Trail Running: Big Vert Ultra Marathon | Uphill Athlete


Trail Running: Big Vert Ultra Marathon


Our most comprehensive and versatile trail running plan, designed for you to go higher and longer.

Go big. Go vertical.

This 20-week ultra-running training plan is designed to help you tackle mountain running races or events with major elevation gain and loss. If you are considering running one of the famous multi-day routes in the Alps, this plan is for you. This plan assumes that you can handle routine 30-50 mile (50-80km) weeks. If you are daunted by the elevation demands of these runs and wonder how you’ll condition your legs to handle that much vertical, or if you live and train in a place that does not have easy access to mountains, this plan is for you.

The progression of the program will help those who need to develop running-specific muscular endurance and boost their fatigue resistance. The key difference in this plan vs. most other running plans is the inclusion of a special gym-based circuit-style strength workout to build the key muscular endurance. Specific leg power is built using our hill sprint workout, progressing through the first 10 weeks before transitioning into short uphill intervals for the development of anaerobic endurance during the remaining weeks.

You will determine the starting weekly distance and vertical gain/loss based on the event you are training for. Weekly distance and vertical will start at about 50% of that event’s largest single day’s total and then progress to about 90-100% of that figure for longer events and more than 100% for shorter events.

This plan is based on your RPE, or “Rate of Perceived Exertion,” where workout intensities are guided by how hard you are working based on your perception of effort (how hard the workout feels to you) rather than by heart rate. This plan is an adapted option for those who want to learn to calibrate their true effort levels in their workouts.

Whether you use an RPE-based or heart rate-based training plan, we recommend that you use a chest-strap heart rate monitor and GPS watch to log all your training.

Plan details

*Apple Watch syncing is currently not supported for RPE plans.

To buy this plan, you will be taken to TrainingPeaks to complete your purchase.

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All plans are delivered through TrainingPeaks, the most robust training tool available.

Target big vertical races with a customizable plan that fits your distance and elevation goals.

A male runner wearing a white hat crossing the finish line of a 100-mile race with poles in his right hand.
Uphill Athlete Rick crosing the finish line of the Bryce Canyon 100 marathon in 2019 after following the Big Vert plan.

Built by Uphill athlete coaches with input from world-class runners​

While this plan focuses on back to back longer runs, a key component is the Muscular Endurance work. This strength work is designed to help you climb and descend to the best of your ability and should be a priority. Do your best to challenge yourself when the workouts are meant to be challenging, take the easy workouts as they are meant to be, and rest when suggested.

While we have done our best to make this plan customizable to fit a wide range of event lengths/verticals, it is not possible to accommodate every possibility. In cases where distance and vertical gain/loss do not fit your event please substitute hours as the way to calculate training volume.

This plan assumes a base fitness level of 30-50 miles depending on the distance of your event. This is not a beginner plan and will quickly progress in volume and vertical. Make sure you are physically and mentally ready to handle the demands of this plan. We recommend our Intro to Ultra Marathons plan as a launching point to the challenges of ultra running.

This plan is built for the DIY athlete. Fully versatile and customizable to your event, and it can be used again for other races or goals. Just change the calculations in the plan to fit your new event. If you are looking for more specific guidance, check out the UTMB 100 mile or CCC 100k plans designed for mountainous 100 mile and 100k distances. If you’re looking to take on a multi-day event, take a look at our Multi-Day Stage Run plan.

If you are looking to take on a multi-day event, take a look at our Multi-Day Stage Run plan.


Intro to ultra marathons


road or flat trail marathon


big vert ultra marathon


UTMB 100 Mile


Multi-Day Stage Run


CCC 100 Kilometer