inspires you and gets you on the right path. I love this sport and helping it be accessible to people. If you find this helpful please share it. Consider running or volunteering at one of my races. I hope I get to see you / meet you at a run or race. I have several videos on Youtube about trail and ultra running as well as my “Bend Don’t Break: Running Podcast” on all platforms for listening.


Okay here we go!


Consistency trumps all else here with this.

You miss one workout? Oops. You miss key workouts and regular runs? Then you may finish or you may not, it is really the flip of a coin here. You won’t ever know unless you maintain consistency. So I encourage you to get after it as best you can. Finish ways to live by my motto “BEND DON’T BREAK”. It means to be adaptable.

For example, it’s 100 degrees outside and I have to run 10 miles. Slow down, mix in walking, go on a treadmill, break the runs up for multiple runs for the day etc. Find ways to succeed, not reasons to cut things short.

You compromise in your life and it only gets easier to do less and give up.


Goals of this Training Plan


Simple breakdown of what we are trying to do here with this guide is the following.

1. Slowly build mileage while building strength 2. Slowly build strength / flexibility 3. Work your long runs longer 4. Always be moving the day after the long run whether that be biking, swimming or power hiking. 5. Every 4th week have an easier week 6. Get used to running, checking your heart rate / perceived effort. 7. Slowly start incorporating some race specific training in aka hills, tempo, wearing your pack etc


The 10 Rules of Training

Basically there’s a couple rules to adhere to when training. I will break them down as quickly as possible and all the what to run/ when/ etc. is how you should be doing this. The point of training is really injury prevention and while slowly building endurance. One should not build longer miles and more banging on their body without strength training / stretching / cross training.

1. Listen to your body!


Above all else, listen to your body! If something hurts… stop. If it continues then see a professional!


2. Be Adaptable


If the plan says run 5 miles and you’re exhausted then maybe cross train or rest. We are not computers. We are humans with so many x factors that affect us from day to day like sleep, stress, anxiety, etc.

3. The rule of 10%.


I’d really suggest less than 10% like 5%. This means do not increase your mileage or time on feet by more than 10% each week. This will help the body SLOWLY adapt. You shouldn’t want to all of a sudden be able to run a 50k tomorrow. I mean you do WANT that but most likely you don’t want the physical setbacks it may cause you. Injuries suck!

4. Never have back to back hard workouts.


My advice is when doing a long run, speed workout or hard hill workout when maxing out your HR / beating yourself up bad… you need to take an easy day to two days to let your body recover. I am not saying don’t run or don’t exercise. No. I am saying just don’t go hard or long until you feel recovered.

5. Run slow, go long.


A lot of what I will suggest to you revolves around heart rate / perceived effort. The majority of your training will be easy paced all day running. That other 20% could be some faster paced or harder workouts. Note that based on age, health, and other factors that the hard workouts may not be something you want to do on your body.

6. Train on the Terrain


Try to simulate the course you’re running as much as possible during training! IF its hilly then run hills, if its mountain then do bigger climbs with power hiking, if its flat run flat etc.

7. Figure out what works in training.


You need to find what shoes, food, hydration, and pack works. Try it all. Don’t try new things during the race.

8. Accountability


Find groups to run with or friends to log miles with. Training is always easier and more fun with friends!

9. Be inquisitive


Ask ask ask ask and ask more questions.

The “Run Bum Races” private Facebook group is a great place to ask newbie questions with no judgement, especially if it is about one of the Run Bum Races we do.

10. Have fun.


If it's not fun then why are we doing it. I try to mix my workouts to be half work half play. Running new places or doing runs I love.

Step 1 Commit to a Race

SIGN UP FOR A RACE before the training starts. I see all these people training for races that they haven’t signed up for. First of all the race might sell out especially if it is one of ours as they all sell out WAY in advance. Sometimes in hours or days. I also think that if you don’t sign up a race you’re not all in. You’re banking on having an out. Having a way to just call it early. Or if training isn’t going right or you don’t feel like it then you can quit. That’s BS. If you want to do this then you need to go all in and commit to it. Did you know that Run Bum 50ks have a 90% + finish rate? Grayson Highlands 50k, Sky to Summit 50k and Cloudland 50k that is. Our Quest for the Crest with 12,000 ft of gain is about 70% for obvious reasons. Excuses. Everyone has a family, a hard job and crappy life things that happen to them. So what makes you different from everyone else who finds time to train? It goes back to how bad do you want it? Only you can answer that. I am not here to motivate you but rather help you achieve your goal.

