Reviewed by Joe Fejes
Training for Ultra Running, written and edited by master ultrarunning historian Andy Milroy, is a compilation of ultrarunning training techniques and racing strategies from many of the world’s greatest runners, including Bruce Fordyce, Bernd Heinrich, Cavin Woodward, Don Ritchie, recent double World 100K champion Giorgio Calcaterra and world record holder Takahiro Sunada of Japan. The book covers distances ranging from the 50K to multiday racing and has specific chapters dealing with the 100K, 24- hour, Multidays, trail ultras and ultra training for women (including Sandra Barwick, Eleanor Robinson and Hilary Walker).
The author does a wonderful job of capturing the training methods considered to be critical by each contributing elite runner. This is not a “how to” book mandating instructions that the reader must follow but instead embraces the “Experiment of One” concept often observed by veteran ultra runners. In fact, the introduction of the book actually warns the reader, “The advice within is both varied and sometimes contradictory— use what suits you. Every runner is different.” Instead of force-feeding the reader a particular training strategy, Milroy suggests the reader choose from a variety of strategies. To me this approach is what sets Training for Ultra Running apart from other running books and what I appreciate about it the most.
For example, many beginner and advanced ultrarunners alike often pose the question, “How many ultra races should I run each year?”
Bruce Fordyce believes, “To race effectively at [ultra] distances it is essential to race selectively and sparingly. Just as the world’s top marathoners race perhaps two or three marathons in a year, so should the world’s top ultramarathoners.”
Cavin Woodward, however, takes the opposite view, “I have always disliked training and it is only the thought of the race at the weekend which forces me to maintain my daily routine (for that is what training has become). There is no way I could train for weeks at a time in an effort to produce one good performance at the end; and I believe that runners who do that can find that, as well as missing out on many enjoyable races during the build-up period, there is always the chance that something can go wrong on the ‘big day’ and all your sacrifices will have been in vain.”
Which race strategy is correct? Both—it really depends on the individual runner.
Another fascinating area included in the book is a section on the training techniques of a few of the great multiday runners of the 1880s. It’s pretty neat to see what nutritional, training and racing strategies worked almost 130 years ago, compared to today’s modern scientific strategies. Training for Ultra Running belongs in every serious ultrarunner’s library as the definitive resource for training techniques and racing strategies.