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UTA Training – When, Where and How

How do you train for the Ultra Trail Australia?UTA Hill Technique

Do you know:

  • Where to train?
  • When to train?
  • How hard to train?
  • When to time your longest training runs?
  • What to eat and drink on race day?
  • What to wear on race day?


If you don’t know the answers to all of these questions already, then you’d better start doing some research and planning.

If you get even one of these factors wrong, it is going to make race day an awful lot harder.


The UTA50 and UTA100 courses have a truck-load of stairs. 

More stairs than you will care to remember, and just when you think that there can’t be any more stairs . . . .  the final kilometre is up the dreaded 951 Furber stairs!

The UTA22 is a different beast.

There aren’t any stairs in the first 21km, but if anything is going to get you in this race, it will be the almighty downhill called Kedumba!

The first 8km of the UTA22 are down a very steep firetrail called Kedumba.

You drop 750m of elevation during those 8km, and if you haven’t done enough downhill training to strengthen your quads and prepare your knees, then it is game over before the race really even begins.

Don’t worry UTA50 and UTA100 runners, you’re not missing out on the fun.

You get that same 8km descent, but you’ve had a nice warm up on about 20,000 stairs first! (For more info on the UTA50 course)


The UTA11 is different again.

This course is mostly stairs. It has an elevation gain of 560m and something like 4500 stairs! Because it is relatively short, and because you don’t have to run down Kedumba, putting in some serious stair training sessions will help a lot if you are intending to “race” rather than  “finish” this event.

This  5 min video clip will give you a very good idea of what to expect. The course and views are spectacular.


Let’s tick off the questions on the list above, to help you prepare for your Ultra Trail Australia


 Ideally on trails, and even more ideally, on trails which include a lot of hills and stairs. A good metric to track on your long training runs is your overall vertical gain. The Ultra Trail Australia courses have a lot of “vert”

UTA100 = 4500m

UTA50 = 2500m

UTA22 = 1200m

UTA11 = 560m

It would be good to try and get at least 1500m – 2000m of vert on your longest training days if you are running the 50 or the 100, around 750m – 800m if you are running the 22, and about 400m – 500m for the UTA11.Stairs for UTA training

If you don’t live close to any to hilly trails then you should try to find as many hilly road routes as you can.

If you don’t have access to any hills at all, then you might have to consider the dreaded treadmill for a few of your key sessions, so that you can set it on an incline and start training your climbing muscles.

Stairwells in office buildings and football stadiums can be used if your local trails have no stairs. Think of those days as mental training as well as physical. I have heard of people running up 10 stairs at the local sports oval 100 times just to make their quota!


How often you can train each week will depend on your motivation, as well as your family and work commitments. The safest way to clock up the k’s is to adopt the “little and often” approach. For example, it is much easier on your body to have 5 runs of 10km in a week than it is to run 50km on a Sunday then hope to recover in time to run another 50km by the following Sunday.

It is important to include long runs in your training schedule, but not at the expense of picking up injuries.

If you are worried that your body might not survive a 5hr run, then thinking about breaking the 5hrs up into a 2hr run on a Saturday afternoon and a 3hr run on the Sunday morning.

It may not be as psychologically reassuring to do it this way, but you will gain almost the same total fitness benefits, with significantly less chance of picking up an injury.

If you are after a specific Training Plan for Ultra Trail Australia that incorporates strength, volume and trail technique, we have daily plans available, for all distances and types of runners


The UTA races are hard.The Body Mechanic UTA Training

But that doesn’t mean you should train hard all the time. In fact, your hard sessions should only make up 20% of your total training volume.

Hard sessions like hill reps, stair reps and speedwork are much more likely to cause fatigue, illness and injury. What you might gain from these sessions in terms of short term strength and fitness, you will lose out overall by needing too much time to rest and recover.

The single biggest factor that will make your UTA successful is consistent training.

If 80% of your training is at an easy pace (the type of pace you could “run all day” or the pace where you can continue to talk to your running buddies in full sentences without feeling short of breath), then you will be able to clock up more k’s safely and get progressively fitter and stronger.


You should time your longest training runs so that they have the maximum benefit on race day.

