You've got signed up on your first Spartan Extremely 50Okay race - now what?

That's what I asked myself after completing what now seems like a stupid, idiotic decision to compete in the Spartan Ultra 50K Race, a 50K, 60 (sixty) obstacle trail run on 6. So far I've had exactly zero running challenges in my fitness journey completed more than half of this distance.

Every year I do a birthday challenge where I train and try to prove to myself that the old lie "age is just a number" is even remotely true. This year I've been so insanely busy building and opening Intentional Sports, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring Chicago's youth through the power of sport. I felt like I was going to have to do something pretty crazy.

I've always trained, and I knew I could "play my way through" any type of lesser challenge by relying on athleticism and basic fitness. That is different. There's no mileage cheating, and there's no way to smash through 60 obstacles.

Training for this type of challenge reminds me of my favorite quote from author Orison Swett Marden: Success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be persuaded or bribed; Pay the price and it's yours.”

So here's a basic breakdown of my training split for the Spartan Ultra 50K race, and then I'll give you a few thoughts on how it's going. Firstly, in case you're clueless about Spartan racing (like I was), then all I'll say is this: it's a lot of running with some obstacles breaking up the miles. These obstacles tend to emphasize a lot of pulling, hanging, climbing, and carrying. To that end, I've varied my workouts a bit every few weeks, but here's the current program, broken down into two sessions a day.

Andy McDermott

The Spartan Ultra 50K Race Training Plan


1) 14 mile run (long slow day)

Monday (rest day from running)

1) Early morning: Push/puil/core circuit (at least one floor push exercise and one hanging exercise) followed by 30 minutes of elliptical training

2) Lunch break: 30-40 minutes of stretching, stationary bike or elliptical machine


1) Early morning: biceps/triceps/core/mobility circuit followed by a 7 mile run

2) Midday: stretching + 30 minutes elliptical/bike


1) Early in the morning: run and power alternator. 8 mile run divided into 8 laps with:
Run 1 mile, 2 sets of shoulder exercises (1 press, 1 lift), 1 set of suspended core work

2) Midday: Stretching followed by 30 minutes of elliptical/bike


1) Early in the morning: grip strength, including hanging and carrying circles, followed by a 7 mile run

2) Midday: Stretching followed by 30 minutes of elliptical/bike

Friday (rest day from running)

1) Early morning: leg strength/mobility/circuit training followed by 30 minutes of elliptical training

2) Midday: Stretch followed by 30 minutes of cycling


1) Early Morning: Bodyweight training, including upper body push-pull (chest/back/bis/tris/shoulders) and core, followed by an 8-mile run

2) PM: elongation/mobility

So, lots of drudgery and perseverance! Some thoughts:

I've been playing soccer for about 42 years and ran quite a bit at shorter distances (5-10km) when I competed in the Toughest Competitor Alive for the World Police and Fire Games. But I have NEVER run that many miles, nor did I think I would ever do it. body would classify me as a RUNNER.

Oddly enough, I enjoy it. Well, sometimes I hate it, but mostly I appreciate the slow, steady pace at which I run all those miles. Also, it's winter in Chicago, so I've been relegated to the treadmill for a lot of those miles, so I'm catching up on a lot of movies... Overall, it's been nice to slow my heart rate and walk off the rat race during this manic season of life.

For resistance work, I lowered the weight and increased the volume. Much of the focus has been on bodyweight training, as that is the focus of so many obstacle course races. Whenever possible I overload my body weight a bit, raise my frame and pull/hang with the load.

I've been able to maintain my size and strength despite all the running - which is good in this case because my only hope of surviving this race is to do well on the obstacles... All that bodyweight and volume training has validated what I am have always preached to those who might get discouraged if they don't have a gym or proper equipment to exercise: Our muscles are dumb - they have no idea where they are or what they're pushing/pulling/lifting/throwing!

Finally, I believe that most people can take on a much bigger challenge than they might think. Yes, this one might actually crush me when all is said and done, but I'm enjoying the one step/mile/day at a time long runway mentality here. Granted, I've been in a bit of a mindless groove in my fitness life; just “get in” every day, don’t get better – feel “comfortable”.

But the only way to ever get better at anything is to push a little into the uncomfortable and redefine it.

TIME MANAGEMENT: All of this training takes hours most days, and I have five family members, three careers, and a fat bulldog, all of whom deserve my time. I can't stress enough the importance of planning and preparation!

Stay tuned as we move forward - we'll cover nutrition and recovery next time; how to fuel and maintain your machine. Our machines are incredible and resilient, but when we push the envelope it takes a lot of TLC to keep going and going and going!

Andy McDermott is a champion of basic truths about health and wellness based on lessons he's personally learned throughout his life with fitness. McDermott has authored more than 100 articles and videos for national media publications. He is currently the Founder and Chief Development Officer of Intentional Sports, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring Chicago's youth through the power of sport. McDermott posts fitness challenges on social media:
Twitter: @Andywhatsnext
Instagram: @andywhatsnext
Facebook: Andy Macdermott

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