Endurance Workouts

The Best Endurance Workouts For Ultrarunners

As an ultrarunner you have probably long established a routine of endurance workouts and might feel no need to change or try something new and different.

I think I have some few interesting workouts in store for you...that are worth a try!

Having explored all kinds of different training methods as a runner in the past fifteen years I have come to the conclusion that endurance workouts guided specifically to an ultrarunner's need must differ from the programs offered to a marathon runner or a miler. Simply because our needs and demands differ from those of a marathon runner.

Now, ultra marathon training programs can often be similar to those of runners participating in races up to the marathon distance. One difference, though, is that regular three-day-blocks consisting of long to very long runs which conditions the body to be able to run on fairly empty glycogen stores should be a part of any ultrarunner' training.

A similarity to marathon programs is that speed endurance forms an important part of finishing ultramarathon races successfully.

Yet, establishing and following a circuit of endurance workouts on a regular basis is often neglected and not paid enough attention to! Explore one component of endurance workouts here, starting with mountain trail running and find out why quality counts so much more than quantity:

  • Running uphill on a trail conditions you to respond and react fast to the uneven terrain
  • Aim to run at a pace below your anaerobic threshold but still feel the challenge
  • Teaches the mind to stay patient and calm
  • Find a pace that you can maintain for over an hour and start off slowly
  • Use steep trails to put effort in maximising efficiency and run the flatter parts of the course at an even pace as recovery
  • The more regularly you do this type of workout the easier it will feel to run uphill

Three weeks of recovery after a multi-stage ultramarathon seemed enough to get back into some uphill running on mixed terrain. It just felt right to get the trail shoes out again.

So I drove to the bottom of the Pilatus mountain situated an hour away from home near the well-known Swiss town Lucerne. I went up one station in the gondola equipped with my Nathan backpack, some food and extra windjacket.

The mountain stands at 2130 m or 7000 ft. I estimated to be around two hours to get all the way up.

For the first ten minutes running on the gravelled road felt great. Then the climbing began following the yellow hiking trail sign. Luckily the ground was dry and I went straight into a fast hiking stride always keeping my left hand on the thigh. I found during months of training uphill running keeping one arm down while the other one rotates is really efficient to get up an ascent.

The path soon evened out which meant to focus on keeping a high cadence while running along. I could see the mountain top to my left until the sign indicated a left turn onto a narrow single trail through the woods. Lots of roots and stones required to keep a strong posture and again, focus on the moment.

Suddenly I approached a clearing and kept on following the stony winding path towards the big mountain. Looking up I felt stunned and amazed by its beauty. Patience is the key on any hill!

Big rocks arranged on the trail meant to switch to a fast hike again. A great way to train the hamstring and calf muscles.

After 45 minutes I felt warmed up and strong enough to put effort in on the remaining route. Whenever I stopped for a second to look to the side and how high I had already run up I felt amazed.

There is a real sense of achievement when courageously attacking a mountain without losing sight of its power and giving yourself a chance to learn how to portion your energies so that you get to the top tired but not completely blown.

Running at a pace near and/or above your anaerobic threshold is not the aim of this kind of training.

It's rather a mindgame also for how long you can keep a pace running uphill without building lactate too early. Your muscle memory will remember regular workouts like this one.

After about eighty minutes I could see the top and enjoyed the cooling breeze on the last stretch up. My watch showed a total time of 1 hour and 40 minutes and a difference in altitude of 1200 Hm or 3900 ft when I arrived at the top.


A mountain trail run can be supplemented with endurance workouts such as running up stairs. Ideally, find 100-150 steps outside and hike up fast 8-15 times using two steps at a time. For recovery walk or gently jog down to the bottom.

This type of training session can also be part of any regular run finishing the training off with running or walking up the steps 3-5 times.

It is sheer quality you're focusing on when sprinkling these workouts into your ultramarathon training routine.

Endurance workouts and speed endurance workouts go hand in complementing each other and ought to be performed regularly 1-2 times per week. They are crucial key sessions that are designed to be hard but enjoyable work because you're consistenly building ad improving your fitness level.

It is sheer quality you're focusing on when sprinkling in endurance workouts into your ultramarathon training routine.



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