Training for a 50 Miler


Experience From - Andy Mac, Karl King, Scott Mills, John Davis, Lynn Asbury, Vic Culp , Chip Marz , Karl King , Tom Lyons , Rich Schick , Georg Beinhorn , Herb Hedgecock, Wyatte DeLoache , Eric Robinson , John Horvath , Shawn McDonald ,

Andy Mac

Well I just ran my first 50 miler 10 days ago, but here's my .02 worth anyway:

I built up my long runs every 10 days -2 weeks, 2 miles at a time, then 2.5-3 when I got over 20 miles. Due to an unexpected injury my longest real run was ~26 (but that was running with no breaks). I think this sort of plan is pretty good, though.

  1. The biggest difference I noticed in running an ultra is the amount of walking you do. When most people train for a marathon they want to run the whole way if possible. No one (well no one as slow as me, at least) runs a whole 50 miler the first time. I don't know for sure but I'd guess I walked close to half of my 50 and I finished okay. So one thing I'd definitely recommend is to practice walking as part of your long runs. It is a lot easier to run 30 miles either walking the up hills or walking 1 minute every six or whatever than to just run it straight.

  2. Practice running slow. I still don't feel comfortable running below maybe 9:30 pace, but late in a 50 miler it is important to be able to shuffle along.

  3. Practice walking fast. There's a tendency to just slowly walk during breaks. I like to try and keep up a good pace. In preparing for my 50 I even practiced walking fast on a motorized treadmill. I got to where I could walk at sub 12 minute/mile pace. Of course that's on a treadmill, but still it got my legs used to long, quick strides. I noticed during the race that I was passing a lot of people on the up hills because I could walk faster than they could.

  4. Practice trail running if you are doing a trail race. I didn't, I wish I had.

  5. Worry about your feet. I never had blister problems with long road runs, but really tore up my feet on the trail (also see #4). Next time I'll try NuSkin or Second Skin or whatever and also change shoes and socks during the race.

  6. Practice eating and drinking and carrying water. Very important.

  7. Just keep moving. Depending on the cutoff, you don't have to move very fast to finish a 50 miler. At Ice Age, the required pace was just under 15 minutes/mile. You could hike that fast, although it might be hard to keep it up for 8 hours. But you don't have to run most of it or run too fast to finish; the key is to just keep going.

Karl King

In addition to all the other good thoughts posted, let me add:

  1. If you took a survey of how list members trained prior to their first 50 miler, you'd probably find a wide range of training plans. Which says that there is no one sure-fire way, but many ways to prepare. So, don't agonize over details.

  2. Most runners come to this sport with a metabolism trained for speed: I.E. burn lots of carbohydrate fast. What you need for ultras is a metabolism trained for endurance: I.E. be stingy on carbo burning and burn fat instead. Any damn fool can run fast for 20 miles. To run well for 50 requires a specific type of response from the endocrine system. You can train your body to deliver that, but only if you run long enough to get tired and hungry. For most runners that implies doing 3 or 4 runs in the range of 25-30 miles.

  3. At the same time as you are training your endocrine system to respond to stress, you need to train your mind to get an endurance attitude. Those same 25-30 mile long runs will do that. One needs to experience the fatigue, and develop the resolve to run on in spite of it,learning that by relaxing and concentrating on form, you can keep moving forward when any sensible person would have stopped.
When my longest run was 13 miles, a marathon seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 26 miles, 50 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 50 miles, 100 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 100 miles, 50 miles seemed like a nice, long training run.

Don't let the distance scare you; run from aid station to aid station and the distance will take care of itself.

Scott Mills

Chris writes:

"What would it take to run a 50 miler (BRR) in late April. Am I being too enthusiastic? I would like to run a 50 in the spring and another in the fall, maybe JFK. If anyone can help with advise (training, etc.) I would appreciate it. I have gotten a lot of support and info already from Will Brown. I know that there is no sure fire plan, but I would like to have a few different ideas on how to prepare. Currently , I don''t run much more than 35 miles a week and would not like to just build up my mileage and make running a job instead of an adventure."
Hi Chris, I'm Scott Mills, the RD for the Virginia Happy Trails Club's Bull Run Run 50 which will be held next April 19th near Manasssas, VA. I'm responding to your request on what it would take to train successfully for a spring ultra, more specifically, what it would take to make it through our 50 mile trail run.