When to start the training plan…

So you know what type of runner you are. If you’re coming from the roads then you’re likely running a good amount. I don’t want you to stop road running but I definitely would like you to start running trails a bit more. Hopefully you have trails to run. A little bit below I will go over some workouts for those who don’t live near trails or vert to be able to simulate that. While its not perfect and not the same, it will help. This training plan is taking into account that you’re not going from couch to 50k. I would assume that most people are running 10-30 miles per week comfortably coming into this training plan. However if you’re more than that then you can start in this where you are or when you find it. Meaning it’s a 20 week training plan if you’re running already and you start 15 weeks in or 10 weeks in it may not be that bad but again remember the law of 10%. Don’t increase weekly mileage by more than 10%.

Unlike road marathon training plans that have you run 22 miles before the marathon, the longest run we will do here is likely 20 miles. Why? I feel that anything over that is almost like running the 50k itself. However I will have you doing 2-3 of those prior to the event as a comfort thing. I think the majority of most ultra-runners like to run long every weekend. This can be counterproductive to recovery, speed etc. We want to be deliberate with our training. Really we want our bodies to adapt to being able to always run or always go a little more. I know most training plans have regimented days when to do stuff. For me, I try to slowly make my easy runs slightly longer while also building strength for climbing (for hilly / mountain races).

What type of runner are you?


Do you stick to the plan above all else? Do you use it as a loose guide? OR Do you say screw it I’m going to wing it? I have done all of the above. If you are a brand new runner I recommend the first 2 or something in-between them. Winging it can work but usually leads to bad times, injury and lots of pain. I am here to give you the tools to not feel like poop during the race.

Heart rate training vs perceived effort

I love heart rate training. IF you are a numbers / statistics person then you likely will too. Most of us have GPS watches that have heart rate reading capabilities. These are HIGHLY inaccurate. The only accurate way is to have a chest strap monitor that connects with your watch or phone. Google and read more about that. But for training I like to use this to get used to what efforts feel like. Pace means nothing as one day for you to run a 9 minute mile your HR might be 130 and another day it’s at 170 based on so many different things. It helps me know when I’m going too hard. If you get your HR too high this is where you get muscle breakdown etc. Which is actually okay when we want to do that but you can’t and shouldn’t for every run. Injuries are weird. Usually they appear in an instant, not slowly. So this is why it’s important to respect “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Okay so let’s tackle this already:

I want to give you this guide but also explain WHY we are doing things so you understand the importance. This plan assumes that you have a base level of fitness and can comfortably run for at least 5-6 miles (8-10 kilometers) without any major issues. If you're a beginner, it's essential to start with a lower intensity plan and gradually build up to this level. Always listen to your body, and if you experience any pain or discomfort, consider consulting a professional or adjusting the plan accordingly.

Before you Start: Base Training


Before you start, establish your weekly running schedule. Aim for 3 to 5 running days per week, with 2 to 3 rest or cross-training days. On rest days, you can do light activities like walking, yoga, or stretching to aid recovery. I cannot emphasize enough that “motion is lotion” if something hurts while running, back off, do another activity and rest it. With that being said. You need to figure out what works best for you. I know a lot of folks, myself included, that do low volume but higher intensity. I know people that run long and slow every run. So training is where you get to push a little and then listen. Listen to your body. What are we doing here?

Basically building you from 3 run days a week with less time to longer runs and more of them with active recovery. Also every 4th week we take an easier week to help your body recover! Your body may need rest more often or sooner. Please adapt the plan accordingly. I also have Mondays as rest or easy days aka giving you a 2 day recovery post long run but also Mondays are always hectic in my world as it's the start of the week. IF you NEED a Monday run then adapt the plan accordingly. I also put total minutes of running per week so you can see how it slowly builds then backs off on the 4th week. I find the hardest week is always taper week. You get really hungry, irritable and start doubting yourself. This is expected. Watch what you eat, go for walks, be with your friends and family, cross train but all easy effort and not overdoing it. Like you don’t need to try and PR your deadlift while training for a 50k. Unless you’re just “that person”. Personally I find that a run the next day after a long run every other time is always nice and helps your body adapt more to the long runs. That’s just me. But also for the beginning training plan I don’t always recommend it as you don’t know your body well enough. One thing you will find in this guide is I truly feel that doing the same thing every time week in and week out isn’t always the best so I like to change it up and keep the body guessing. If that’s something you’re into then go for it. If you want the same training days every week because you need it for your schedule then please by all means adapt it.

