Fast Marathon vs. Training for 50 Miler


Experience From - Grant Hickey, Scott McQueeney, Al Zeller , Brian Pickett , Rich Schick , Jim Kirby , Kevin Polin ,

Grant Hickey

I am looking for any advice , help and comments with my following problem. I am trying to decide if I should try and run my first 50 miler this year and whether I can fit enough training in and not affect my marathon training.

I am working with some conflicting goals here. I want to qualify for Boston (at 3:45 need 3:15) and I want to run Leadville.

This year I wanted to run my first 50 miler on July 3 but I am also currently training for a sub 3:30 marathon on May 9 th.

My proposed race calendar looks like this

... Marathon training for fall push for a 3:15

The coach that is doing my marathon training says that the April 10 50k will affect my marathon May 9th no matter how slow and easy I take and wants me to drop it. He also thinks that my recovery from my 50 miler will prevent me from training to run a 3:15 marathon in the Fall.

Scott McQueeney

Grant, Someone will say it's ok, others will say no. You will find the answer you are looking for. If you do not trust your coach I would suggest you find a new one. Sorry if this does not answer your direct question of right or wrong.

Either way you go I wish you luck as I was not able to qualify for Boston, 3:20 marathon (with specific training) but was able to qualify for Western States at my first 50 miler (without specific training) go figure. As I get older and the qualifying times drop maybe I will make it to Boston? :-)

Al Zeller

The big question is your weekly mileage base. What you find out is that beyond a certain weekly mileage, there is little improvement in marathon, or 50 mile performance. What you gain is recovery. While the exact number of miles differs for each person, my level seems to have been about 80 miles per week. My marathon times changed little even at 120 per week and the same for 50 milers, as long as those 80 miles were of high quality. However, my recovery varied greatly between the two bases. At 120 I could run a comfortable 20 mile training run the next day or set a marathon PR on Saturday and a 5 K PR on Sunday. At 80 per week it was difficult doing a 10 K hard a week after a hard marathon. You need to look at your mileage base to see where you fit. Three weeks between 50 milers always seemed to work for me, so 4 weeks between 50 K and marathons should be no problem if you have done your homework. After all, a 50 miler is easier than a marathon.

Brian Pickett

Grant, your conflicting goals sound similar to mine. I want a sub 2:40 marathon, sub 33 10K and a sub 16 5K, but I also want to run a 50 miler. Basically, you can't aim to do everything. Pick the thing that is the most important to you. I've tried to juggle all of my running goals at once before too. If Boston is your #1 goal, which it sounds like it is, then choose it, and make it your sole focus. Just remember, you have more than a year to get in all of your running goals. No need trying to do everything in a year. After Boston, the 50-miler will still be there the following year.

My suggestion is to develop your marathon speed first, and then look toward the fifty miler later. Since I'm in college, I've personally decided to drop my ideas of marathoning, and try to make my college team. I'll be running my final marathon (at least until I find out if I can or can't make the CC team) in March. Probably like you, I don't want to give up my marathoning and ultra running, but it's a matter of importance. Whatever you decided to do, don't try to get in all of your goals in a year, just setting yourself up for injury and disappointment. Of course, you could pull it off. Who knows. Basically it's whatever you think you can do. P> Whatever you decide, best of luck!

Rich Schick

Had two responses to my age/recovery questions so I'll answer each.

Brian Pickett writes:

"Hi Rich. Well, first off, as for how old I am, I am a mere 19 years old, just a baby in the sport of running compared to you guys. To get over a hard marathon, it generally takes me around 3-4 days before I can run a hard track workout at normal pace or a long run at normal pace without any more effort than usual."

Wow! I'm impressed. Quick recovery like that usually only comes with years of high mileage base. If you recover that quickly I'd definitely do the 50 but with two caveats. Don't try do it fast, make it a long enjoyable training run and a learning experience. done in that manner your recovery will probably be about the same as for a marathon and you'll have a couple good training weeks prior to tapering for the marathon.

Grant Hickey writes:

"I am 35 yrs old. I have been running since 1995 and have done 7 marathons and 2 50k trail ultras. Last Fall I did a 3:45 at Victoria and a 4:16 at the Toronto marathon 7 days later. I would say it takes me about 3 wks to recover. completely. The 50k in April would be used as a training run and I don't expect to recover completely from the 50 miler right away but 3 wks with some work I hope would be ok."
Unless you are confident that you are adequately prepared to meet your marathon goal before you do the 50 I won't do it. With a projected 3 weeks of recovery that means you'd only be back to your pre 50 state of readiness about a week before the marathon, when you should be starting your taper. That allows no time for any additional conditioning. If the 50 happens to be tough on you might not even have time to get back to your baseline. That time would be better spent in good solid training.

Jim Kirby

Grant. Your coach knows you better than any of us ever will. I mean after all, you are paying for his coaching, so I would take his advice as well.

Kevin Polin

Grant, I *had* similar goals to you for this year (however, I'm 33 yrs old as opposed to your 19 yrs): run a 50 miler and then qualify for Boston.

Anyhow, I'm training for my first 50 miler which is the April 10th Umstead race. I've run 3 marathons over the last 6 months:

Oct: Marine corps @ 3:38
Nov: Atlanta @ 3:52
Feb: Mrytle Beach @ 4:03

You'll notice my time are getting slower! Why? I believe its because of my parallel training for the 50 miler which consists of a long slow run/walk currently at its maximum of 32 miles. I also wanted to try to qualify for Boston this year but have realized I will have to focus my training on medium distance RUNS to build up speed rather than endurance. So I've decided to focus on the 50 and then move up to a 100 next year and then at the end of 2000 focus totally on a Boston time. I'm sure their are many talented people who could train and do both in one year - I'm not one of them! I agree with one of the other listers: take your coach's advice or find a new one. > If I was your age and had to choose between the two I'd definitely train for Boston first.