Ultrarunning: What You Should Know About Multiday Races

August 14, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “What You Should Know About Multiday Races”, please leave it below in the comments section…

The challenge in typical ultramarathons like 50 or 100 milers is obviously how to conquer the distance and reach the finish line. Now imagine having to strive for that goal for two or more consecutive days. That’s basically what multiday races are and successfully completing one certainly earns you bragging rights.

Two types of multiday races

There are events organized such that the ultrarunner needs to complete a certain distance under a cut off period for each day of the race. The daily distance and time requirements of some multiday races configured this way may actually vary. So it’s possible to have leg breaking days and relatively fun light days in one event.

More often than not such races are on a linear course and held on natural terrain. That means there’s a starting point A and ending point B and in between are forests, hills, rivers, deserts and anything else nature can throw at you.

The other type of multiday race only has a set time. The shortest event would last 48 hours and the course is often a looping track. Just like a 24-hour race, the objective is to run the longest possible distance within the set days.

Training and preparation

Just like in the more popular or common forms of ultramarathon, the long run training session is going to be the core of your work outs and routines. In a 100 miler for example, the long run exercise is what prepares you physically and mentally for the incredible distance you’ve set out to conquer. In such a typical ultra, you’re essentially targeting a singular event, one long arduous and continuous trek. A multiday race however is more like running several small ultras across consecutive days.

You’ve probably heard how some veteran runners implement their long run sessions spaced out in two or more days. Let’s say 25-30 miles today and another of the same set the following day. It is this method of doing your long runs that will probably give you better preparation for the particular challenge you’ll face in a multiday race.

Gear, fuel, liquids, and all the other logistical and support considerations are also naturally multiplied in an ultra that’s going to last longer than 48 hours. The principle of bringing along only what is absolutely necessary and in accordance to the circumstances of the event still applies. Except of course you’re going to be packing more of the same essentials and planning more meticulously how to space out and budget your limited supplies.

Run and walk

You probably already know that for the longer ultras, you’re going to have to do more walking than running. This is certainly no truer than in a multiday event. Whether you’re traversing vast swaths of varied terrain or circling along a looping track for the Nth time, you’ll just have to accept the fact that a significant percentage of your time is going to be spent walking.

It may somehow contradict the normal conception of what a “race” should be. But unless you’re gifted with superhuman endurance, setting a pace or run-walk interval that is proportionately made up more of the latter is in all likelihood the only viable tactic you can use to reach the finish line of an ultra that’s going to go on for several days.


Do you have questions about multiday races, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

Comments (3)

  • Lynda Webber says:

    Hi, Guys – I see that you “promise you’ll respond,” so I just had to drop you a note! 🙂 I’ve registered for the Vol State 500K on 7/9/15 (http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=29688 ), and am still trying to fine-tune my training program as there does not appear to be a whole lot out there on how to train for a point-to-point ultra where the clock does not stop ticking until you’ve crossed the finish line several days later. My goal is not to be fast, I just want to make sure my body is as strong as it needs to be to withstand the rigors of covering 30-40 miles each day for several days. So far, I’ve been following a marathon training program where the run time is in minutes vs miles, and incorporating a walk session immediately after the run session that is just as long as the run session was. Have been including some aqua jogging on other days, and doing some run-specific strength work on my non-run days. I recently read, however, that one should actually do the strength workout on run days, immediately after the run, instead of on the non-run days – reason being that you will not allow yourself enough time to recover on your non-run days if you do strength training on those days. Everyone says something different, so it’s really hard to decide what the best training plan is. My inclination would be to look at everything and take the most conservative approach. How would you incorporate strength training into run/walk ultra-ultramarathon training? I work a full-time job M-F but have no kids, so I can devote an hour in the morning and an hour or two each weekend night to training, plus my weekend days. Thanks for any input you’d care to give! 🙂

  • Lynda Webber says:

    “…I can devote an hour in the morning and an hour or two each weekend night to training, plus my weekend days.” Whoops… MEANT to say, “an hour in the morning and an hour or two each WEEK NIGHT to training, plus my weekend days.”

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