Patience, Persistence & Planning – 50K The Easy Way

There once was this runner, we’ll call him Rob.

He had a goal. No, he had a vision. Not only that, it was a long term goal that actually created the opportunity to actually fulfill it! Wow, 11/10/07 and it was only October of 2006.

In one year’s time, he wanted to run a 50 miler. This is a lofty goal. It is one which requires some very essential things. It requires persistence in being consistent in training. It requires planning for every workout – with flexiblity built in all along the way. It required ongoing communication with coaching – we can’t read minds you know! And it required the patience to start small, grow, and step-by-step (quite literally) realize progress was being made. This was NOT a 12 or 16 week download schedule miracle.

The Plan

The plan called for progressively longer runs up to as far as 32 miles. The long runs were planned 3-4 weeks apart. Why so infrequently? It’s simple, the research shows that it requires your muscle cells up to a month to recover from a 20 mile run. We wanted targeted runs not plodding and walking. We did not want garbage miles.

Track workouts were pivotal. Why? The research again is definitive that development of raw power and speed enhances all measures of fitness more efficiently than just throwing in garbage miles while reducing the incidence of injury. (Total miles is the #2 correlated aspect of training to injury; #1 is past history of injury.)

Rob did in fact have a history of some injuries. So, as another element to the master plan, we included one day of cross-training. It was an interval aqua-running workout. Which worked great because he ended up meeting his wife at noon at the pool one day a week. She did her swimming workout while he did his. It was a date.

He received ASTYM treatments for plantar fasciitis along the way. The results were excellent. Symptoms were completely resolved within about 4 weeks or so.

Some key program elements:

  • Weekly mileage over the year ranged from 18 to 52 miles
  • Highest weekly mileage was 52 (hit only twice in the week of 30 milers)
  • Average mileage however was about 30 for the year
  • Average mileage in the last 21 weeks was 32 miles
  • 1-2 track and/or hill workouts per week – the entire year
  • Aqua-running interval training once a week
  • 3-5 days a week of running
  • Easy weeks with only 3 days of running and under 20 miles total regularly interspersed
  • Long runs in summer were divided into 20 & 18 over the weekend due to heat (we’re in Phoenix, AZ remember… 110F daytime temps and lows of 95F)
  • The longest single run was a 32 miler in cooler weather (Spring!)
  • From May through September long runs were split Saturday/Sunday combinations
  • Day of rest before and after long runs
  • Longest run other than the “ultra-specific” ones were 10-13 miles

The Results

What were the results from this past year?

  • 400 meter PR in workout
  • 800 meter PR in workout
  • Mile PR from 5:57 to 5:47
  • 5k PR from 21:17 to 20:45 during a workout (he’s now confident that 20:00 is within his grasp)
  • 20k PR 1:30:54
  • Half-marathon PR 1:37 to 1:34:51 (on a self-proclaimed bad day)
  • Marathon PR 3:37 (by over 15 minutes!!!) enroute to 50k
  • 50k in 4:21:29 – negative splits; last 10k average pace FASTER than to the marathon point
  • Disappointment because we found out only a couple months before the race; they omitted the 50 miler and left “only” the 50k.


If you want to be successful, stop looking for a magic bullet and quick fix. Running is not a downloaded online program. You are unique. The science is good but it has to be applied to an individual. That is where a knowledgeable coach is essential. Claudia and I worked well with Rob and his feedback to customize the program and optimize his results. At the same time Rob is an inspiration to us as coaches. He put us on the spot. He trusted us. We had to come through for him. We had to use the science we knew and apply it to this dedicated, persistent, patient runner. I was there as he started off on that 50k… and Claudia and I ran the last miles with him… picking off runners the whole way.

On behalf of Claudia, I want to thank Rob for a wonderful and fulfilling journey. I’m so glad to share in his success. But, in the end, he did it.. he ran every step… he ran every workout.

Coach Dean, Coach Claudia, Mike, Jan and Jim – our privilege to escort Rob to the finish.
Rob’s Entrourage


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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12 Responses to Patience, Persistence & Planning – 50K The Easy Way

  1. Rob Nichols says:

    Well I must say I’m very flattered to be the subject of a post on Dean’s blog!! Thank you for the very kind words and thank you for helping me achieve a great race.

    Here are a few of my observations for what they are worth:

    1. I could not have done this without a top-notch, well-thought out and well-planned training program; Coach Dean and Coach Claudia; and the support and encouragement of my running “buddies”

    2. If Dean has developed a training plan for you – just do it! Funny as it sounds, this was quite an ‘aha’ event for me. After doing some minor cross-country running in high-school, I started running again after 20 years or so in 2002. I started training with Dean and the club in 2003. For most of the time I had training plans for various races I was going to do.

    I, however, would make my own adaptations. I didn’t think I was putting in enough miles or those speed workouts tired my legs out. Coach was nuts to expect me to run a race with tired legs. Plus there was all this ‘new” information in Runner’s World or on the web that would make me do so much better. Finally, I just knew more about my own running than Dean did so I just made my own changes.
    For some reason, after a few weeks of training for my 50, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe Coach knew a little bit more than I did about this stuff! After all he’s been doing this for 35 years (versus my 4).

