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How to Run 50 Miles: Part I

I’ve never ran 50 miles in one go before, but will at the Copper Canyon Ultra a little over a month from now. The approach I’ve taken to building up to this race is very unconventional. Most running programs are linear in nature. With base miles building and long runs (bi-weekly) building up to a considerable sum every week, then a multi-week taper.

There are clear rules around not increasing long runs more than 10% each time, and in building up to a steady weekly mileage base (that can push 50-60+ miles per week for an ultra runner – with elite runners getting well over 100mpw).

I’m following a different approach because I have other things I chose to do with my time besides run, and I also want to avoid injury. The principles I’m following in my training include the following ideas that I’ve made up based on my own past experience doing marathons, Ironmans and a couple 50Ks:

  • Outcomes for endurance events are more due to mental, nutrition and pacing factors than they are of raw fitness. Therefore, focusing on training the non-fitness aspects will have material value on race day.
  • The limiter of speed in an endurance event is rarely aerobic fitness, it is usually muscular strength and power related (or mental strength related). Training strength and power (mental and physical) is therefore the key once you are reasonably fit aerobically.
  • Biomechanical efficiency is key, the lack of which can result in injury and/or inefficiency that throws any nutrition and racing plan out the window…the longer the event, the more important this become. Learning and using proper technique is critical.
  • If you are too tired from training to enjoy your life and all it has to offer, then you either aren’t training properly or don’t have your priorities in the right spot 🙂


Gotta run right now (to the Grand Opening of Shakti Redmond, woo hoo!) but will post next some more details of my specific training for the upcoming 50 miler.


  1. ultrarunner says:

    “I’ve never ran 50 miles in one go before, but will at the Copper Canyon Ultra a little over a month from now.”

    Don’t! (Assuming that you meant “run” and not “cover”)

    Whatever some people might say, the human body is not designed to run 50 miles in one go. It can easily cover 50 miles in one “go”, but that 50 miles must be covered using a run/walk, and even run/walk/rest system if the distance is to be completed efficiently by anyone who isn’t a superman (e.g., Scott Jurek… and even then). Basically NOBODY (or very few) runs 50 miles in one go on rough trails.

    With all due respect, what you should be aiming for, and specifically training for, is a 50 mile run/walk.

    It’s a little late now to set out such a training regimen for the Coper Canyon Ultra (say hello to CaballoBlanco for me; tell him the guy who never ever made it UP there – yet – sends his regards), but you should consider developing one for all your future ultras. You should also consider taking walking breaks from early on in the CCU, perhaps following a 10 min run/ 1 min walk schedule. If it’s not “too easy” at the beginning, it’ll be really bad towards the end (I guarantee you that – take strong painkillers with you for after the race). Why should crawling along with a perpetual grimace at the end be more “honorable” than following a run/walk schedule from the outset and finishing relatively well?

    Basically, unless you fall into the aforementioned category of “Supermen”, your ultra career will be a long litany of personal survivals, and be far removed from “competing” with anyone, except yourself… with the clock a distant secondary concern (once you’re halfway into a race).

    Decide now that “running” an ultra of 50 miles or more is a walk/run affair, and train and compete accordingly. There should be no need to EVER bonk on a 50 miler, if you’re pacing yourself correctly on a run/walk schedule, and eating and drinking regularly. When you get up to 100s, you can bonk even when you’re walking. And you can walk out of that bonk.

    Espero que pases un buen rato con el Raramuri.

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