Having run ultras now for 15 years, my experience suggests that the most important thing in ultra training is the "obligatory once a week long trail run". If you can find the time to work up (over a period of 4 months with no more than a 10 percent increase per week) from a 15 miler to about a 25 to 35 mile training run, you should have trained enough to go the distance. Of course, there are a great number of other variables and considerations--the least of which is staying injury free and developing the mental attitude that accepts that "no matter how bad it gets, it will indeed get worse, but it will indeed also get better." Learning to adapt to the highs and lows in ultras comes from experience and getting older (becoming drainbamaged!?! )

I think you still need to run medium distances during the week; I've found that several 6-8 milers each week with one interval or pickup session should complement your long weekly run. Take a day or two off a week from running. I usually get my total weekly mileage up to about 50 -60 miles, but everyone is different. Experiment and work up gradually. The hard then easy then hard routine seems to work for me. Also, don't be tied to a rigid schedule. Listen to your body and adapt your schedule accordingly. For example, if you're really worn out--back off--and conversely, if you're feeling good on a given day--go a little longer and harder. Proper diet, sleep, and a little cross training (wts, biking, or swimming) help to condition your overall shape and also help avoid runner burnout. The key is to improve your endurance in a gradual and enjoyable regimen.

Also practice eating and drinking on long runs with high carb intake and train if possible on the type terrain you'll be running on--in the BRR 50, we have continuous rolling dirt trail hills--not as rocky as the AT at JFK, but none the less difficult and slow (Chris Scott made sure of that!!!) Train with other ultra runners if possible. Shared experiences on training runs and the associated camaraderie are what the sport is all about.

That's my 2 cents worth--if you're interested in receiving a BRR50 app and map, send me your snail mail address and I'll throw one your way. Hope this was helpful and happy trails...

John Davis

(Geraldine Wales) writes:

I have signed up for my first 50 mile trail run. The winner is Bull Run Run for two reasons. (1) I made a promise a few years back that when I was ready it would be my first 50 miler. (2) They are holding it on my 53rd birthday. Now would somebody please tell me exactly how to train for this one???
By your previous experience, I know you do not really need this post, but for a quick review, here it is:

The advice of Baz Hawley was given to me when I was a mere sprite at 50 on how to train for a 50 miler (His first San Juan Trail). I think his advice is still the same: Train the same way you would for a marathon. The long runs (up to 20 or 25 miles) are very important. The total mileage can grow to around 70 per week but 50 probably will do. Let the mileage grow at about 5 miles per week from a good base of over 25 miles. Train on the type of surface you expect to run on. Have fun. More effort is necessary only if you are going for the course record. You don't have to stay at the higher levels long. Taper for about two or three weeks before.

And one more: Much of the success is a function of the mind.

The days were short that November and the last couple of miles were in the dark. I hope your memories are as positive and last as long as mine have of both the contents and results of that day.

Lynn Asbury

Lady G, Congratulations on your entry to your first 50 miler. I just ran my first 50 miler at Sunmart and I would like to pass on 3 bits of advice.

  1. On training-do the obligatory long run every 2nd-3rd wk; my longest was 26 miles.
  2. Do the 50 mile distance in 3 days (walk if necessary); I did 20/10/21 on Fri/Sa/Su.
  3. Advice to me from Norm Klein; walk the hills (even the little hills) in the race from the beginning; this really paid off for me.

There is info about training for a 50 miler on the web site that has been mentioned on the list lately at Good Luck. I hope your run is as great an experience for you as mine was for me.

