Marathon to Ultra Running


Just wondering if anyone has advice on how to programme for this progression this year. Want to run 40 miles in my 40th year. I have a good running base from triathlon, and some standalone running events over the past 5 or more years. Mainly wondering when to put in the longer runs for the ultra. Looking for a decent performance in the half and full, but happy with a slow ultra - that’s just a completion challenge.

How long after marathon would you recommend ultra? Or ultra later in the year?

May Edinburgh Half Marathon
October Loch Ness Marathon
Ultra before the year is out

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just fyi, I find this quite helpful for anyone who is about to embark the ultra journey. Solid advice from one of the legends of the sport. It’s all about not getting injured.

Intriguingly, in the months leading up to Comrades, runners want to assess their fitness over longer distances and often enter a marathon or two. Fordyce strongly recommends against this. “When I am preparing for a major effort in an ultra-distance race, I have one rule about entering other long-distance races: don’t. If I could have my way I would force my running friends not to race a single race of 42kms or longer in the six months preceding Comrades.” The reason for this? Racing-induced muscle damage is exponentially exacerbated during races longer than 25kms. This muscle damage takes a considerable time to repair and inhibits the runner from swiftly returning to productive training.


It depends on how much running you do. If you typically run 50 mile weeks then you’ll have no problem. Any ultra race is exponentially more “difficult” than a marathon, but you get a lot more time to do it and run/walk/run is an integral part of the process so it’s considerably lower intensity than a road marathon at race pace. (unless you are Jim Walmsley who does 100km @ 6min miles).

This is a good resource:


I’m also looking at doing my 1st Ultra next season, for me my A races will be:

  • February - Northumberland Ultra
  • August - Ironman Vichy

For the ultra, my focus is:

  • Run 5 days / week
  • Run 6 times / week
  • Long run is time focused - not distance focused - increasing 15mins per week (starting at 90min)
  • Introduce a 2nd longish run day after main long run

The reason I am looking at time on my feet is my target run is a mix of trails and sand so normal pacing goes out the window


Im doing the edinburgh marathon and the ochil 50mile ultra next year… did really good progression through the first half of 2021 year until i picked up a knee injury at the celtman. What worked really well was adding 1k to my long run (in the hills, pentlands specifically) every week. My knee is all healed and my plan is to do easy running until the end of the year then add 1k to my long run starting from 8k in January. Add 1k to that every week until time to taper for the ultra. If you do your long runs in the hills you can trial your gear and nutrition

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I did birthday miles in 2016.
I did 37. My goal was to have fun and to finish. A friend of mine did it with me.

At that time i was training for marathons and i had just finished Boston (in a very disappointing for me 3.12) just 6 weeks before. So i had a decent base…we ran but we would take breaks… We would run for about 1 hr i think and take a 2 to 3 minutes break to eat and use the bathroom. We finished …

My point is… Your goal is just to finish the 40 miles you probably have the base for it with your marathon training… Just have fun with it and don’t stress too much. Find a good route and a friend or two who are willing to share the pain… It will be fun!


Great advice thanks.

I can run the ultra any time in the year - any advice whether to do the ultra, then the mararthon a couple of months later, or the other way around?

I would probably do it as a long training run… Give yourself enough time for recovery… An easy 40 mile run will probably take you out for a.week… it will not be the effort, but the time on the legs… So plan on taking a solid week of easy training


If you can do a marathon, you can manage a 40 mile ultra no problem. The trick is to change your mindset, run nice and slow, walk long uphills, and eat constantly.

As for the timing, I think it could actually be good to do between the half and full as more base training for the full marathon. Then you’ll know you’ve got the base fitness and can work on speed and honing in on the marathon.

This is the approach I did this year- I did a 60 mile ultra in August and spent most of June and July logging long slow mileage. Now I am prepping for a marathon in November and am less concerned about running high mileage and focusing a bit more on speed. Trying to significantly PR in the marathon so this is quite helpful. And anytime that thought of “26.2 miles is a looong way to go” comes into my head, I can pretty easily squash it by saying “I did 60 miles earlier this year, yeah I can handle 26”


I ran my first ultra (52 miles) Jan 2021. I had a huge running base though. I increased my miles from 60+ to averaging 95+ for 6 weeks and hitting over 100 a few weeks in a row. I was running 7 days per week to hit that. I think the way you have the races laid out is correct. Maybe sneak in a 10K or another half six weeks before the full, to see where your fitness is. You can then adjust your marathon time goal.

After the marathon depending on how beat up your body is, take a week or two off, reverse the taper and start ultra training. At this point 40 miles won’t be an issue.

Ultra is more about time on your feet, not the distance. I did a VERY slow 40 for my 40th birthday (injury forced me to walk most of it) and that was harder than the 50 miles I ran with virtually no training.

Timing is going to be dependent on your goals. Pick the order of priority for yourself, then fit them into the schedule.