Trail Running Marathon Training Plan: 50k 

Are you signed up for a trail race of about 40 km or 42 km and looking for a training plan? This distance, sometimes called a ‘Maratrail’, combines the length of a marathon with the challenges of trail running. The fastest runners complete it in about 3 hours, while others may take up to 10 hours, meaning your approach should vary depending on your objective.

Whether you’re participating in the MCC at UTMB Mont-Blanc, the Marathon Race at MaXi-Race, the Mont Blanc Marathon, or another maratrail, you’re in the right place. Here are the principles of a 40 km or 42 km trail running training plan.

Understanding the Profile of Your Maratrail

In the Alps or other mountainous areas, 40 km trails can have elevations of around 2000m, sometimes more. The higher the elevation gain-to-distance ratio, the more you need to focus on muscular strength in your training. The pace will be slower, and for runners who expect to spend more than 5 hours on the course or for whom strength is a limiting factor, the use of poles should be considered.

For more rolling trails, preparation will be similar to that of a road marathon, albeit with some necessary adaptations.

Fundamentals of the 40 km or 42 km Trail Running Training Plan

A 40 km trail, or maratrail, typically takes between 3 to 10 hours to complete, depending on the course profile. Factors such as endurance, running economy, and muscular strength are crucial.

Hike-and-Run Training

To develop endurance, include hike-and-run sessions of 2 hours or more in your training plan. The purpose of hike-and-run is to alternate between walking and running while maintaining a moderate heart rate (in zones 2 or 3 in terms of intensity). These sessions should ideally be on trails similar to those you’ll encounter on race day.

These outings also provide an opportunity to test your gear, nutrition, and hydration strategies (about 500 ml of water per hour of effort).

Working on Resistance and Muscle Strength

For resistance and muscle strength, incorporate short hill repeats, long hill climbs, and muscle strengthening exercises, including proprioception and exercises specific to trail running. Cycling can also be a beneficial addition.

Examples include:

  • Short hill repeats: 12 x 25 seconds with recovery by jogging downhill.
  • Long hill climbs: 5 x 6 minutes on hills.

In your training plan, it’s also important to work on downhill running to handle the negative elevation on race day. While races in these formats are rarely won on the descent, being unprepared can lead to significant time loss.

Your 40 km or 42 km Trail Running Training Plan

Consider these elements and work on these varied aspects for your training plan. An easy way to do this is to download RunMotion Coach, as our algorithms will create your personalized training plan. It will be tailored to your goal, experience, and available training terrains (trails, mountains, hills, etc.), and will evolve based on your feedback.

Your training plan may include sessions like:

  • 3-hour hike-and-run.
  • Hill repeats: 12 x 25 seconds.
  • Long hills: 5 x 6 minutes.
  • 10 x 1-minute descents, etc.

In the Premium version, you’ll also have access to strength and conditioning workouts for trail running. Muscle strengthening is an important element in these 40 or 42 km formats. In the weeks leading up to your race, you’ll receive specific advice, especially on nutrition.

The RunMotion Coach app, based in the Alps in Chambéry, supports runners of all levels and from all locations. One of our founders, Guillaume Adam, has excelled in maratrail distances, winning the Marathon Experience at the Maxi-Race and finishing 2nd in the MCC at UTMB® Mont-Blanc.

Happy training with your 40 or 42 km trail running training plan! 

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for community management.