    So I decided to just do it. And you know what? It worked! In fact, I would say I experienced an exponential improvement in how I felt in training and in my performance.
    That’s not to say changes didn’t happen (vacations, work, pain etc.) but I discussed these with Coach and adjustments were made accordingly.

    3. Give yourself time. I gave myself 3 ½ months to train for my first marathon. I ran it, but ended up with an injury that took me out for a couple of months. The fact is, there is a race somewhere that you could do EVERY weekend. Why the rush? I started to think about a 50 two years ago, adapted my running accordingly and started formally training one year out. By the time I started training, I had a good solid base to build on. I also resolved to push the race out further if I felt I wasn’t going to be ready. I am absolutely convinced this is how I avoided injuries. Plus I had no doubt going in to the race that I was well trained.

    4. Speed work works! See the PRs above. I was able to do those AND improve my distance running.

    5. Get new shoes every 300 miles. The non-runners in your family may think you are extravagant or have a shoe fetish for dropping $130-150 every couple of months on running shoes but they are wrong. I can almost trace every one of my injuries to ‘old’ shoes. In the end, I think I have saved money by avoiding spending on doctors, PT etc.

    6. Use your long training runs to figure out everything for the race. Where do you chafe? Which clothes are comfortable? What should you eat? How best hydrate etc.? And then stick with it on race day so there are no unpleasant surprises.

    My next race? The beer mile. You can catch me on my ‘long runs’ at Four Peak Brewery 

  2. Great comments Rob. Great lessons too.

  3. I want to add some more information about Rob’s training and race. Rob ran his long runs in the 8:45/mile pace vicinity. What is interesting is that he ran his 50k by “feel”. Though he had his watch and he timed the 5k loops, he didn’t do the math to figure out his actual pace along the way. He averaged 8:21 per mile. He admits that had he known that was his pace, even though it was completely comfortable, he would have slowed down. This is a lesson for all of us. Sometimes we inhibit our progress by being tied to the clock… it is obviously true with heart rate monitors because of all the flaws in using HR to determine pace.

  4. Pingback: Faith in Your Training « The Running World According to Dean

  5. So its July 14th and yesterday I decided to do a 50 miler too. The thought has been with me for 25+ years of running and I’m finally ready to take the plunge. At age 42 i’ve amassed thousands of training miles, virtually no injuries in the last 15 years, 8 running marathons, 20 cross country ski marathons and consisten 40-45 mile training weeks all spring and summer. I’ve done speed, hills, and tempo runs in prep for a regular trail marathon on JULY 26 and the date of my 50 miler is Sept. 20th. This gives me 8 weeks between events – Question — in this 8 weeks should i squeeze in ONE long (30-35 mile) run as a prep for the 50 miler? Ideally it would happen about Aug 23rd – exactly 4 weeks after the marathon and 4 weeks before the 50 miler. That gives me a month to taper and recover from the long runs.

  6. Jeff – I think you’re dead-on. The biggest consideration will only be how much you put into your trail marathon – how depleted you are from that. If you are running to finish and don’t get into a death march in the latter miles, you’ll be ready for a 35 miler in between these two races.
    Purely anecdotally I once ran a 50k and then 2 marathons within 8 weeks; the first ones were good hard runs but not all out and the last one ended up my PR for the marathon – 2:36.
    I can’t wait to hear how you do.

  7. knowing myself, i will put my ALL into the trail marathon Dean. Its an annual event i regularly try to do my best in. But, i will be taking the week after off running with a 40 mile hike (over 5 days) with my son. Perfect low level aerobic work with a pack on to ease recovery on the legs, then back to running easy, then my 35 miler … we’ll see how it goes. The 50 miler is perfect for me, smooth single track trails with some hills thrown in for fun in a Michigan september – 50 degrees at the start line !! I am capable of a 3:00 flat road marathon right now, wonder where that will put me in a 50 miler on trails? 7 hours? 8 ? we’ll see.

  8. All things being equal… if you’ve done some distance stuff in preparation, if you could do 7:00s for a marathon I would guess 7:30s would be achievable. Even without all the extra long run preparation – I’d put money on 8:00s. Either way, those are sub-7 hour efforts. I’d recommend going out at 8:00s and see how long you last. You might be pleasantly surprised. Go for it!

  9. JKal says:

    Yeah, i remember making this post LAST summer and then doing exactly what I said I would do … I hammered my marathon so hard in July that I just couldnt fathom the thought of a 50 miler afterwards. THIS summer I’m doing my JULY marathon with a 6-9 mile warmup run, then the marathon (for a total of 32-35 miles that day) as prep for a 50 miler four weeks later. I have commited myself to NOT racing the marathon, but just running it, then tapering down for 4 weeks before the 50 miler in august. About mile 20 (which will actually be mile 26 or 29) of the marathon i just HAVE to relax and take it easy, period.

  10. Dean Hebert says:

    Jeff… good to hear from you. I think you have a good approach with the marathon. Don’t trash yourself… keep the big picture in mind… your real race is the 50!
    Drop me a line how it goes. Good luck!

  11. JKal says:

    I will let you know how it goes Coach. Running season in Michigan is just starting up … (after 170 inches of snow this winter) finally some dry roads, and eventually, some trails. check out my website blog pics … SNOW !!

  12. Pingback: Faith in Your Training « Everything Mental Toughness

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