In an ideal world, we all sign up with the best personal coach, who designs us a program to meet our adventure goals. And that is absolutely the gold standard. Nothing can beat a program specifically tailored to you. But many of us just simply cannot afford that service - and at the same time we are not sure how much to train, where to start and how not to overdo it and get injured.
The good news is there are plenty of decent programs available for free.
If you don't know where to start, the easiest way is to look online for your goal event, or a similar event, and see if they provide free training plans. Generally these are designed for those who aim to complete the event in a reasonable, but not a fast, time and they tend to be quite conservative in the rate at which you progress through the plan (which is a good thing because injury is the main thing that will stop you from getting to the starting line).
Here are some good options, set out by the event distance and type (run or walk) that you have chosen. Remember that these plans do not know you, your body or your medical conditions, so please check with a doctor before you start, and if you begin to feel unwell at any time - STOP - and seek medical advice.
20-35km Single Stage Walking Event
If you are training for a long single day walking event in the region of 20-35kms, this option from the team at Australian fundraising event, the Bloody Long Walk, is perfect to get you there in 10 weeks. Starting from 2km walks, this is a great plan for the beginner, or those recovering from injury - who want to take on a BIG challenge. Check it out here.
The Marathon (42km run)
Running a marathon is the classic challenge to really extend yourself as a runner, and with many marathon events now extending the cutoff finish time, it is more accessible than ever. If you are a beginner marathon runner, take a look at this program from Women's Running (that does not require you to be a woman!). It is designed to take you from being able to jog for 20mins to completing a marathon in 24 weeks (6mths). You can find it here.
100km Single Stage Run event:
If you are ready to take on one of the great 100km trail runs around the world, but not quite sure how to get there injury free - check out this program provided by Australian event Surf Coast Century here.
The training program was co-written by – David Eadie (2014 Surf Coast Century Winner), Nikki Wynd (2015 Badwater Ultra Marathon winner) from The Running Man as well as Julian Spence (Great Ocean Road Marathon winner and ‘Bogong to Hotham’ course record holder). The program goes for 22 weeks and says it is designed for somebody who is currently running approximately 30 - 50km per week and has done so for at least 2 months.
The Classic Multiday Ultra - 250kms over 6 days, carrying your gear - run or walk
This is truly the classic multiday format, my personal favourite, and one that is 100% achievable for most people - either running or hiking - with a 6mth training plan. Think Marathon des Sables, the Racing the Planet Series, Fire and Ice Ultra or Grand to Grand.
Racing the Planet has a great set of plans that are focused on gradual increase in fitness and stamina, with no crazy mileage. The point is to get you to the event, and enjoying it. You can find the 24 week beginner plan here.
They also have an intermediate and advanced plan that you can find using the same link if this is not your first time, and your goal is to compete, rather than complete.
Multiday Ultra (marathon a day) in the Desert
If you are looking for a specific training program to get you successfully prepared for a desert multiday event (running or hiking) check out this option. Darren Gringas has put together a program for Rat Race that gets you ready for those soft sand dunes and the endurance to last 5 or more days in a row - over a six month training period. This program tells you how many sessions and the total mileage for the week, but leaves it up to you to decide how to break it up to suit your schedule. It also contains tips for how to train for sand when you don't have any where you live. You can find it here.
As a back-of-packer (often the final finisher) at multiday events, I know that taking on a big event for the first time can be scary. But I also know it is 100% achievable. So pick your dream event, trust in a plan and be consistent in your training, and I know you will be surprised where it will take you.