***What type of 50k are you doing?***

Flat 50k

Under 2,000 ft gain or less than 100 ft per mile

Hilly 50k

2,000 - 4,500 ft gain

Mountain

4,500 - 8,000 ft gain

WTF mountain

8,000 ft + aka my Quest for the Crest 50k with 12,000 ft gain All of this to say the amount of climbing you do during training should be related to the amount in the race.


How to Warm Up


Warming up before a run is essential to prepare your body for the physical activity ahead and reduce the risk of injury. A proper warm-up helps increase blood flow to your muscles, improves flexibility, and mentally prepares you for the run.


Here's a simple warm-up routine you can follow:

* Start with light aerobic activity (please note that this doesn’t count towards your run minutes): Begin with 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity to raise your heart rate and warm up your muscles. You can do brisk walking, slow jogging, or cycling at an easy pace.

* Dynamic stretching: Dynamic stretching involves moving your muscles through a full range of motion. It's more effective than static stretching for warming up. Perform each of the following exercises for about 20-30 seconds

*Leg swings (front-to-back and side-to-side): Hold onto a wall or support and swing one leg forward and backward, then sideways. Repeat on the other leg.

* Arm circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and make small circles with your arms. Gradually increase the size of the circles.

* Hip circles: Stand with your hands on your hips and rotate your hips in a circular motion. Repeat in both directions.

* High knees: March in place, lifting your knees up towards your chest as high as you comfortably can.

* Butt kicks: Jog in place, kicking your heels up towards your glutes.

* Strides or accelerations: Do a few short bursts of running at an increased pace. Gradually accelerate to near your race pace, and then gradually slow down. Repeat these strides for about 50-100 meters each.

*Specific warm-up drills (optional): Depending on the type of run you're doing (e.g., speed work, hills), you may want to include specific warm-up drills. These drills can help activate specific muscle groups and improve running mechanics. Some common drills include high knees, skipping, and bounding.

*Mindful breathing: Take a few deep breaths to relax and focus your mind on the upcoming run. Focus on your goal for the workout. Controlled breathing can help reduce pre-run jitters and improve oxygen intake during the run. Remember, the warm-up should be tailored to your fitness level and the intensity of the upcoming run. If you're planning a very easy run, a shorter warm-up might suffice. On the other hand, if you're about to do high-intensity training or a long race, a more thorough warm-up is beneficial. After completing your warm-up, start your run at a relaxed pace, gradually building up to your intended pace. If it's cold outside, make sure to dress appropriately and consider extending your warm-up to compensate for the colder temperatures. Lastly, listen to your body and adjust your warm-up routine based on how you feel on a particular day.

Workouts for those with no hills

Treadmill

I think one of the best things one can do is run on the treadmill at a 5-10% grade aka a “douche grade climb” Below I give you several workouts from intervals to build strength, Anaerobic capacity to make you faster to long stuff to make you stronger on the hills. I do recommend that after ALL vert workouts whether it be on the treadmill, stairmaster or outside, is that you ALWAYS go for a flat or easy run after finishing it. Because tell me when during a race besides the finish line you get to take it easy after going up n down.?

One thing to focus on here is running form. It’s so easy for us to just get up on the balls of our feet or toes when running uphill. The 4-10% range you can still hit mid foot and really be motoring uphill. For the beginner runner we can focus on just jogging uphill. For the more experienced we want to focus on a FULL stride here, not just shuffling. Stride length and cadence determine our speed. You will max out cadence before you max out stride length I can guarantee you that. So building POWER on that 5-7% grade in our full stride will only make you faster at all aspects of your running. An incline treadmill uphill running workout is an excellent way to simulate hill training, build strength, and improve your running performance. Hill workouts are beneficial for increasing leg power, developing better running form, and boosting cardiovascular fitness. Here's a sample incline treadmill uphill running workout: Warm-up: Start with a 5-10 minute warm-up at a comfortable pace on the treadmill with no incline. This will help increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare your body for the more challenging workout ahead.