Vic Culp

Bob Hubbell wrote:

Hi. I've been lurking for a while and decided that I'd finally post something. I hope someone can give me a bit of advice -- I'm real new to the ultra scene and have a question: I'm planning on doing the VASS 50 Miler in VT (Oct 5th), and I want to do one of two races about 5 weeks before to see where I'm at with my training & to get a sense of how I'll have to run the 50. I'm considering doing a trail marathon or a 12 hour...The question is then, what would benefit me more, a long trail race for the trail experience or the multiple hours on my feet?
You'll get a lot of conflicting responses on this one. What works for one person may not work for another. I can relate what works for me.

I'm assuming that your training is no different than your marathon training except that you are running a weekly long run (on trail) of at least 20 miles. Sometime in July or August, you should plan to do a long run/walk that will keep you on your feet for about 75% of your projected finish time. For example, hoped to finish in 8 hours, training run should be 6 to 8 hours. On this run, speed is not important. Matter of fact, standing around waiting for somebody to catch up with you will help.

So, if I had my choice of a trail marathon or a 12 hour five weeks before a 50, I'd run the trail marathon and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. And, I'd run another marathon four weeks before the 50. And, 20 miles 3 weeks before the 50 and taper from there.

Chip Marz

I'm sure you'll get varying opinions on this, but to my way of thinking the trail marathon would probably be more beneficial.

  1. You'll get a lot of hours on your feet, as the trail will be several minutes a mile slower than on a typical road marathon. This will give you an opportunity to get used to the difficulties of trails.
  2. Doing a 12 hr "test" to see where you are is a bit too long of a "test" in my opinion.
  3. I think you'll enjoy the 26 miles on a trail more than 12 hrs on a loop course.
This opinion is as much my personal preference as anything else, as either run would be good preparation for the 50 miler.

Karl King

The trail marathon is the winner on two accounts:

  1. The terrain is more similar to the 50 miler course than any track would be.

  2. Since you are new to ultramarathoning, your endocrine system is not yet fully trained to respond to the stress of such events. If you do a 12 hour run, you may not have enough time for your endocrine system to recover for the 50. It would make more sense to run short the week before the marathon, run the marathon, do an easy 17-20 on trails the week after the marathon and then rest for the 50 ( no run longer than 15 miles before the actual ultra ).

You want to be fully rested and charged the day of the 50, not still recovering from some long run just preceding the ultra.

Do your heavy training in the 12 to 4 weeks preceding the ultra, not just before. Build a strong base well before the event, and then rest the last few weeks.

Tom Lyons

I would suggest the trail marathon. But, I would do it no closer than two months before your 50 mile (do it late August). In my experience, it takes a few weeks to recover from those and you want to be recovered for your 50.

"Time on the feet" seems to apply more for the 100s, but is also good for the 50s. However, it takes much longer to recover and there is more risk of injury.

Just remember, your goal is the 50 mile and you want to make it to THAT starting line healthy and fresh. It's also good to be realistic of your condition and not try to run too fast in the 50. It will be more fun for your first one to be conservative.

Rich Schick

I would echo the opinion of the need for a "time on your feet" long run of 2/3 your projected finish time. I differ in that I recommend doing this length of workout every other week for non competitive runners and every week for competitive runners up to two weeks prior to race date, at that point half your long run and leave everything else the same unless you do speed work - which you should stop one week out.

George Beinhorn

Do the 12-hour. It will tell you what you need to adjust. It will prepare your mind so there are fewer surprises. (Expect surprises.) But do it "easy" and don't get tempted to go fast during the good patches.

Five weeks before the 50, you want to be able to recover and feel fresh on race day, and you don't want to stop your training completely or GET SICK.

Be particularly careful 10-12 days after the "training run," when research (and lots of experience) shows it's VERY easy to get sick. If it were me, I would back of drastically between 7 and 15 days after the training run and just do light jogging.

Herb Hedgecock

For Kevin O'Neall's first 50 miler.


