Training for your first 50k

Training for a 50k takes time and devotion to the sport of running. It is a landmark in many people’s running careers, and merely a stepping stone for others. People ask me all the time whether or not the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k race is a good first 50k. My response is that any 50k is a good first-time 50k. There are obviously some 50k races that have easier terrain or fewer hills, but doing the 50k is not the hard part; training for the 50k is the hard part.

If you are reading this, you have some interest in breaking into the next level. Many of you are thinking to yourselves, “Why am I considering a 50k when I haven’t even run my first marathon?” The marathon has such a stigma attached to it, that in many ways I consider training for a 50k much easier. A 50k trail run is merely a long day in the woods. When one approaches the 50k with that attitude, the distance is made simple and more fun.

Base Mileage: If you are considering the 50k distance, you should first have a runner’s base. If you can answer yes to the 3 questions below you can complete your first 50k.

  • Do you run 3-4 days a week?
  • Have you been running consistently for 2 years or more?
  • Can you run 10 miles non-stop?

Training: I feel like training for a 50k properly takes 3 months. The schedule below should provide a guideline of training for the Rock/Creek StumpJump in October. Our training begins July 1st.

July

Week 1

This week will be our model for training and recovery.

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – 1 hour run
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – 1 hour run
  • Saturday – 1½ hour run
  • Sunday – Rest

Notice that I am allowing 2 rest days after my Saturday long run. Notice that I have factored at least 2 rest days in each week.

Week 2

Maintain 3 days of 1 hour runs, add 10 minutes to the Saturday long run.

Week 3

  • Monday – 1 hour run
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – 1 hour run
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – 1 hour run
  • Saturday – 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 4

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – 30 minute run
  • Wednesday – 45 minute run
  • Thursday – 30 minute run
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

August

Week 1

Same as Week 1 of July

Week 2

  • Monday – 1 hour run
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – 1 hour run
  • Friday – 30 minute run
  • Saturday – 2 hour run
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 3

  • Monday – 1 hour run
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – 1 hour run
  • Friday – 1 hour run
  • Saturday – 2 hour run
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 4

  • Monday – 1 hour run
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – 1 hour 30 minute run
  • Friday – 35 minute run
  • Saturday – 2 hour run
  • Sunday – Rest

September

Week 1

Same as Week 2 of July

Week 2

  • Monday – 1 hour run
  • Tuesday – 1 hour run
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – 1 hour run in the morning, 1 hour run in the evening
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 3 hour 30 minute run
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 3

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Wednesday – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Thursday – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 3 hour 30 minute run
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 4

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – 1 hour in morning, 1 hour in the evening
  • Wednesday – 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour in the evening
  • Thursday – 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour in the evening
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 3 hour 30 minute run
  • Sunday – Rest

October taper

The 8-9 days before the race should consist of no more than 3 days running with no more than 30 minutes each run.

Nutrition

Nutrition is as important as the training, often overlooked and underestimated.

Remember that fluid replacement is not necessary to complete the training run, however it aids in recovery so that your body is able to run again the next day.

While on long training runs, I like to take in solid foods. Some of my favorites are PROBAR, Balance Bars, bananas or pretzels. These are also good to eat during training because most 50k runs offer these types of foods at aid stations during the race.

Trail or road

With all the training you will do, it is realistic to expect 80% of all runs to be done on the road. Try to do runs over 3 hours on the trail. Your familiarity with trail footing and undulating terrain will give you the confidence you need for race day. For these 3 training months, play close attention to your body. Buy new running shoes, back off the distances if you feel an injury coming on, and feel free to modify the schedule to suit your needs.

If you can stay on course for these 3 months, you will cross the finish line of the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k trail race, and what a great first 50k experience you will have had!

~Matt Sims,
Rock/Creek Race Team

Relevant links

Here are the race videos from the 2011 Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k and the 2010 Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k:

Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k Trail Race (10th Anniversary)

Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k 2010

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