Workout:

Moderate Incline Run:

* Set the treadmill incline to 4-6% (adjust as needed based on your fitness level). * Run at a steady pace for 5 minutes. Focus on maintaining good form and using your arms to help propel you uphill.

Interval Hill Sprints:

* Set the treadmill incline to 8-10% (adjust as needed). * Sprint at a fast pace for 30 seconds. * Reduce the speed and walk or jog slowly for 1 minute to recover. * Repeat the sprint and recovery intervals for a total of 8-10 rounds.

Steady Uphill Climb:

* Set the treadmill incline to 6-8%. * Run at a steady pace for 8-10 minutes. This segment should be challenging but sustainable for the duration.

Incline Intervals:

* Set the treadmill incline to 10-12%. * Alternate between 1 minute of running at a challenging pace and 1 minute of recovery (walking or slow jogging) for 10-15 minutes.

Descending Incline Run:

* Gradually reduce the incline of the treadmill after the incline intervals. * Run at a slightly faster pace on a flat or slightly inclined surface for 5-10 minutes to gradually cool down.

Cool-down:

Finish with a 5-minute cool-down at a slow walking pace on a flat surface to bring your heart rate back down and allow your muscles to recover.

Stairmaster

A Stairmaster workout can be an excellent way to simulate power hiking, build strength, and improve your cardiovascular fitness for hiking on challenging terrains. Power hiking involves walking at a brisk pace, using both your legs and upper body to ascend steep inclines. Here's a stairmaster workout routine tailored for power hiking:

Warm-up:

Start with a 5-minute warm-up on the StairMaster at a comfortable pace. Keep the resistance low during this warm-up phase.

Workout:

Interval Training:

* Set the StairMaster at a moderate resistance level. * Alternate between 2 minutes of brisk power hiking pace (focusing on using your legs and arms) and 1 minute of active recovery at a slower pace. * Repeat this interval pattern for 20-30 minutes.

Long climb training:

Do 30-45 minutes nonstop at 60% effort. Consider also for specific races aka Sky to Summit 50k, Quest for the Crest 50k aka races with longer climbs and downs, to spend more time on the stairmaster than for flatter races or just hilly races.

For all stairmaster workouts here’s the rules…

1. Do not put your hands on the bars nor the side for support unless you are falling over. 2. Always warm up before 3. When you are done always IMMEDIATELY jump onto the treadmill and start jogging for 1-2 miles. WHY? This helps with your uphill to flat or down transition. Your body will start dropping your HR and you’ll get out of lactic faster if you keep doing this. 4. If you want to really step things up if you’re racing the 50k then go 80% effort on the stair master and then get off and do 2 miles for time directly after. One of my favorite workouts in the gym!

Strength workout for runners

Some ideas for body weight exercises. Maybe consider getting a trainer to help you if you want to add weights to this and or to ensure you’re doing the exercise properly. Strength training is essential for runners as it helps improve running performance, reduces the risk of injury, and enhances overall athleticism. Bodyweight exercises are an excellent option for runners because they require minimal equipment and can be done anywhere. Here's a bodyweight strength training routine specifically designed for runners:

Warm-up:


Start with 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching or light cardio to warm up your muscles before beginning the strength training routine.

Workout:

Perform each exercise for the designated number of repetitions or time, depending on your fitness level. Rest for 30-60 seconds between exercises. Complete the circuit 2-3 times.

Squats (10-15 reps):

* Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. * Lower your body by bending your knees and hips, as if sitting in a chair. * Keep your chest lifted and your weight on your heels. * Return to the starting position by pushing through your heels.

Lunges (10-15 reps per leg):

* Stand with your feet together. * Take a step forward with your right leg and lower your body until both knees are bent at 90 degrees. * Push through your right heel to return to the starting position. * Repeat with the left leg.

Single-Leg Deadlifts (10-15 reps per leg):

* Stand with your feet hip-width apart. * Shift your weight onto your right leg and hinge at the hips, extending your left leg straight behind you. * Reach towards the floor with your hands while keeping your back straight. * Return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.