My mother, rest her soul, gave me advice; "You shouldn't run that far; it's bad for your body." The club members gave me advice; "You're crazy to try to run that far; don't do it." The lunch-table crowd gave me advice; "You won't have any knee joints left if you run that far." Everyone's advice was to forget it, DON'T DO IT, you'll get hurt, you're insane (or stupid or worse), etc.

So I did it anyway. I trained for a marathon, and did it. Two weeks later I did my first 30-mile training run. The next weekend I did a 25-mile weekender. And finally did an 8:33 for my first 50 the next week. My knees hurt, my feet were blistered, my shoestrings were sore. I was crazy; it was the dumbest thing I had done in at least a few months. I could hardly walk for a day or so because of the swollen ankles and knees, and the blisters on both feet. I didn't run for nearly a week or so after that, But ignoring a body that had protested vehemently I went back out to run again. My knees haven't decomposed yet, the black toe nails have fallen off and grown back several times (Well actually two are still yet to grow back from a month ago).

But, I got bragging rights for weeks, months, and I'm working on stretching it into years now. Nobody else it the community does ultras. So I get to brag. They still think I'm stupid, crazy, nuts, and will die one day trying to run with no knees and hip replacements. But I still get to brag.

So Kevin, just go right ahead and do your first ultra. Enjoy the pain you most certainly will find. Then brag. If you're really this stupid to actually do this, then:

  1. Have a crew to drive along and help. It's really useful to have someone ahead of you in a car, with the window rolled down 2 inches and the doors locked, yelling to run faster, and that you only have 47 more miles to go.

  2. Get someone to jog along with you for the latter parts of the race. This gives them and you practice in conflict resolution as you become surlier, curse more, and literally go to hell.

  3. Learn to pee on the run. Why stop? And who really cares about wet shoes after 20 miles?! And if you finish the 50, you will smell so bad that no one will notice the shoes.

  4. Eat and drink at every aid station. Remember that you paid good money to abuse your body doing an ultra. The least you can do is get part of that money back in food and drink. Also steal as much food as you can at the finish area before you leave.

  5. If you really want to run a fast competitive first 50 miler, then watch your diet, get plenty of rest, do some long training runs of 4-6 hours while practicing eating and walking, do some speed training, pick the right genes from your parents, etc. However, the best idea is to forget all of that foolishness of running a fast first race. Instead go out drinking with the ultra veterans who know how to beer-load, and enjoy yourself. Remember your body is going to let you know for a long time that it went 50 miles. Be nice to it - beer - before the run.

  6. The 25:5 method is to WALK 25, then get in a car and drive 5! Get it right; otherwise your body will really be mad at you.

  7. If you're really still serious about this non-sense, then consider therapy; you may yet be one of those who can be saved.

Wyatte DeLoache

you need to concentrate on a few things to ensure a successful first 50-miler.

First off, 65 miles/wk is good mileage, the question is: how is that mileage made? one long run (20-25 or so) and another shorter (12-15)? with 5- 7 mi a day for the rest? or maybe a three-four hour run with a 90 min to 2 hr also?? You need to accumulate time on your feet, regardless of speed or distance covered. If you run every day to get the 65 mi, try to run less days, with more mileage each time. You mentioned no runs over 20 miles; again, time on your feet is critical, so you need to get one (or two, but five weeks is pushing it) long runs in. Unless you've been building your mileage up to or past the marathon, you might not want to do anything longer due to the risk of an injury. If the Boise marathon course is similar to the LTC course, it's probably a good option. But, don't race, just do the distance. Halfway between Boise and the LTC 50, do another 3 hr/15-18 mi if you can.

If you haven't already, I'd also suggest that you get used to eating and drinking while moving; sounds like you might be used to that already. You will have to eat/drink to go the 50 miles, and should also make arrangements to have someone meet you somewhere with some aid, or carry a bunch yourself.