If you do them too early you won’t maintain the leg strength for race day, and if you do them too late you will go into the UTA fatigued and not able to perform at your best.

I would recommend that you do your two longest runs 5 weeks out and 3 weeks out from race day. In an ideal world, you would do these in the Blue Mountains and on the UTA course, but not everyone will have that luxury. Try to pick a hilly trail course for these sessions if possible, which might even mean running up and down the same hill a lot of times to reach your vert targets. (learn more about how long your longest training run should be)

On your long run 3 weeks out from race day, try to include a long downhill, and run it at a steady/hard pace. When we run down hills we use our quad muscles as brakes. Training on a long downhill will make your quads stronger which will help a huge amount when it comes to running down Kedumba on race day.

This is equally important for the 22, 50 and 100 distances.

For the UTA11, that final long run 3 weeks out would be best to be on a trail with a lot of stairs, you don’t need to worry about running downhill fast, you need your legs to be strong enough to be able to negotiate (and hopefully enjoy) all those stairs!

For more information on your up and downhill technique, check out this article including videos on how to improve your UTA hill technique.

NB: If you are concerned about niggly knees, or you have had any ITB issues,  then you should not run this downhill session at a hard pace. That might tip your niggles over the edge. You should instead run it at your normal long run training pace.


Don’t underestimate the importance of your race day nutrition.

All the training in the world isn’t going to help if you are standing on the side of the trail with your hands on your knees, losing your lunch, while all your mates run past!

Nutrition takes practice.

Some of the most experienced trail runners in the world still have “gut” issues when they race. Even though it can take years to really nail a nutrition plan, enlisting some help and advice from trusted experts can make an enormous difference.

There is a huge variety of bars, gels, and other high energy foods and drinks available for athletes nowadays. You should start researching them now. Start testing them on your long runs so that you can work out which flavours and textures you like the most.

An important nutrition consideration is whether you want to satisfy most of your energy requirements from either fluids or from solids.

The longer you run, and the higher your heart rate, the more your body will divert your blood away from your stomach and towards your muscles. Once this starts happening it becomes more and more difficult for your stomach to process solid foods.

This is what often causes the nausea that so many runners experience.

When you are planning your nutrition strategy, you should give careful and realistic consideration to how hard you think you will be “racing”.

I don’t mean how hard you will find the whole event, but more the intensity at which you will be competing.

If you are after a PB and know that you’ll be pushing hard all day then you should probably aim to get most of your nutrition from fluids. If your aim is to finish, and you think you will be walking a lot of the course then you should have more capacity to tolerate solids.

Practice, practice practice… particularly on your long training runs to find out what works best for you!


Start looking at the compulsory gear list on the UTA website now, and make sure you have a timeframe sorted out to acquire all the equipment you will need. It ranges from head torches to back packs, and compasses to survival blankets.

Don’t leave it all to the last minute.

There will be enough stress in the final couple of weeks without needing to rush around buying more gear.

I think that the two most important bits of kit to get right are your shoes and your backpack.

First and foremost, you need your shoes to be comfortable. You’ll be out on the course for a LONG time, and sore feet will slow you down.

Your backpack needs to be big enough to fit all of the compulsory gear (which differs for each race) and also fit your food and drink. You really need to get your backpack at least 10 – 12 weeks out from race day to allow you enough time to get used to carrying all of the mandatory items. (for advice on packing your mandatory gear watch this video)

You may also want to use something like the Naked Running Band  which slips over your waist and can be used to carry your soft flasks, gels, bars and even your poles.

Not sure where to start with your training? Check out this article, “When should you start training for the UTA”

If you want to know exactly what training to do, when to do it, when to schedule recovery weeks and long runs, what to eat and drink, and basically how to nail the UTA, then you need one of our Ultra Training Australia training plans. They include everything you will need to have the race of your life.

So, it’s as easy as that.

You don’t need to panic.

You just need to start preparing. (check out the Ultra Trail Australia Training Plans)

The sooner you start, the more fun you will have, and the better you will perform on race day.

Good luck!

Mark Green, The Body Mechanic Sports Physio, Founder and Elite Runner

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