Glute Bridges (15-20 reps):

* Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. * Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes at the top. * Lower your hips back down to the starting position.

Push-Ups (10-15 reps):

* Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. * Lower your body to the ground by bending your elbows. * Push back up to the plank position.

Plank (30-60 seconds):

* Start in a forearm plank position with your elbows directly below your shoulders. * Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core and glutes. * Hold the position for the designated time.

Cool-down:

Finish the workout with static stretching, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds, focusing on the major muscle groups used during the workout. Tips: * Perform this routine 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days. * If an exercise becomes too easy, you can increase the number of repetitions or hold weights to add resistance. * Prioritize proper form and control over the number of repetitions. It's better to perform fewer reps with good form than to rush through the exercises with poor form. * As a runner, focus on exercises that target the muscles used during running, such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core. Always listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns before starting a new exercise program.

Legend

Easy Run (ER):

A comfortable pace where you can hold a conversation. HR usually lower than 140 depending on age. Basically it’s your all day pace. As you get faster and in better shape the ER will naturally become faster. Note that when running flat terrain then we always find it easier to keep a steady HR. On hills and in the mountains this is simply not possible. So note that it’s not always possible to keep our HR that low when going uphill. So at that point keep the perceived effort to easy. I recommend that 50% or so of your ER is done on similar terrain. Aka if the race is flat, run flat. If its hilly, run hills. If its mountains then do vert.

Long Run (LR):

Longer runs to build endurance. I always try to run these on similar terrain compared to the race I will be doing. I also try to mix in run walking like I will be doing in the race. I try to keep under 140 really under 135. This should also be conversational. Again as above with the HR and hills. Make sure you mix in walking when you need to control your HR or bring it down on the climbs. IF you are a non-beginner then you can try and run as much of the route as you can. If not run smart and error not the side of caution.

Tempo Run (TR):

Running at a challenging, but controlled pace, slightly faster than your easy pace. This is the one day a week that you can kind of run a little bit faster. This is about 80 % your Max HR or rather between your goal half marathon to 10k pace. It is not a sprint or a race. For me at 37 I aim for 155-160 pace based on what I know about my body. It’s a full stride and I am working but not going all out.

Cross-Training (CT):

Activities such as cycling, swimming, yoga or strength training to complement your running. I would also make a suggestion that if you have a mountain race you’re training for then the tempo should instead be a hill workout. I will give you several to choose from somewhere below.

Jogging:

To me its a pace slower than your ER. It sometimes involves walking too.

Power Hiking:

This is not a walk. This is walking hard. Walking with purpose. I used to tell people that the best ultra training that no one does is power hiking. We all walk for ultras but few train for it. This helps you on recovery days it also helps you gain speed and strength for walking. Mid race if you’re good at walking your heart rate will drop faster. Some days I will have you jogging downhills during these power hikes. All part of training our body to always be moving.


Vert

***What type of 50k are you doing? Adjusting Vert for your specific race*** (I will put H-XXXX and M-XXX this is how much vert I think you should get a week. Please note that this is not based on time. H = hilly 50k and M = mountain)



General Guidelines to Interpret


All of this to say the amount of climbing you do during training should be related to the amount in the race. Instead of giving you multiple training blocks below for a flat vs hilly vs mtn etc I will use this simple information and let you do the math yourself.

Time on feet

Below is for a flat 50k and your long run at the peak of the cycle is 4 hours. This is guessing that most people run a 5-7.5 hour flat 50k. If you are running a hilly 50k This is going to take you 20% longer so more like 6-9 hours, a mountain 50k 7-10.5 hours and the WTF that’s anyone’s guess. I tell you this because I would increase time on feet in the training plan across all distances / days / workouts by 10% for a hilly, 20% for mountain. Again, this is all ish. For the hilly / mountain / WTF mountain races I would make for the first 7 weeks or so one of your cross training days to be the Stairmaster or power hike up hills then jog down. Do not run up the hills for the time being.

