Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultramarathon – Training.

Ultramarathon training basics. Use at your own risk and consult your physician before undertaking any training regime!

Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultramarathon – Training.

Ultramarathon training basics. Use at your own risk and consult your physician before undertaking any training regime!

So how do you prepare for an ultramarathon?

Is it simply a case of run, run and then run some more? Veteran ultrarunners will doubtless have developed training plans and techniques that work for them, but for the novices out there here are a few tips:


Confidence comes through miles on your feet. Getting in long runs will build your confidence and make ‘ultra’ distances achievable. Don’t ignore speed-work, it will help your endurance (and get you home faster!).


Listen to your body. Overtraining can leave you injury-prone and worn out. Build cross-training into your preparation to keep things fresh and injury-proof yourself!


You are what you eat. There is plenty of good nutritional information out there – keep yourself well fueled to achieve that PB.

Ultramarathon Training.

Physical preparation is a massive part of being ready for race day, but do not underestimate the need for mental and nutritional preparation (see the other training articles in this section of the site). Your physical preparation can be seen as tuning the machine, nutrition as fuelling it and mental prep as steering it. If any one of these elements is absent then the machine (i.e. you!) will find ultra distance more difficult than it already is.

There’s a wide variety of training plans out there – from those that focus on high mileage to those that promote more cross training. Basing your training around cycles within your overall schedule can be productive – e.g. building through weeks one, two and three and then reducing training in week four before starting the next cycle can (from personal experience) help with injury avoidance rather than just continually loading and stressing your body.

If you are new to training for this distance it’s important not to increase your training load too much from week to week; no more than 10% is a good rule of thumb if you want to avoid injury or becoming run down from overtraining. Whichever method and plan you choose to follow be sure to incorporate an element of flexibility and strength training into your schedule, if there is a significant muscular or range of motion imbalance in your body then you’re more likely to suffer an injury. Lastly, don’t forget to rest – recovery is vital for gaining strength and fitness. Just be sure to get the training in before the rest!

A couple of useful sites with links to training plans and more:

How to Train for an Ultramarathon

Ultramarathon Training Plans for 100 Miles, 100 Km, 50 miles and 50Km

Heart Rate Training and Mapping Progress.

A heart rate monitor is not essential to your training, but it will help you to train efficiently and effectively. As a minimum you should keep a training diary – there are many online options or apps but I still find the physical experience or writing things out by hand forces me to consider what I have or haven’t done and makes me feel ‘invested’ in sticking to the plan – whatever works for you!

Keeping a daily log of your resting heart rate will help establish a baseline, allow you to see how your fitness is improving and in combination with your training diary allow you to see (if not predict!) when you are coming down with a bug – your resting heart rate will be elevated if fighting infection or if you’re overtraining and may be higher than normal a day or two before you start to consciously feel grotty.

The most effective way to train is to use heart rate zones (although for the cyclists reading this a power meter may be equally or more important). To do this you need to know your resting heart rate and heart rate max. To establish your resting heart rate you can use a heart rate monitor (available as chest straps and watch or as other wearable tech or as a smartphone app). Take your heart rate as soon as you wake up each morning – take it over a number of days (min. 3 in a row) to get a more accurate average reading (it will be high if you’re ill, tired, need to go to the toilet, etc).

To establish your heart rate max there are a number of methods. For an approximate estimate you can use a formula based on your age (see links below) but if you want an accurate reading then the only way is to get warmed up and then put in some effort to get your heart rate up to its current max output (see links below for advice on hill repeats etc to get you heart pounding!). The gold standard is a VO2 max test – which measures your maximal oxygen uptake. This not for the faint hearted (no pun intended!) and many find it hard to push themselves to the limit the first time.

Once you know your max heart rate and resting heart rate you can calculate your heart rate reserve and/or percentages of your max heart rate and use some clever formulae to determine the necessary heart rate value(s) to work towards specific targets such as aerobic capacity or increased endurance.

To find out more:

And on the general benefits of running: 

Disclaimer: remember to consult your physician before undertaking training and before taking any form of max heart rate test!!

Mental Preparation and Tips for Race Day.

  • Focus on why the race is important to you. Fundraising for a charity that holds significance for you, a friend or family member will help you keep going (and help a good cause).
  • A strong training base will help give you confidence on race day.
  • Pre-race nerves are good. Enjoy them and the excitement of taking on a new challenge. Accept them but don’t let them dominate you or undermine your race plan.
  • Break the race down into manageable portions. Don’t be overwhelmed by the distance and remember the miles and hours put in in training.
  • Positive reinforcement really works – words such as strong, good, yes, easy repeated in your head or out loud will help you focus on the positives. Don’t worry about the odd looks – most people you know think you are crazy already!
  • Do occasional simple mental arithmetic – if you find yourself struggling then you’re probably running low on fuel, tired, dehydrated. Remember to keep eating and drinking and be aware that your decision making may be impaired.
  • Relentless forward momentum. Every step forward brings you a step closer to your goal.
  • “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

Ultramarathon Nutrition.

There’s no shortage of information available on nutrition for ultra-endurance events (see the bottom of this page for a few links). The advice can be broadly split into two categories – firstly the scientific basis, i.e. what your body requires in terms of energy sources (carbs, proteins and fats) for optimum performance when operating at a given workload; secondly, the less objectively measurable element of appetite and personal taste. The key to success relies on having a good understanding of what works best for you before race day – how much food and liquid you need and how often. A few simple rules hold true regardless of whether you’re a Scott Jurek-esque long distance vegan or a devout carnivore who gets through training by dreaming of running down your prey on the hoof!

1. Know your body, know what works for you. There’s numerous plans promoting the perfect balance of protein, carbs, fats and micro nutrients but everyone reacts differently so make sure you’ve found what works best for you early on in your training, not on race day. I’ve seen people become badly unstuck due to experimenting with their race nutrition on the day or the night before and watched months of hard effort go down the drain (literally!). Whether you prefer gels, trail mix or peanut butter sandwiches, make sure you know this before the starting line, that it’s easy to digest on the run and that it will see you through the distance. Your body will not hold enough stored energy to see you through to the end of the race so your choice of race snacks is important – simple sugars burn quickly so be sure to get in easy to eat complex carbs too.

2. Following on from point 1, your final preparations are important – eat properly the day before race day and have a good breakfast on the day. Start with a full tank and keep it topped up: fuel the machine!

3. Keep off the booze. Running 50+ miles with a hangover isn’t fun. I know.

4. Keep hydrated – some say a litre an hour is about right, but this will depend on your size, sweat rate, pace and external factors such as the weather. Remember that over-hydration can do a lot of damage too – so again, know your needs in different conditions.

5. Red jelly babies do make you go faster.

Some useful links to get you started:

The Ultimate Ultramarathon Nutrition Plan

Nutritional Demands of Ultra Running

Nutrition for Your Long Training Runs

Ultramarathon: Nutrition for Endurance

Fueling for a 100 Mile Race