How do you use TR to support your running goals?

I am planning to take part in the Marathon de Sable in April, a multi-day running event through the Sahara. In an attempt to avoid running injuries and build fitness I am planning to combine my running with a TR plan. I am thinking the full distance triathlon plan might be best suited? Has anyone done anything similar and if so what plan did you follow?


First off, kudos for even entering the marathon de sables…:+1:
6 days racing across the desert for those who don’t know it.

How many marathons have you run so far?

I ran my first standalone marathon last April using the FD tri plan with Ironman Lanzarote six weeks later in May. I knew the marathon was a “B” event in my calendar, and although I was fit for racing, I wasn’t marathon race ready. In hindsight I needed race simulation as well and consistent longer long runs.

This year, although I am cross training bike swim and strength it won’t be with a formal plan - the runs are the key work outs, the cross training is important but “nice to have”.

What approach to run training are you looking at?


It depends a bit how you do your run training. I could see anything from a traditional base LV to a SSB plan worked into your run schedule.

Note that some run plans intentionally include cross-training, as you want to do. For example the FIRST Run program.

Then again you probably need less speed than strength and resilience for such an event. So you may have some strategy to anyways ensure that compared to a standard marathon plan?


Thanks @JoeX, I have completed seven marathons in total, three in the last two years. I used the FD tri plan to train for UK Ironman in July 2018 and then did the Berlin Marathon in the September. Berlin was the ‘B’ event and I only ran two or three times each week, but was surprised by how much of my fitness I managed to retain. In the past when I have tried to follow a structured ‘running plan’ I have picked up injuries and have not been able to compete.

I was thinking about using the FD tri ‘bike’ plan and replace the swimming with one additional run and strength work. building up the weekly mileage gradually. Its typically the ‘speedwork’ that causes injury, so was going to replace this with ‘tempo’ runs?

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Thanks @schmidt, I had considered the traditional base LV and SSB to work alongside the marathon plan and in many ways think they may be a better fit, but found it difficult to balance the hard/ easy days and match the rest weeks with a marathon training plan. I have completed the FD plan previously and found the ‘balance’ worked well for me.

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I think that in this scenario there are multiple ways how TR could bring to support the running. With the event that you have chosen, overall running volume is obviously important as your legs will be toast after the first day if you are not used to long time on your feet. Ramping up intensity and volume at the same time is always a recipe for an injury, so that’s where TR might come in very handy.

  • You will be able to do some threshold/vo2max or similar type of work and stress your cardiovascular system without pounding the legs.
  • Low intensity cycling is also good, because it will help you with blood circulation in muscles, helping with the recovery. If you choose to do some higher low intensity volume that might be helpful with promoting fat fueling adaptations. It’s much easier to keep HR at 50-60% of HRmax when cycling compared to running.
  • Cycling in general will strengthen your quads which will help with uphill and downhill running and stability.

Hi and good on you.

I have a few friends that have done the MDS and some while training for an IM. (I wanted to but my wife said no after watching a documentary)

Are you looking to be front runner finish the race in 19-30 hours, or more of a walker taking 70-80 hours.?
The answer to this has a big impact on how you train.

Are you doing any other ultras as a build up?
This could be running or long distance walk events

How is your endurance at the moment?
It is important to know this as you need to build up gradually, you never need to over stress so you cant do the next planned training session. This could mean adapting some of the bike sessions so they are more like traditional base.

Adding in the cycling is a good thing (IMO) as it helps add variety and stops you getting board. In the past when I’ve been training for ultras I’ve also included long walks (I did 3 marathon walks in 3 days down the northeast coast walking a lot of the time on sand). Training on sand/dunes builds core strength.

I’d say think twice about any bike training session above tempo - you need to maintain consistency, and build stamina and endurance

Good luck


I had thought so but I’m having that position challenged by the research of the FIRST program @schmidt mentioned and some of the That Triathlon Show podcasts. Essentially runners have two main injury risks, too much intensity, and/or too much volume. Cross training seems flavour of the year too, which suits us as triathletes.

Im hoping the risk mitigation strategy is to limit the speed work to 5k pace intervals, tempo to use under half mara pace, and long to mara plus 45s per km.

Bike sessions; Threshold/VO2 Intervals, Sweet Spot and Active Recovery.

Endurance ride of a similar length to the long run - but unstructured or structured/easy.

I’ve no experience with ultra distance run training though, so this is only relevant if it’s similar to marathon.

Here is a good article by Ian (who is also a great sports photographer)


Thanks @OldFish:)

Thank you @JoeX, that is really helpful. That fits with my thinking re pace/ speedwork.

I have never completed an ultra before but plan to follow a marathon plan and add a few double day, long runs/ walk. I also have a couple of ultra-distance events in my build up.

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Thank you @WildWill, that is really helpful :+1:

One thing I forgot to add, that was a hard lesson learned for me…

Training wearing a backpack … do lots of it to get use to the feel, and the change in balance

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Hi @WildWill,

Thanks for your reply, I watched the documentary after I had signed up…no going back :slight_smile:

I definitely will not be a front runner, but would hope to be in the top half.

My endurance is okay and I ‘train’ 5 or 6 times a week. I am trying to build up my stamina and endurance without getting injured.

I would like to increase my ‘hours’ training but want to be careful to build up my mileage gradually, and thought this might work for me.

I plan to follow a traditional marathon schedule and add a few double day, long runs/ walks, I really like the idea of 3 Marathon walks, particularly on sand. I also have a couple of ultras planned prior to the mds.

As I am limiting the speedwork when running I thought it might be a good idea to do some bike training at a higher intensity?

Thanks for your input, much appreciated

Thank you, Do you have any thoughts on nutrition?

for an ultra you need to continualy top up, try training your body to cope with more carbs 90-120g/ hour.
take food in every 15-20mins or so.
Eating during an ultra is easier than other races as their will be a lot more walking.
for multi-day events EAT WELL between stages - you need a lot, with 55-60% from carbs.
Test everything in advance of the race

good reads

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