Then try increasing your stairmaster time by about 10% each week. Aka you start with 20 minutes and go to 25 minutes on the next workout. By the end of the program you should be doing 2 days a week doing some sort of hill simulating workouts. IF you don’t have the ability to do hills / mountains then see above for suggested workout. Let me break it down for you. On MOST hilly courses, if your finish time is say 7 hours, (example is Cloudland Canyon 50k with 4,000 ft gain), then you will spend 40% time going up, 25% going down and 35% going flat. That is as a whole. If you are a faster climber or downhiller etc then it may be slightly different. So we want to focus our training accordingly. However, note that running flat miles always help speed on the trails. No ands, ifs or buts about that! So the more vert has in a race, put more vert in the training. I would suggest that you are hitting 1500 ft gain (same loss if you can) per week to start. It is also important that you break that up at first if you are not used to it. AKA over 2-3 workouts. Then the goal will be to get that at once and it does not cripple you. Then to add more. The only way we get better at vert is to just do it. Okay Sean what do you mean when you say vert? I mean getting vertical gain on feet. Not all hills / mountains are created equally! Some climbs are 250-400 ft per mile which is what I call douche grade. It’s the annoying grade that you don’t want to run but can. You are able to run hitting mid foot but it could be harder. This is where the incline treadmill workout tries to mimic this grade. I think running stuff like this for a mountain 50k is key in training even if you’re shuffling it. It will help you make up SO much time on a mountain / hilly 50k that it's not funny. That’s if you can jog while others have to walk. Again keeping the HR low. 400-600 ft per mile usually means you start to come off your mid foot and are on your toes. This is where I recommend EVERYONE walks. Then anything 600 plus is some SERIOUS climbing! This is what the stairmaster workout helps mimic. It is YOUR job to find out how the vert in your race occurs from hilly to WTF mountain. Is it long gradual climbs? Short steep hills? Or long climbs? Ask others who’ve run it or read the description. This is imperative to cater your training to it. Something like our Cloudland Canyon 50k is a hilly race. Now it’s different as there is a single defining club followed by rolling hills. So I take the single hardest climb aka the stairs then train for that maybe once a week then the rest is based on the rolling hills if that makes sense as the entire race is not up and down a canyon it's literally 2 miles of 31. For Sky to Summit with 7,500 ft gain it’s more long gradual climbs with some steep stuff randomly in there but that’s less than 10% of your race where it's super steep. So for that I would train to power hike the 400 ft plus per mile and then be able to jog some of the 4-7% or 200-500 ft gain per mile stuff. Again if your goal is to just finish, worry less on running uphill as that can lead to more injuries, burnout etc.

What type of runner are you?

Here is what I recommend for the following types of people on this program

1. First 50k:

If this is your first 50k EVERYTHING I have you doing is trying to error on the side of going easy and not getting injured. I recommend anything steep in training and the race that you hike. On rolling hill runs I would suggest that you run all hills unless it’s so steep that you can’t run it for runs under 45 minutes. Long runs you can and should walk the hills to keep the HR low.

2. A couple of 50ks under your belt:

So you know what it feels like to do a 50k and maybe you want to PR, CR or just get faster. You need to practice running uphill. Goal is to gain the strength to be able to run douche grade uphill aka 500 ft per mile or under. Beginner level at this is just to be able to jog on a treadmill at 7-10% for 30-45 minutes nonstop. You can shuffle this but all you are trying to do is use this as a TEMPO workout. Vert is speed in disguise. Intermediate is to be able to keep more of a full stride for that same time so you are covering more ground. Advanced would be to do some speed workouts on that incline and or running steeper stuff Don’t forget to finish all vertical treadmill or trail workouts with an easy 1-3 mile flat jog. In a nutshell I would try to be RUNNING 50% of the vert in this plan. Slowly step up how much you run vs power hike uphill. Then progress it to where you are running more vert in one workout.

POLES:

***If you are using poles I have a video here. I also would say only use poles 1/3 of the time and do the rest on your own legs. Besides that watch the video! ****

***Fast runners trying to push themselves***

One thing you will notice about the training plan here is that it slowly builds mileage and vert. IF you already have this then we want to focus on 2 workouts a week while putting all the other mileage and workouts and maintenance for you. I want you to focus on two things: Speed for flats and climbing speed. This is super easy but like all things takes consistency and time. One workout a week we do speed workout then the other we practice running uphill. You will want to do a track or road interval workout. I recommend for a 50k that your speed is 3 miles max to start with then working into 5 miles total for the workout not including warm up and cool down. Basically we do a fast turnover short distance but not a sprint interval workout then our tempo run is on the treadmill.

