Finding an Ultramarathon Plan

Finding an Ultramarathon Plan

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I’ve used many Hal Higdon training plans over the last 15 months, including tackling four marathons in 90 days between January and April 2014. Now, I’ll be running my first ultramarathon (50-K) in March. Everyone says you offer ultra plans, but I don’t see them on the Hal Higdon Web site or on the TrainingPeaks menu. I need a 20-week plan: 13 weeks until my Ultra, then six more weeks until Boston. I intend the Ultra to be my goal race, but then I need to recover to complete Boston for the third consecutive year.


You’re actually asking two questions. Let’s deal with the first, the lack of any Hal Higdon Ultra programs online. Sorry about that. I do have a chapter on Ultras in my book How To Train, borrowing schedules (including one for 50-K) designed by Sacramento coach George Parrott. I trust George, but I was uncomfortable posing as an Ultra coach based on my own experiences. I ran Ultras on two occasions: one good race; one bad race. And on another occasion, I ran 350 miles in 10 days with a group covering the length of the state of Indiana. What I did learn was that the smart runners training for Ultras do not necessarily run more weekly miles than what might be called Normal People, but they wisely package their miles, doing two long runs on the weekend: a short long run followed by a long, long run. With that as your guide, you should be able to modify one of my Intermediate or Advanced programs to fit that pattern, adding some extra miles to the Saturday/Sunday runs. Consider one final option: Think hours instead of miles.

Second question: Once you remove the Ultra bling from around your neck, use my Multiple Marathon program to get ready for Boston. I have free programs for 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks between marathons. My interactive versions on TrainingPeaks fill in the gaps with 3, 5 and 7 weeks between. You probably will arrive in Hopkinton still somewhat in recovery mode, but if you hit Cruise Control and accept the trip to Boylston Street more as a fun voyage than a chance to claim more bling, you should do fine.