I have received some messages since World’s Toughest Mudder asking for advice on how to achieve mileage goals for next year’s race. As the conversations dove deeper, they tended to veer off into the direction of “what gear did I use”, “what did I eat” or “what was my pit strategy”. While those are all important questions, they completely left out the most important aspect of ultra-distance preparation: training.
Ultra-distance training isn’t sexy, it takes a lot of time, determination and focus and World’s Toughest Mudder is a humbling event, a lot can go wrong in 24 hours. To compensate for inevitable mishaps you will require proper training. Whatever natural ability you have that gets you through specific sections of shorter distance OCRs will get exhausted at some point and your weaknesses will be exposed. Whether you possess running speed, power-hiking or rig talents, you will most likely need to train all areas, even your strengths to avoid penalties, bonking and increase the intensity of your 2nd, 3rd… 10th winds. Otherwise you could very well set yourself up for disappointment.
This should be obvious. WTM is an event that is designed to have athletes push their perceived limits on an obstacle course. This will require you to cover a lot of distance in between obstacles. If you find running to be absolutely intolerable, this race is probably not for you.
I ran 2,600kms (1,615 miles) in the 11 months leading up to World’s Toughest Mudder 2016, which included 12 long runs between 20 and 25kms (12.5 to 15.5 miles) and 12 long runs ranging from 25 to 37kms (15.5 to 23 miles). Weekly mileage ranged from 60 to 106kms (37 to 66 miles) depending on proximity to ultra-distance races, which included the Tri-State Spartan Ultra Beast, Ultra Trail Harricana 50-mile ultra-marathon and WTM.
Stacked Long Runs
One staple in ultra-marathon training is the stacked long run which is essentially two back-to-back long runs. This not only allows you to greatly increase your weekly mileage, it also gets you accustomed to running on tired legs and also simulates the first and second halfs at WTM. However, you will be required to run consistent weekly mileage to avoid the high injury risk associated with stacked long runs. Running on trails also helps.
I included 7 stacked long run weekends into my training which ranged from 30 to 35kms (18.5 to 22 miles) with 700+ meters (2,300 feet) of elevation gain on Saturdays to 20 to 25kms (12.5 to 15.5 miles) on Sundays with 1000+ (3,300+ feet) meters of elevation gain.
Do strength training
This isn’t just some ultra-distance running race so you’ll need some strength training and I’m not talking about practicing on monkey bars or a rig. WTM is THE race where you’re bound to come across something new: in 2016 it was double rainbow and other obstacles actually changed throughout the race. You are cheating yourself by getting your body accustomed to a specific configuration of a specific obstacle. Train all muscles every week to ensure you have the strength to support yourself on a new obstacle while you attempt to figure it out, or just power through it outright.
I follow a traditional strength training program that I carry out at a conventional gym 4 to 5 days a week. It’s overkill but I don’t mind. I recommend following a program designed by a certified trainer, you can find many for free online and on YouTube.
Run to the gym / Run to work
Whichever works for you. Not only is this a great way to build up your weekly mileage, it also gets your body used to long workouts and long physical days in general. In addition, running to the gym turns your strength workouts into brick workouts while both running to the gym and running to work converts your commute into training. Required to bring your laptop or other heavy equipment to and from work? Even better! A gym membership at nearby facility will give you a place to shower when running to work.
If you work at a desk all day, a standing desk is a must. I can’t think of a better way to add time on your feet while at work than by using a standing desk. You don’t need to spend $500+ either, here are instructions for how to build one for cheap using IKEA furniture and mounts. To avoid tendonitis in your feet, you’ll want to pick up a foam floor mat.
Bonus: add a weight vest for increased stress on your legs, feet, core and traps. You’ll want to work your way up with weight and time when incorporating a weight vest.
Racing is not training and anyone who think otherwise does not know what proper training is. When you truly push your limits in a race you require time to recover and you can’t increase your training if not reasonably recovered. A 5km Spartan Sprint will not help you at World’s Toughest Mudder. Conversely, doing 4 to 5 laps of a Spartan Sprint in one weekend is probably ok once in a while but in my experience requires considerable recovery time.
I reduced my race schedule from every weekend during the spring and summer to one race per 4 or 5 weeks as of the beginning of August. I did some races the day after my longer long run, but at an easy pace/ fun lap pace and added an extra-long warm up and cool down to make that my shorter long run in my stacked long run program.
World’s Toughest Mudder is a complex event where a lot can go wrong. I see it as a 2+ year goal as many people, including myself, fail to achieve their milage goal on their first attempt and perhaps their second as well. Proper consistent training will not only increase your speed and strength, it will reduce injury, delay your inevitable energy bonk and most importantly, it will keep you on the course longer, which is the goal of a 24-hour race.
Finally, good luck, you’ll need it.
By : Adam Kwitko | Is an endurance sports journalist and race operations professional. He is an avid OCR racer, trail runner and advocate for mandatory completion OCRs who gravitates to the longer distances. He also consumes large amounts of honey and maple syrup.