THE CLINIC: Preparing for the First 50 Miles

Wed, 10 Oct. 2012 - 1:44 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:

I have been marathoning since 1990 and have run 18 so far, with a p.r. of 3:31:00. I would like to try ultra-distance and wonder if you could advise me on what a proper training schedule might look like, as well as nutritional recommendations. I am interested in a 50-miler. Ten years ago I completed a 40-miler in 6:30:00 without injury. I'm ten years older now and 20 pounds heavier, so I want to make sure I take a sensible approach. I’m 50 years old with healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, and was recently given a treadmill test, which I completed successfully. Thanks for your help.

Calvin Westmoreland

Mission Hills, CA

 

ANSWER:

You certainly have the credentials to prepare for a 50-mile race. Just as the long run is the key to marathon training, it’s even more important for an ultra event. Gradually increase your long run, adding one to two miles each week until your long run is about 15 miles. Then increase your long run every other week, with a shorter run of 10 to 12 miles in the off week. Work up to a 35-mile training run. Pace is critical. You are just establishing your base and you have gained weight. Plan on walking during long runs. You are training your body to keep moving for a prolonged period of time.

Practice eating and drinking on the run. In longer events, sodium intake is important. Sports drinks generally do not have enough sodium for ultra-marathoners. Adding salt to food and drink is advisable. Try eating a variety of foods during your training runs. Energy bars, fruit, potatoes, sandwiches, cookies, and pretzels are some of the ultra-runner's staples. Some fat and protein in the food is a good idea for ultra long runs.

Your daily diet should be healthy and well-balanced. For the majority of runners, a relatively high carbohydrate diet (about 65%) is fairly typical. Experiment during your training to see what works best for you.

Ultra-marathons are often run off-road. Hills, rocks, tree roots, mud, and streams are common in many races. Doing some of your training runs on similar terrain will definitely be to your advantage. Good luck and remember the ultra-runner's motto—start slow and then taper.

Cathy Fieseler, MD

Cleveland, OH

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® May / June 2012 • Volume 30, Number 3)




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