Planning Your Ultra Race Calendar: The Ultimate Guide

Planning your ultra race calendar is as important as running itself. Try to squeeze too many races in too close together and you could be heading straight for the injury bench. But thinking carefully about your goals, being realistic, and getting the correct training in at the right time will mean success.

Planning your race calendar




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Planning your races: How ultra running has changed

Not so long ago it was simple to plan your race calendar...there simply weren't that many ultra races to do. Now, however, you've got a worldwide, all-year-round, season to go at. You could theoretically run a 50km plus race, trail and road, both days on virtually every weekend of the year. Unfortunately few of us have the physical capacity or the pocket to enable us to do this. We therefore need to consider which races we'd like to do and how we're going to go about preparing for these to the best of our abilities.

calendar runner

WHY? Because the devil is in the detail. Ultra running is all about preparation. This starts with selecting the best races for your schedule, before you even start training.


And when you get the correct races scheduled your training plan can start to take shape, taking into account the other commitments in your life, and allowing optimal recovery. Which means more quality time for running, better motivation to train, and consistent development in your running.

The Ultimate List of the

Web's Best Ultra Race Calendar Tools


How to choose the best ultra race for you

If you're new to ultra running – or been out of action – these resources will help you decide if an ultra is for you...and which one. Remember us amateurs (and a fair few elites) run for fun. It's what we do for relaxation. You shouldn't feel pressurized into running someone else's race bucket list.






Where to search for ultra races

With an ever increasing calendar of ultra races, you'll never be short of runs to do! The following resources are invaluable in discovering which races are being held, when and where. Grab a pen and start compiling a list of possibilities.







Narrowing down your ultra race entry list

You've collated a list of possible races. Now it's time to refine those choices. Before you do...there's a few questions to ask. Is one of your chosen races popular and operate a lottery for entries? Does one your chosen races stipulate prerequisite qualification – points or experience. Will you meet entry requirements?

If the answer is 'no' set that race aside for the future, and go about attaining the necessary experience now.

These tools will help you make your decisions:





How quickly do you recover from running?

With so many awesome races crying out to be run it's all too easy to schedule an ultra every couple of weeks. While 5km runners can usually recover fast and race regularly, the physical toll of being on the go for 5 hours or more takes time to recover from. Get to know your body and what you can manage, and if you're not sure ere on the side of caution allowing more recovery time between races than you think you'll need. Check out these top tips from Robbie Britton at Train as One:




Building your training plan
around your race entries

With your final list of races pencilled into your calendar, now is the time to start building your plan. A simple spreadsheet is all it takes. Add the races and track back to where you are now, building your training as you go. Breaking your plan down into set training periods definitely helps.

The following links are packed with advice to help you get the most out of your planning.




Understanding the 'B' race concept

In putting together your race plan, your focus should be on the ones you really want to complete and finish strongly in – your 'A' race/s

There may be other usually shorter races which you can use in your training and preparation – your 'B' races.

A word of warning however, you need to be constrained enough to run your 'B' races conservatively. If you cannot and will run hard, then don't feel you have to do these build-up races, when your time would be better spent training.




Why shorter distance and (or)
road races may be of benefit

We may all love trail, and we all know the need for being specific in our training, but there are benefits from doing the odd road race. Since trail races vary widely, even the same trail runs differently day to day, running a road race is a way to monitor your annual fitness progression. Learn how to schedule useful road race forays into your ultra calendar.



Staying motivated in your ultra running

Training for an ultra is a long haul. There aren't any six-week couch to 50km plans out there. Training revolves around consistency and gradual development...which can all be rather boring. Getting out there and putting the hours in no matter what the weather can be dull. Here's a few ideas to keep you going:




Why being flexible in your goals matters

Ultra running is all about being adaptable. You may think you have planned for every race eventually but you'll soon discover that around every twist of the trail there's a hidden challenge...your training is no different. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Injury, other circumstances, or just plain life may prevent you tackling your chosen ultra race. These links will help you appreciate that being flexible in your ultra goals is a positive attribute to have:



CHAPTER 10 (bonus chapter)

Race planning case studies

Available on the PDF download.


Download a free PDF version of this ultra race planning guide…

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