I offer a free consultation call to any runner who is interested in finding a coach. That call often revolves around me explaining my ethos, way of working and how I can add value to your training. I always leave time for plenty of question-asking and one thing I can guarantee that will crop up in this part of the call is "how long will it take me to train for my race?"
This is a valid question. Firstly, you don't want to pay a coach for 8 months if you can get away with paying for just 2 months and secondly, it's just a really interesting question - what is the right amount of time, in months, weeks, hours, that we should be dedicating to running if we want to do well in our big 'A' race?
Well, this is where I always start. Like everything, there is no one simple answer but the more time that you can spend training with an end goal in mind, the better. This is not a sales pitch, it's just the truth and it makes sense. When I am planning my own personal training, I look at the year as a whole. I will have a couple of big objectives that I want to achieve, a handful of smaller goals to keep me motivated and I will make sure to add in a month or two off of running as well. Taking this 'long-range approach' is something that I recommend to everyone. Planning out the whole season, your so-called 'macro cycle', will not only mean that you train with specificity but you will stay motivated. There is also plenty of slack in the system in case you hit any problems along the way - you have time on your side if you pick up an injury or if something else crops up that takes you away from your regular training. I am working with runners at the moment who are targeting races in May 2022 and I LOVE THAT! Put time on your side and set yourself up for success.
For many, this is not the answer that they want to hear and the reality of life is that we see a cool race advertised, get excited and sign up...oh crap, it's only 8 weeks away! Will I be fit enough?
People want to know in weeks and months how long it will take to get in shape for an ultra but in reality, there are a lot of factors at play: how long is the race? How hilly is it? How many hours a week have you been training for the past 6 months? Have you picked up any injuries in higher volume training weeks?
If you are comfortably running 5 hours a week and have been doing so for a while, then it is totally plausible to get in shape for a 50km(+/-) race in 8 weeks. Are you going to perform at your best? Probably not. Will you finish? Probably not as well as you hoped...but you will most likely
make it over that finish line. Would I recommend this? Of course not but I'm not going to get on your back for wanting to race! As a rule, I tend to advise that you give yourself at least 6 months of focused training for your 'A' race if you want to perform anywhere near your potential. 9 months is better and as I have said above, planning out your whole year around your goals is best.
This doesn't mean that if you have a race booked this summer that you won't be able to run it. The point that I want to make is that it takes a long time to get in GREAT shape and by taking a long-range view I guarantee you will notice a massive change in your running performance.
The last thing that I mention to runners when talking about how much time they have to train for ultras is how much available time they have in a typical week and whether that available time matches the time needed to train for an ultra. This bit is far more simple and I have a tangible answer for you. If you are planning on running a 50km to 50mile race you need to be running at least 6 hours a week in your peak weeks of training (usually lasting about 3 weeks), starting 6 weeks out from your race. If you are planning a 100km to 100mile race you need to be running at least 9 hours per week in peak training weeks (usually lasting about 6 weeks), starting 9 weeks before your event.
If you don't have those hours in a week available to train then the likelihood is you won't be all that successful in your chosen event and it would be advised to choose a more suitable goal.
So, the bottom line is; give yourself plenty of time to train, don't try and cram. Take a long-range approach and make sure you have enough time in your week to train for the kind of race you are training for.
If you are interested in finding out more about how I create long-range running plans get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to have a chat.