Interval speed workout

The speed workout you can google a multitude of speed workouts but I want you to do the 400 m - 1000 m intervals. Aka your base speed. Honestly I can tell you to do 10 x 400s or 8 x 800 etc. but really I would google different workouts. But I will give you HOW to do speed workouts. First of all, what is the goal? It’s to build strength, speed and aerobic capacity for shorter distances that translate to longer distance speed. Hardly any trail runners do speed workouts with regularity and it shows. Myself included! We don’t do it because it’s hard. When doing speed workouts the goal is not to sprint the workout. In fact it’s the opposite. You want to have about 80% effort on each repeat and then let your HR drop to where you can do that again. Most speed workout programs start with shorter intervals with walking in-between and then work to longer distance intervals, shorter recovery time and or active recovery aka jogging in between. I love doing this at a track because it’s super easy to be consistent and control most of the X factors. I will give you a popular workout to use as an example. Let’s start easy. We will be doing 400 / 800 meter intervals. We will do 400, then 800, then 400, then 800, then 400, then 800, then 400. So 2.5 miles total of speed. That’s a lot for a first time track runner so what do we do? Error on the side of caution. If anything hurts at all backoff completely. Always start with the warmup listed above. I like jogging backwards for 5 seconds and then going forwards into an almost sprint but a stride to really warm stuff up. I do that 3-6 times and then I am ready. Let’s say my goal is to run the 400 m aka a 1/4 mile or one full sized track loop at a 6:00 minute mile pace. Below I will get into how to know what you should be trying to hit. MAF heart rate training is where it’s at for that. But later for that. I am doing the 6 minute flat because that would be my current 5k time most likely. Which should be your goal as well or slower than your 5k time as you work over 3 miles if that makes sense. I love an old school Timex watch for this as the GPS watches tend to be all over for the circular track. But regardless I care about the time not what the pace says on your watch which could be wrong. Each interval you need to stay at a consistent speed. As the repeats progress it will get harder to go at the same time. This Is natural. We want to prevent you from going 90 seconds one 400 m then 120 on the last one. We want to hit the pace dead on every time if possible. This helps your body get used to dialing in a pace as well. To start, do a 90 second rest after the 400 m. Just walk nice and easy, stay upright and breathe. After the 800 m you will take a 2 minute walking recovery. For my 800 meter I usually slow it down to say like plus 5-10% time wise. So instead of 90 second 1/4 miles then I would do like 95 so a 6:10.

Next level tip…

Keep a log and look at your HR, Pace etc. Is there a lot more in the tank? The last 2 or so should be tough. Again we are never all out sprinting unless you want to do that on the last one or something but keep in mind anytime we put that HR in that super high zone is when we risk muscle breakdown and injury. Speed training is that but in a controlled manner this is why after the workout we want to take it easy for a day or two. Again as your training progresses you can do more active than earlier on but speed kills. I say that all the time. Ease into it and be patient! Progressing in the interval work: I would say work it up until you can do 4-5 miles of speed total in your intervals. This is more than enough in my mind. You just need a tempo workout to bring it all together.

Treadmill incline tempo:


This is my bread and butter. I love putting the treadmill on 7% incline and just running for 20-45 minutes at a steady effort. I sit on a 150 HR and just let it go. Depending on your fitness, age etc. your goal HR will be different. It is a 70% effort. I always finish this with 2 miles at 50% effort when done. It helps get the legs turning over again this is key for helping you with transitions from up to flat or down.

As you progress, work your time up.

Newer runners focus on just jogging it. Advanced runners focus on full stride and driving the knee. Lean into it!



It’s that easy. JUST GET IT DONE!


Click HERE to VIEW and COPY your 20week Training Spreadsheet

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Michael Smith
Michael Smith
Oct 07, 2023

Thank you!!! This fills a gap in my overall program!

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Cathy Maglalang
Cathy Maglalang
Oct 06, 2023

Thanks for this! I'll use this for my comeback next year after I've healed. I've been wanting to do one of your races but it's going to be a while.

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Deanna Springall
Deanna Springall
Oct 04, 2023

Wonderful info - thanks!

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Thank you for this Sean! It has lots of great info and I am sure it will help many of us! This was generous of you. Andy



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