Ultra:5k Training – The Basics

Ultra:5k Training Weeks 1 & 2

How do you train for five 5k races across 5 hours?

As with everything, it all depends!

What is your background, your recent training? How much training can you do? Is this going to be your ‘A’ race? How many races do you have this year? Do you have a time or pace target in mind? Have you taken part in the Ultra:5k before? Or maybe another endurance race? What factors may affect your ability to train?

Over the next three months I will be recording all of my training, explaining why I am doing what I am doing so that you can apply the principles within your own training context.

If you still feel overwhelmed and a bit lost then get in touch and I will help you create a plan that works for you. For free. 

Ultra:5k training basics

What is the Ultra:5k?

The Ultra:5k is an individual and team event where you run either 3 or 5 x 5k on the hour, every hour, for 3 or 5 hours. Not as simple as it may, at first, sound!

It is a wonderful event, and it is to my very great regret that I had holiday clashes that meant I missed the first two years. I have taken part every year since 2019 and hope to continue that streak.

For full information go to Ultra5k.co.uk

and if you like what you see, get back in touch with me for your exclusive discount code!

How to train for the Ultra:5k

What are the basics of Ultra:5k training?

The overall plan is not dissimilar to a half- marathon plan. The main changes are the longer runs are longer, and often runs are split so you run twice a day, very occasionally the runs will replicate Ultra:5k conditions of running every hour.

Distance

Depending on your (recent) training history your longest runs will be either be around 21km (choosing a half-marathon as a training race), or upwards of 30km. Your legs will then be better able to cope with the duration of the entire race. 

Tempo

Your overall pace will, if you get it right, be slightly faster than your normal half marathon pace. Possibly even 10k pace. If it is close to your 5k pace then either your normal 5k is way slower than it could be, or something will almost certainly go wrong

Split Runs

As you will be resting in between each of your runs on the day it makes sense to replicate this throughout the training. Running on fatigued legs is harder than you might think. The trick is to fit it around your lifestyle. This could be an easy 3k before work, then a longer 8k in the evening, or perhaps run to parkrun, aiming to get there well before 9am so you have a break before running again. You might even have a coffee and a snack, then run home. That way your long run is covered too. 

Recovery

Almost important as the running will be your ability to recover quickly and efficiently so you are ready for the next race. This will include what you eat and drink, how you will cool down, and how you will bring your heart rate down. 

My Training Diary

You will, perhaps, notice that My week starts with the weekend.

Eh?

Bear with me…

For longer races the most important run is the long run. Yet a traditional Monday-Sunday plan will put that run last, at the end of the week. When life inevitably gets in the way it is those, most important, runs that have to give. By starting on a Saturday you give yourself the opportunity to ensure you complete those longest runs even when life has gotten in the way. It removes the complexity of trying to decide which runs to do, and which to skip.

Additional context! It is important to note that I am running longer than usual as I have my ‘C’ race of the Mammoth Marathon coming up in mid May. I am running it entirely for fun with no time goal at all, but it does mean that my runs a longer than your will probably be at this time.

Week 1 Plan vs actual:

  • Sat – long run = 36km in 4 hours across two runs (see below)
  • Sun – easy run = 10km very slow and easy across 2 runs
  • Mon – rest = rest
  • Tue – easy run = quick 2km
  • Wed – rest = easy 6km run
  • Thu – easy run = rest
  • Friday – strides = 4km with short sharp efforts

Overall, plan went well. Very pleased with my long run on Saturday, using the opportunity to support one of my clients on the last leg of his Ultra. Very useful to have all that time on my feet and still be capable of more distance the next day, albeit very slowly with walking breaks, and shorter than originally planned as I had also run parkrun the previous day. Rest of the week was just a case of moving a few runs around. Only on Tuesday did I make the mistake of not running in the morning, leaving me with very little time to fit in a workout.

 

Week 2 plan vs actual

  • Sat – easy run = 14km including parkrun effort
  • Sun – long run = total 18km across 2 runs
  • Mon – rest = rest
  • Tue – easy run = a rushed easy run only 4k
  • Wed – rest = intervals
  • Thu – intervals = rest
  • Friday – rest = strides

Slightly more running than plan, no bad thing? Saturday ended up being a longish run, shorter than plan. I was going to carry on after Linford Wood parkrun, heading down to Willen Lake for a lift home. Instead I chatted even more than usual and had a breakfast bap. 

I made the extra distance up on Sunday with a challenging 12k across the countryside, followed by a further 6 before stopping at the Eight Bells for a taste of their beer festival. Intervals in the week left me feeling disappointed about my ‘lack of speed’. I simply couldn’t push any harder than I did, yet my 1 minute efforts were at a pace that I used to easily run around parkun in, and was hoping to get back to by the end of this year. It is so easy to listen to that nagging voice. “wWhat its the point? I’m never going to be as fast as I used to. Why bother? Is it with it?

At times like this you need to keep faith with your plan. Of course I’m struggling for speed! I have been doing a lot more running. The last time I regularly hit 40km a week was last June/July, and before that… well, it was probably around 5 years ago. I am peaking towards my marathon, so distance and time on my feet is more important than speed. And I am definitely a lot weaker, and doing a hell of a lot less weights than I used to. Looking at my log from last year, in a comparable session I was considerably faster, but had none of the mileage on my legs AND was about to be out injured with a tight calf for two weeks. 

 

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