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RUN247 / Running Training / How to train for a 24-hour ultramarathon – run training tips from a record holder

How to train for a 24-hour ultramarathon – run training tips from a record holder

Katherine Brook
Trail running writer
Updated on
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Training for an ultra or 24-hour running event will look quite different for everyone, as your plan will depend on your experience with ultra running, goal time and the distance you plan on covering – some people will complete these events as a relay while others as soloists.

One of the hardest things is getting the balance right between training and recovery. While you may hit your race distance in training, when training for a 10k or half marathon, with ultra running, it isn’t quite the same. Yes, you need your long runs to be long but you also need to give your body time to recover, so you aren’t exhausted by race day.

To help you form the ultimate training plan, we spoke to Endure24 course record holder Joe Baker, from Yorkshire, to find out his top training tips to prepare for a 24-hour ultra running event.

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How much run volume do you need to do to train for a 24-hour ultra?

“I’ve been running ‘with purpose’ since 2016, and before I got into 24-hour racing, I had completed a couple of marathons, so I already had a very good running base. To build upon this for the 24-hour events, I focus on low intensity, double running days, clocking about 12-16 hours of running a week.

endure24 joe baker
Joe Baker set the solo course record at Endure24 Leeds in 2022. [Photo credit: Endure24]

I try to spread my mileage fairly evenly with one faster run and one longer run of about three hours. The main thing is to be mindful of your mileage in the lead up to the event, pulling back in the weeks before to give your body enough time to recover.”

Recover as hard as you train – how to prepare for an ultra without burning out

“Recover as hard as you train. Make sure your easy runs are easy and you take enough rest days. It’s also important to stay on top of your nutrition, especially on double run days as getting your protein and carbs in at the right times can help you recover for the next run.

I would also recommend doing some of your training at night, to prepare your mind and your body for running (and eating) at random times.”

“I find between 11pm and 1am the hardest part for me on race day, so I try to prepare with ways to help me through this time, whether that’s finding a group that’s running the race at my pace who I can stick with, listening to music, or just having a great support crew I can rely on to keep me going and make decisions for me, when my mind’s maybe not quite so rational.

When I’m going through these moments, I tell myself ‘the storm can’t last forever; weather the storm and you’ll come out the other side’. Having mantras like this can really help get through the mentally tough moments on race day.”

“Finally, it’s OK to walk and take breaks. Remind yourself of this, especially if it’s your first 24-hour race.”

Don’t neglect the strength training

If you want to run for 24 hours, your training should just focus on running – and running a lot, right? Wrong! Running ultra distances means you need to be up strength and resilience in your muscles, which you won’t achieve by running on its own.

“I work with a physio who helps me with targeted strength workouts for any weak areas,” says Joe. “I’d recommend at least one strength and conditioning session at the gym a week.”

Incorporating strength training will help you to avoid injuries, improve your running economy/form and helps to make your muscles better at withstanding fatigue – essential for those final hours in a 24-hour event.

Race day dos and don’ts

Once all the training is done, the last thing you want is mistakes or oversights on race day putting all your hard work to waste. We asked Joe for his top 3 race day dos and don’ts for taking on a 24-hour ultra marathon.

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Plan your hydration and nutrition on race day.

Many runners will set out bags in their ‘aid station’, with specifically weighed food and carb drinks, as well as how much they should be taking on and at what times.

Take spare socks

…And possibly even spare shoes. Changing into clean socks is one of the nicest feelings during an ultra.

Assemble a support crew

My team has been crucial in keeping me moving as much as possible and checking I’ve taken on enough nutrition.

Do anything different on race day

This includes what you’re wearing and your nutrition. Both of these should be tested during your training.

Get into your head

At times it will be hard but you’re there to enjoy it, to experience the journey of transcendence – remember that

Forget to check the weather close to race day

If it suddenly changes to be hotter or colder, you may need to take additional nutrition, hydration tablets, cooling towels, ice, and clothing. Check the forecast, and make sure you have the right gear for the conditions.
Katherine Brook
Written by
Katherine Brook
A copywriter and journalist by profession Katherine is a passionate trail runner and often to be found challenging herself across the UK & Europe. 2024 will see her take on a triathlon challenge.

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