Workouts for Ultramarathon Training

Let’s face it. Not only do you want to run far, but you want to run far in a faster amount of time. Workouts (also known as interval training) should never be the priority when training for an ultra, but they will be of a massive benefit in your preparation for handling those longer distances. Here are my favourite workouts to help with your ultramarathon prep, and some key tips and tricks along the way.



When designing workouts for ultras, it’s important to remember the key aspects of what an ultramarathon entails. Races often take place in remote areas, often involving demanding terrain, narrow paths, hills…even climbing mountains! Hill training is therefore essential to incorporate, and you should become well versed in forest running, and the demands of navigating narrow paths that twist and turn without warning. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend conducting workouts through narrow-pathed forests, unless you have more of an open path 1k loop or something of the sort to work with.

But as you incorporate workouts into your weekly training regimen, you should identify 2-3 long, strong hills in your neighbourhood. These can be grass, road, forested, whatever! Find 2-3 that you like, test out the distance, use our workouts, and design your own to get ready for the demands of hill and mountain running. If you live in a place like BC and Colorado, I would strongly recommend building mountains into your routine, and getting comfortable with the differences in altitude.

But for those of us that live in urban city centres or country roads away from glorious mountaintops, find a hill that you can use nearby. This can range from a 200m to 800m incline…to even longer if you desire. The key is that it’s a hill that’s easy enough for you to run to (such as doing a 3-5km warm-up to the hill); and that it’s an incline that you will genuinely enjoy running up. Hill training can be daunting. But if you love running and you love the idea of an ultra, you should love hill training. If not, what’s the point?

Variety will always be key and not every single one of your workouts should be hill training. You simply won’t build up as much speed that way. But hills will still be an essential component toward ultra-training stardom if you can make it happen.


It’s also important that you consider speed. On flat surfaces, you should be running at about your 10k to half-marathon pace during the bulk of your workouts, getting comfortable running fast over those longer distances. You don’t have to be running 1k’s at your optimal 1k pace. That is, especially if that disallows you to run more 1k’s. For ultra training, you’re better off being able to run 10 x 1km’s at 4:00 / km pace, then you are running 5 x 1km’s at 3:20 / km pace. You’re looking to build up speed endurance, not just speed.

If you find it easier to run fast when competing against someone else, invite a friend down and pump each other up for motivation.

I also wouldn’t run more than 3 interval workouts per week when training for an ultramarathon, and even 3 would be extreme. 3 interval workouts per week would be more akin to half-marathon or 10k training. You really only need one, ensuring you can focus on your back-to-back running days, and still have time for a rest day if needed. I’d only incorporate two into my training regimen if looking to increase, and the second would be either hill training or one of the tempo-styled runs listed below, rather than another interval workout at 5-10k pace.


It’s also important to consider nutrition when preparing for your workouts. Hard workouts will require more of your energy stores, but you also don’t want to eat so much that you feel sick or cramp up on the run. I like to eat no later than 2 hours before any of my runs, but this would be especially crucial for a workout.

If, like me, you’re trying to cram in some intervals before work or on a condensed schedule, you may be fine to eat nothing at all prior to the workout, so long as you’ve built up comfort running on an empty stomach first. There are several benefits to being able to run without food in your belly, and this is particularly imperative for those longer distances we’re training for, where you will inevitably go several hours on end without a proper meal.

We also have an entire article dedicated toward nutrition here.

Warm-Up / Cool-Down

It’s also important to consider how long you need to warm-up prior to conducting your workout, and ensuring you do a proper cool-down post-workout. Not warming up or cooling down properly will result in injuries, not to mention hinder your ability to succeed in your workout.

I like to warm-up for about 4-5-kilometers before jumping into strides fartlek styled, where I run for about 10-15 seconds at 1k pace, focusing on my stride, and then return to my warm-up pace until the next one. You can also do strides the traditional way on a flat terrain/road with stoppages in between, and incorporate flexibility drills / plyometrics that get your blood pumping and ready for the workout.

Post-workout, I like to run for about 2-3-kilometres at the very least, and often incorporate some deaccelerations (opposite of strides), where you start out fast and progressively slow down within a 5-10 second burst. For the last 1-2 kilometres of the cool-down, it should be slow and easy, and can even come to a crawling walk toward the end.

So now with that, let’s jump into some of my favourite workouts for ultra-running.


WorkoutRestPaceBeat Rhys
8 x 800m hillsDownhill at 50% effortHalf-Marathon4:20
2 x 1200m hills
5x 600m hills
Downhill at easy paceHalf-Marathon4:20
10 x 300m hillsDownhill at 50% effort5k pace3:40

Tailor the workout to your needs, and the hills that you enjoy.


WorkoutRestPaceBeat Rhys
6-10 x 1km’s1 min jog10k3:40
6-10 x 1200m
Beat your time
1 min jog5k3:30
6 x 5 mins
1 x 8 mins
1m30 s jog10k3:40
16 x 200m
10 x 100m
30s jog
15s jog
16 x 3 mins1 min jog5k3:35
6 x 1600m track400m recovery30k4:05
2x 800, 2x 1.6k, 2x 3.2k400m recoveryVaried4:00

Spicing up some variety into your workouts including ladder training and my “beat your time” workout, will keep both your mind and body sharp. The idea is that you must beat your time every single round of the workout, with the first round being no slower than your 10k pace. These kinds of workouts require not only speed and endurance but constant thinking and pace management.


WorkoutRestPaceBeat Rhys
10k Tempo
40 mins
Half Marathon4:00
1 hour
> 1 min jogVaried3:40
Within a
15-20k+ run
> 1 m30s jog5-10k 3:40

These types of workouts are common for ultra runners, as they incorporate longer distances without stopping or resting at a slower pace. Instead, in a fartlek or ‘pick-up’ run, you run your normal pace throughout, before bursting into short spurts of speed.

So there it is! Essential workouts for ultramarathon training! Be sure to check out more of our content below, and join our community!

Thanks for reading & see you soon!

Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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