Tag Archives: 50-miler

Dear Coach #4 & #5

A Rudimentary Map of a Journey into Madness

Dear Coach,

Week 4 down and week 5 almost finished. Only slightly more than 11 weeks to go until the 50-miler. Oh my word.

This is what I have to report this week:

Last Monday I managed a 5km PR. It was on tar at the coast and not on our normal dirt road but I haven’t done 35:35 for one hell of a long time so that was exciting.

My other small victory is being able to go for 6km on the t-mill without taking a walk break. I can do it on the road as well if you leave out the hills. This is key to cutting down my times I hope.

My Old Goat is still languishing around with his post-Comrades sore knee. He is very stubborn about getting professional help but Dr Google and I have diagnosed it as ITB. He is also too stubborn to build up slowly with the run/walk method so he’s on his own here.

The problem is that he has also entered the 50-miler. He needs to be able to trot along next to me looking out for snakes and mountain leopards and disposing of same in a suitable manner. He also needs to make sure I don’t end up in another province altogether.

Mind you he can probably walk 50 miles in the same time that I run/walk it so maybe no need to panic. Not yet anyway.


Ultra Trail

Oh my word, I have entered a 50-miler – on trail!

Whenever I think of ultra trail I think of annoyingly fresh-looking vegans (why are they always vegans?) gliding over the Colorado      mountains, looking very happy with themselves. I’m sure they also do CrossFit. A far cry from my huffing and puffing and screaming hysterically about snakes, cliffs and other hazards.

Good Lord! I suddenly need to gather all the information that I can about running trail for 12 hours and possibly a lot longer. I also have to finish an assignment for a writing course and I do love to kill two birds with one stone. I will do an article about 50-milers for beginners! After spending hours scouring the internet and reading blogs, articles etc by the North American gods of trail I came up with the following:


Forget kilometres covered and pace. Measure your training by time on the trail. You cannot judge or worry about pace when your terrain is changing rapidly. Stress is an energy-sapper. Concentrate on keeping your body relaxed.


Trying to run the hills will sap your energy very quickly. Practise    power walking up the hills and running fast downhill.


Run by feel and listen to your breathing. Huffing and puffing uncomfortably means slow down or take a walk, even if you are on a flat section. Remember that in this situation you need to be a tractor, not a Ferrari. Save your energy for the dark hours!


Find yourself a comfortable hydration pack with pockets for jacket, torch, food, cellphone and other necessities. Train often with this pack, fully weighted.


Gels will not get you through your 50-miler. You will feel nauseous after several hours. Find real food options that you enjoy and practise eating them on your long runs. Nuts, raisins, banana and homemade energy/protein bars are all good options.  How will you replace electrolytes? Find something that works for you and train with it.


The trick is to pace yourself carefully. If you run above your aerobic threshold, you run the risk of hitting a wall due to lack of glycogen. If you keep your pace constantly below aerobic threshold, your body will be burning fat and even the skinniest of us has enough fat to get through 80 kilometres. This makes the fuelling problem a lot easier. Practice this type of slow running on your weekend long runs. Keep the speed work for the shorter runs during the week.


It is possible to train for a 50-miler on an average of 50 to 60      kilometres per week. The focus should be on weekend distance, preferably on trail, building to three or four trail runs of five hours each with a last long outing of eight hours before the taper begins.


Last but certainly not least is strength training. You will need two to three sessions per week, concentrating on core and leg strength.  Fast downhills need very strong quads and power walking up steep hills needs strong glutes. Neglect them at your own risk!