My 50 miler training

While many club members will be sweating on the Springburst 8K hills of Greenbelt Park on April 10, I’ll be running my first 50 miler, the Bull Run Run.  

It’s been in some ways a long process to get to the point where I could complete a 50 miler, but also a quick ramp up.  The background- I never would have considered running 50 miles when I first started running in the mid 1990s, and didn’t even know such races existed.  Before I became a runner, some of my backpacking friends were talking about running a marathon, and that their training program started them at 3 miles.  So, I thought to myself, I wonder if I can run 3 miles?  I went to the track and didn’t even make it one lap.  But I did start running after that, not marathons, but a few miles here and there and a few 5Ks and 10Ks.  But no more thoughts about marathons until 2001, when I ran MCM, spurred on by a friend who had it on her bucket list (she finished the marathon with little training but to my knowledge has never run a step again).  It wasn’t until I joined a PGRC in 2003, though, that I became a regular runner, not high mileage, but I began running a few times a week year-round.  Now I’ve run 10+ marathons and 50Ks.  My first 50K was last May and I enjoyed it much more than any of my road marathons and so I started checking out other trail ultra races. 

The quick ramp up part of the story is that I didn’t decide to run the 50 miler until January and was partly hoping I wouldn’t get selected in the lottery for the race.  I was doing long runs already since I was training for the National Marathon, coaching with our PGRC winter training group, which gave me the added motivation I needed to train in the cold, wind, and snow.  The fear of the 50 miler also inspired me to add some new dimensions to my training.  

Here’s what I’ve been doing to train.  I upped my mileage from about 20 miles week to about 35-40 miles per week, and over 50 miles in my highest mileage week.  Not very high mileage by many standards, and certainly less than fellow Bull Run ultrarunner, Dave F.  To increase the length of long runs, I added a few miles before or after the marathon training program long runs and sometimes ran 10 miles the day before or the day after the long run.  I also included regular speedwork – mostly short and fast repeats of 30 seconds– 2 minutes.  Tempo runs would have been a good addition but I find them really tough to do on my own, although I did raced a few 5-10 milers at a hard level of effort.  Those of you who run with me on Thursdays know I also did some uphill and downhill training.  Since the course is a hilly trail race, I knew I needed to toughen up my legs for the downhills, so in addition to running, I trained with weights 2-3 times per week, general strength building as well as squats, leg press, and hamstring curls.  And a new thing I added was treadmill training –I hate running on the treadmill and will run outside in cold, hot, rain, and snow before running on the dreadmill—but I found it worked really well for practicing walking at a fast pace at an incline.  

I ran 2 marathons in March, an easy-paced trail marathon and a fast-paced road marathon.  My confidence was boosted by running the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and feeling pretty good throughout, but still running another 20+ miles after the marathon was hard to fathom.  After a good hard effort at National, in which I felt very depleted right after the race, but was able to run 9 miles the next day (thanks Gary and Dave for running with me), I felt a little more confident.  This was the first time my muscles weren’t very sore after a marathon; after every other marathon I was walking funny the next day and had to take elevators because stairs were just too painful.  Now I feel like I might actually be able to finish 50 miles in the time allotted for the race (13 hours). I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck!

Cindy

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15 Responses

  1. Good luck Cindy!! Thanks for sharing your history with us, its super motivational! (I kind of just thought you were born with the ability to run ultra-marathons ;))

  2. I bow down to your supreme ultra-marathoner status! And I will happily support you on the trails. Let me know what you guys might need – clean shoes/socks? Change of clothes? Food? Drink? We need to coordinate and I’ll get a crew together to come cheer you and Dave on!

    • I think also some roudy singing, funnily costumed cheerleading along the route would be good too. Where do I sign up?

  3. Good luck Cindy!

    Looks like you have a good program there. One of the secrets about ultramarathoning is that you don’t have to run gargantuan mileage, even though the race is gargantuan long. As you did you — be sure that you have figured out your water/electrolyte/sugar needs. Be sure to get your runs in consistently.

    Different very good thing you did was to train specifically for the downhill. Many people at the Boston Marathon have very bad days because they’ve heard about Heartbreak Hill, but paid no attention to the fact that the race is mostly downhill. Their quads hate them long before they get to heartbreak hill.

    For quick ramp up, you still are nowhere near a successful friend, take heart! She ran her first marathon in October (Chicago), and then, since Chicago went well, she did her first 50 miler in November (JFK). I don’t think she reached 50 miles in 1 week in her training. But very careful to figure out what she needed to do for running long.

    I’m jealous. I may never run over 10 miles again. On the other hand, early this year, I thought I might never run again, period, and will be doing Springburst this year. Walk-run only. But mostly run, at last. And, hopefully, with a fair chance of not re-inciting my obnoxious calf.

    So now you have to finish the race for me 🙂

  4. Cindy —

    Very Cool!!
    This makes me want to run longer distances, I like the fact that you highlighted the benefits of weight training.

    I have commited myself on April 10 to something else, but I will be cheering you on none the less.

  5. It’s great reading about your training. Keep us posted!

  6. Good luck Cindy! Maybe one day you and Dave might finally persuade me but for now I will live vicariously through you 🙂

  7. I can’t even imagine…LOL I assumed you were born with a pair of running shoes on, so it is inspiring to us mere mortals that you worked your way up to where you are. Kudos and best wishes to you!

  8. So excited for you! Can’t wait to join you all for thursday hill repeats (did I just write that?)!

  9. Thanks Omni, Kim, Julia, Bob, Patricia, Elaine, Cass, and Terri for the good wishes and tips. I will dedicate a mile to each of you as I run the race – now I just have to find things to think about for the other 42 miles 😉

  10. Cindy:You fear a race not likely you make it look easy! The 50 is on my “bucket list” now if I could get the courage to take the first step. Nah, I am running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler that weekend and when it starts to hurt I will think of your 50 miler as the real run I am only doing 10. Good Luck!

  11. Thanks Clarence. I will think of you as I run through mile 10 of the 50 and how much easier 50M pace is compared to 10 mile race pace ;-). If you decide to run a 50 sometime, you will have PGRC friends to train with, keep coming to the Sunday runs and we’ll talk you into running an ultra with us ;).

  12. Good Luck!

    Kim invited me to crew for you. I told her I had know idea what it meant to crew but I needed to see up close and personal with my very own eyes people who actually sign up to run 50 miles! 🙂 Lots and lots of luck to you!

    • Hi Tracey– Mostly what we’ll need is moral support and knowing that friends are waiting at the next aid station, so we gotta keep moving. I’ll let my husband deal with carrying supplies, treating blisters (hopefully, not necessary), etc. I’m glad you can come out and watch the race, maybe next time you’ll be running it!

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