How Long Should Your “Long Run” Be? (UTA100 Training Program)
If you are training for the UTA100, you may be wondering what the maximum distance that your longest training runs should be. Surely the longer the better? Imagine the confidence you would get from an 80km training run! Now imagine the sore legs and fatigue an 80km run would cause, and how much recovery time you would need before you could train properly again.
In my experience most runners err on the side of too much training, rather than too little. Especially with too much emphasis on their long run and less consideration given to the shorter mid-week training sessions.
I raced the UTA100 in 2013 (then called the TNF100), and I included 2 runs of 60km in my build up. I raced it again in 2015 and my longest training run was 45km. My time in 2015 was 50 minutes faster!
There is a trade off between the fitness, strength and endurance you get from your long training runs, and the fatigue, niggles and extended recovery time that these long runs cause.
I think that the maximum training cut-off is around 5hrs-6hrs of running. If you spend more than 5-6 hours running, then the balance of fitness Vs recovery swings too much towards recovery, and you lose out in terms of overall fitness as a result of having to spend too much time recovering.
6hrs of running might mean 60km - 65km for an elite level athlete, and it might mean "only" 30km-35km for a less experienced runner.
Where you can make a huge difference to your overall endurance and fitness is to bump up the number and volume of your midweek runs slightly, so that your overall mileage remains relatively high, but you are minimising the risk of injury by not making your long run too long.
Here is an example of how your biggest training week could be structured.
Of these two weeks, you are going to gain just as much, if not more, overall fitness and strength if you structure your training like the first example. This is due to the slightly higher total weekly training volume, combined with a lot less risk of injury because your longest run is 15kms shorter.
If you train with the "little and often" approach like the first of these two demonstration weeks, you should also be able to back it up with another similar week if that is what your program calls for. On the other hand, not many of the runners that I know would cope with, or benefit from, two consecutive 50km weekend long runs.
But . . . will your brain cope with only a 35km long run?
This "little and often" approach may mean that you will be starting the UTA100 with your longest run being 35km. How on earth are you going to carry on for another 65km? That is a good question, and I can understand how anxious this will make a lot of 100km first-timers. The answer lies between your ears. Mental Strength. If you want it badly enough, providing you aren't injured, then you will finish. The key is being uninjured throughout training and the event, and being fresh on the start line.
To stay injury free you need to do regular body maintenance sessions including stretching, foam rolling, strength and stability work. We recommend the Essential Core Workout For Runners and the 10 minute Kettlebell Workout to build running strength.
For more information on preparing for the UTA check out the UTA Training Plans
When you join The Locker Room, we recommend you read these two articles to learn how to "train your brain" to run faster for longer.