You don’t necessarily need to run lots to train for an ultramarathon!

Training for an ultramarathon can be really hard, in many ways. One issue is that it can be difficult to find the time to do the long runs – fitting some four or five hour runs into a schedule that is probably pretty full with other life/work/family obligations. Another issue is that that much running can be really hard on your body – especially if you already have knee issues (like I do).

What I have discovered, over my years of running ultramarathons, is that you don’t actually need to do all your training (or even most of your training) by actually running! Ultrarunning – and especially multi-day ultramarathon running – means very long days of constant movement. Big hard days doing pretty much any kind of physical work (packing equipment, doing reno’s, gardening, etc.) all count.

I am not saying don’t run at all. And this technique does not work well for shorter race training (like half-marathons or shorter). But once you are training for marathon length or greater, long and active days on your feet count for a lot.

Training for endurance may even be more valuable to you than actual running.

This was really brought home to me the second time I raced the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge (a 6-day, 230 km staged ultramarathon race with cumulative elevation gain of something like 10,000 metres). I was moving house and renovating the new place, and doing much of that work (both the moving and the reno’s) myself, over a period of two months. I didn’t have time to train for the race – I was too busy hefting boxes around and packing lumber and flooring up stairways.

And I did great on the race! In fact, I finished ahead of runners whose marathon time was a full hour faster than mine! Because I had built up my endurance (and my core strength) with those big long 12 hour back-to-back days – whereas their longest training days were like 4 hours!

(An old adventure-racing friend in Spain – who could run a 1:06 half-marathon – told me he did most of his training by helping his sister with her house reno’s).

So this month of June is super busy for me, preparing to build on a remote (and very rugged) property my husband and I have up the coast.

I have NO time to run (there are no trails there anyway!)

I am just packing board after board, heavy yellow cedar, from shore to boat to shore and then up the big hill.

And I am not the least bit worried about my training – I’m getting it all in: hill-climbing, core, cardio, and some serious endurance.

So here’s some ultramarathon training advice: find a friend who is doing home renovations or moving house, and offer to help. You don’t need to burn all your training time up running: you can do something useful with your muscles, too, and quite possibly gain even more benefit than you would on the trails.

My Keep it Moving solo expedition run is set to take place in – um, maybe early August – and the short film will be released towards the end of 2021. Find out more by exploring this site, or by signing up for updates here – I will never spam you or share your info!

Published by Jacqueline Windh

I'm a writer, photographer, and radio broadcaster who is concerned about our planet and how we live our lives - hoping my work helps people to find new ways of thinking about issues such as personal health, wilderness, the environment, food security, thinking about the future. These things are all connected, you know...

2 thoughts on “You don’t necessarily need to run lots to train for an ultramarathon!

    1. Haha, I wish I knew. First we had to carry it from shore and load it into the boat. Then lift from the boat and slide into the canoe. Then from the canoe into the bush above the tideline. And THEN pack it up the hill. I reckon I must have moved a tonne or more last week – and am heading back up tomorrow morning to work on the second load. I’m now the strongest I’ve been in six or seven years!


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