Preparing for a long-distance running event like Capital to Coast

August 4, 2022

Long-distance running events, like Capital to Coast, are significant physical challenges that require a considerable amount of preparation and training to ensure your body can run long distances for multiple days.

Capital to Coast is a 100km multistage event held over three days. Participants complete nine stages on trails, fire roads and single tracks ranging between 8km and 15km between Canberra and the NSW South Coast. You can complete the stages as a solo runner or as part of a relay team (up to four members).

Whether you’re looking to complete all stages on your own or a few as a team, preparation and training is key for completing an event like Capital to Coast. Dave Halpin, one of our Exercise Physiologists at the Dickson clinics, has broken down some of the preparation required for running long-distance events.

In general, training needs to replicate the style of racing and therefore the major focus should be based around building up to long trail runs on back-to-back days, while also factoring in hill repetitions and some speed training to maintain efficient run form and strength. Given the format of 100km drawn out over multiple days, running and general strength is critical to improve both running endurance and speed, as well as reduce the risk of injury. However, it is essential you do not forget to program recovery in so that your training is beneficial and you don’t end up injured or run down and sick.

An athlete’s training programme should consider six elements:

  1. Mileage
  2. Frequency
  3. Intensity
  4. Cross training
  5. Strength training
  6. Recovery

Mileage

The main goal of training is to ensure you are running enough kilometres so you can complete the 100km race over the three days. It is highly recommended that you can manage to run 100km in a week 4-6 weeks before the event, as well as manage a final peak weekend of 70km prior to the race. This will be achieved by gradually building, increasing approximately 10% each week, the distance from your current weekly mileage to the 100km over the week and 70km over a weekend.

Frequency

Recovery is essential, so training should begin with well-spaced-out sessions to allow your body to recover. Then, gradually increase the weekly mileage by increasing the number of runs per week.

Once you get closer to the race, you should begin to run back-to-back days and double run days to meet your mileage goals (i.e. run in the morning and afternoon) and teach your body how to run on fatigued legs and energy depletion. On de-load weeks, you should halve the duration of runs to increase the time to recover.

Intensity

While long, easy aerobic runs are essential and should make up 80% of the training, don’t just focus on mileage – keep some quality in your training programming. Intensity can be achieved through flat intervals at a higher pace or hill repetitions. Altering recovery will also impact the intensity; the longer the recovery, the greater the ability to push a higher intensity. Similarly, less recovery can place a greater stimulus on the body and should be considered in your programme to train your body to continue while fatigued.

Cross training

To avoid overuse injuries and training monotony from running alone, Dave highly recommends including cross training in your programme to assist with building your cardiovascular and muscular systems. Cross-training options include riding to and/or from work, swimming on your lunch break, or hiking with friends or family on weekends. 

Strength training

Dave highly recommends adding strength training to your programme to build fatigue resilience, reduce risk of injury, improve speed on flats, inclines and declines, as well as being an excellent form of cross training that helps keep training interesting outside running. Some examples of strength exercises for long distance runners include squats, deadlifts, and calf raises, as well as core exercises and upper body exercises.

Recovery

As mentioned above, a de-load week should be programmed in to allow the body to recover and absorb the load you have put it through the past few weeks, making you stronger, faster, and fresher to take on the next block of training. This is recommended every 2-3 weeks and involves reducing your training by approximately half and keeping all training at an easier pace.

In conclusion

There are a lot of considerations when training for a long-distance race, but if you can include the above factors in your training programme, you’ll be more prepared for the race and ready to run when you hit the start line!

Our talented team of Exercise Physiologists, including Dave, can help runners prepare for these long-distance events, whether you’re a first-timer doing a team relay or experienced solo runner.

Reach out to our Dickson, Barton, Bruce, or Weston clinics to book an appointment with an Exercise Physiologist to help you achieve your goals, or book online at one of these SportsCare clinics. Learn more about Exercise Physiology at SportsCare here.

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