YOU NEED TO WALK. Since the first quarter of this (the LTC 50) race is uphill, you don't want to try and run 13 miles at 5% grade. Even though 13 miles is a long way to walk, you might want to consider it. At 4 mi/hr, that's 3 hr and 15 min to cover the distance. If that's unacceptable (remember, only finishing is the key), you could jog 15 min and walk 15 min. Also walk all the subsequent up hills.

This is all geared to getting to the 50-miler finish line; this kind of stuff worked for me, and I hope it will for you. Don't be afraid to walk, and keep eating drinking, and MOVING!!

Eric Robinson

"How do you all train for a 50 miler? What should the longest training run be before the 50 miler?"
I've found that 50K races make good training runs for 50 milers. Other 50 milers are also great preparation. Completing a new distance will provide partial innoculation against similar runs for about 2-3 months.

"And how many weeks in advance should the longest run be before the 50 miler?"
Three to five is a good number if your longest run is in the 50k neighborhood.
"Does anyone have a rule of thumb for running strategies such as run for 1 hour and walk for 10 minutes? Or do you run/jog the entire 50 mile?"
I am faster when using a walk mix. Beyond the standard stuff (walk the significant uphills), I have a very simple rule: never run more than ten minutes in a row! My walk break might be 30 seconds or 10 minutes; I generally walk until I feel a palpable recovery (which in the middle stages of an ultra takes maybe 2-3 minutes).

The ten minutes of running is not a "goal", but a maximum. If I've been running for 7 minutes but there is a slight incline ahead (one that I might otherwise be tempted to run), I will probably take my walk break immediately and then mentally reset the clock to zero.

The 1 hour run 10 minute walk that you describe (i.e. 60/10) would be way too long of a run for me; by the time I got around to walking, the hour of running would have done its damage.

A lot of other people advocate 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking (i.e. 5/1), but a one minute walk is usually not enough time for me to feel the "recovery" that the walk is supposed to provide.

"My normal training for a 50K is 3-4 miles weekday and a long run of 18-22 miles on a weekend, but I do run a marathon or 50K ultra every 4-6 weeks. Can I use my 50K training schedule to train for the 50 miler? Or do I need to increase my mileage to 30-40 miles for the long run?"
Your schedule sounds quite adequate. But if you want to increase some of the long runs, I'd say keep about half of them in the 20 mile neighborhood, and try to build two runs per month up to thirty miles or so (whether in the form of a training run or 50k race doesn't matter much).

It may be helpful to keep your overall mileage the about same by scrapping some of the short weekday runs. I view short runs as fun but totally expendable if it helps you get in the long ones.

"Just a note that I'll be running San Jose Silicon Valley marathon on Oct. 25th going all out to qualify for Boston (3:40 or better for my age group). It'll take me up to 5 days to recover which only gives me 2 weekends left to do a long run before Helen Klein 50 mile on Nov. 14th. Do I have enough time to put in one last long training run?"
There's little point in that. It takes your body about three weeks to adapt to a long run. But you can do other things that respond to training much more quickly. E.g. practice walking technique, strengthening, maybe some faster running (tho this one is probably not the greatest idea soon after a hard marathon).

It's been very difficult to try to keep focus on one event when trying to train for a 10K, marathon, ultra, and pretty much had to post-pone triathlon training until next year. Does anyone else do other events and if so, how do you combine all the training of several events to fit together especially when all events are back to back? I pretty much bomb my last 10K because I was half focus on the marathon, and I have bomb my past marathon time by focusing on the ultra. :-(
I know a few ultra runners that do successfully run short and long distances. I dip down to the shorter stuff every now and then (I like half marathons and 5k's). But I am not trying to get PR's there; I'm just trying to do speedwork in a fun way that will hopefully improve my speed for ultras.

My calendar is also pretty full of ultras (e.g. 20 in 1997). This is too many for me to "race" effectively. Some of them just become training runs, with an eye towards upcoming hundred milers. But if I feel good and there is plenty of time to rest before the next hundred miler or whatever else I am focussing on, then I may try to run the shorter ultras fast.

John Horvath

Emily Doan wrote:

My normal training for a 50K is 3-4 miles weekday and a long run of 18-22 miles on a weekend, but I do run a marathon or 50K ultra every 4-6 weeks. Can I use my 50K training schedule to train for the 50 miler? Or do I need to increase my mileage to 30-40 miles for the long run?
In my humble opinion, you should consider your marathon to be your last long run before the 50. Use the intervening time to do a combined recovery/taper.

From the information you gave it appears that your training is very similar to mine and I have run 50 milers on that schedule. In fact, I am running a road 50 on Saturday. On September 20 I ran the Pisgah Mountain 50k Trail race. The following weekend I ran 15, and two days ago I went out to run 20. (Turns out I took a wrong turn and ran 23 instead but you get the idea.) The other weekend I was out of town and only got to run 7 but I did it as a tempo run. Weekdays were 3 to 6.5 miles with at least one day off each week. I anticipate no trouble with the MTC 50 on Saturday.

Since I will be running a road 50 I plan on employing a run/walk strategy of 17min./3 min. and hope to finish around 8:20. I assume the Helen Klein 50 is trails so I would walk the uphills.

Shawn McDonald

Thought I would share some of my experiences in training for and running road 50's. I approach these races a little different than a trail 50, in terms of training, but not in terms of race plan. Still do the things that work well FOR YOU, no matter the setting.

Ok, so on to the questions.

  1. Not having much speed, can we for go the walking or at least wait until, say >35 mile point?

    Suggestion: Yes, in fact to reach your goal of sub-8 hours you can walk a little. I think SHOULD is a better word. The reason is that on roads (assuming a flat course) there is not the change in stresses that you get with hills. So brief walks are good for using different muscles and getting a breather. Maybe try this in long training runs or a marathon "practice race": try to do a brisk walk for 1-2 minutes about each 45-60 minutes. Drink and/or eat while you walk. Your heart rate will recover a little and you will be more refreshed when you start to run again. This is not much walking over 8 hours. You will end up running about 49 miles and walking a mile of the 50. Late in the race you might walk a little more frequently, but keep the walks short in duration.

  2. How much "fading" did you generally experience for the 2nd 25 miles Reply:

    Even splits are nice to try for but tough to achieve. A pretty good goal is a 10% or less slowdown 2nd half versus first half. For an 8 hour finish, that might mean a 25 mile split of about 3:45, then a 2nd half of 4:05-4:10. Note that compared to your recent marathon times (8 minute pace) this first half is a good bit slower (about 9 minutes per mile). Figuring in a little bit of walking (per above), your running pace would be maybe 8:40/mi or so early and in the low 9 minutes per mile late in the race. When I ran the Met 50 in '91, my marathon split was about 3:16 , for a 25 mile split of about 3:07 (7:30/mile) and finished in 6:30, for a 2nd half of 3:23 (8:10 per mile). That is a slow down of 16 minutes, or about 8.5% of the first half time.

  3. Is it a reasonable goal for a under 40mp week runner?

    I think that is ok, at the low end for weekly mileage for this goal for most runners. More important is: what are your long runs like in terms of time and pace, and what kinds of faster running are you doing ? The body will adjust to the types of training you put it under, so quality plus selective, intelligently planned quantity is the route to your goal. There will probably be a few weeks where you have more than 40 miles (say in the 50's), and a few with less (say in the 30 mile range) when you are recovering, or putting in a bit more faster running. The real key is to get in several long runs at a good steady pace prior to the 50 mile race, mixing in walking breaks as in (1) above. Try for a pace maybe in the upper 8's-low 9's minutes/mile. This is squarely in the range you will hope to average for the 50 mile race. Try to do these on terrain similar to the race course you would be prepping for, whether road or track, flat or hilly. These long runs are your bread and butter and will be what helps you maintain a good pace late in the race.

  4. I feel I need to be able to do a 3:30 marathon in order to achieve my goal.

    The rough estimate I would use is 2.2 times your marathon time. If you are equally prepped for both distances, and given similar race conditions (terrain, weather, etc.) this should be about right. Maybe use 2.3 to be conservative. 2.2 time 3.5 equals 7.7 or 7:42, and 2.3 time 3.5 equals 8.05 or 8:03. So your estimate is about on the mark I would say. Your recent marathon times suggest a 50 mile time in the 8 hour range, so maybe just a little more work and then a good taper. At my PR 50 I was in about 2:55 marathon shape and ran 6:30, so that is a 2.2 factor.

    Other thoughts and suggestions:

    Maybe do 1 or 2 longer long runs, one of which is at race pace. Try for maybe 32 or 35 miles so you experience that region of time-pace discomfort. Spread these runs out 4 weeks from each other and do the last one at least a month before the 50 mile race. During these long long training runs, try to duplicate race conditions as much as possible: walking breaks, fluid and food intake, terrain, weather, etc.

    For adding quality into training, put in a weekly fartlek or pace run, the fartlek might be 12 "bursts" of about a minute at your current 10k pace, with a minute or two recovery between burst, or a pace run at about 15-30 seconds per mile below your recent marathon pace, start with 2 miles at fast pace and add a mile per week or every other week until you reach 6 miles. Both these workouts should get you readjusted to a faster pace (and its mechanics) while working on your ability to handle more physiologically (bit of lactic acid). For the pace run, warm up with 3 miles easy and end with 2-3 miles easy pace running.

    After you run a "practice" marathon, take an easy week or two, cut back on mileage (maybe 50-65% of pre-marathon mileage), and don't do any speed runs. After a week or two you will be back to normal. The key is to not overtrain, or get injured. With consistency and a little planning on a regular basis as you go along, you can reach your goal.

    For the race, see if you can get a crew person to help, particularly late in the race. You will have a tougher time during that part of the race keeping track of any special drinks you want or foods, etc. Plus the encouragement and mental lift will help you a lot.

    Mentally, during the run, think in terms of THIRDS. This is a process that was well described by Tom Osler in his book on Ultrarunning. The first third is a warmup, stay loose and you should feel better than on a "regular" training run due to your taper and the excitement of the race. Do not go out more than 10% faster than you want to average, so for a 8 hour finish (9:30/mile), maybe set a "speed limit" of 8:30 per mile, and don't run faster than that. The 2nd third of the race, try to maintain pace, and slow a little bit after the marathon point. You should feel ok at 25 and a bit tired at 30-35. These miles in the 30's are tough mentally, just try to stay smooth, keep mixing in the walking breaks, and eat regularly (or take liquid nutrition). The last third just take it aid station to aid station, use other runners to pull you along or to stay ahead of them, and once you get to the last hour, focus on the "countdown" to the finish. I will look at my watch each 10 minutes for that last hour and imagine crossing the finish line. For your 8 hour goal, an even pace would dictate a 40 mile split of 6:20, so if you have a 10 minute cushion on that you should be fine.

  5. Do you agree the "crash & burn" approach is better 50 mile training than doing a sensible marathon?

    I would say that nearly even pacing is better. Your recovery is faster after an even paced "practice" marathon and you have a better feeling about it and your fitness after. Running a quality 50 on roads (or track) is an interesting challenge and required good sense, a good race plan, and even or nearly even pacing. Practice those in your training and any training races you do leading up to the "key" 50 miler. If you want to run a faster race than a marathon (pace wise), maybe try a 10k. There is a shorter recovery after and it is fun to run fast like that.

    I hope these comments and suggestions help. Also, consider there will be some slowdown with age (given equal training), but if you ran substantially under 8 hours say 6-10 years ago it is very reasonable to set an 8 hour 50 mile goal now. Also, consider maybe a few time goals for the 50 mile race, maybe a challenging goal of 8:00, but base goal of 8:20 maybe, and an ultimate goal of 7:30 (perhaps a best case scenario). If you miss the challenging goal but get the base goal, then you are "knocking on the sub-8 hour door" and can adjust your training for the next race.