How I trained for a 250km Ultra marathon in 6 simple steps.

Rich bear crawl

How I trained for a 250km Ultra marathon in 6 simple steps.

The 4 Deserts 250km ultra marathon is no joke, with its main claim to fame being that its the driest place on the whole planet.

The surface is comparable to that of Mars, containing dried rock, sand and gravel which starts at 3,500 meters above sea level and has had no rainfall in 4 years.

For sure, The Atacama desert is one of the harshest environments in the world, so naturally I decided to take on headfirst!

To be honest I’m not really a runner but have competed in triathlon and managed to complete a marathon back in 2010.

Having previously volunteered at the Gobi desert 250km back in 2014, I was inspired to take on this challenge as I saw how rewarding it was to the competitors & I really wanted to travel to South America.

Some of the reasons for me taking on this challenge are;

1.The scenery you get to experience in this part of the world that the race takes you is simply breathtaking

2. You get the chance to completely disconnect from the rest of the world, no phones and no internet.

3. Having an outrageous physical goal to attain helps you stay committed to a structured your training plan

Step 1 – Recruit a great coach – I started my 4 month training plan by recruiting the services of the LAB Strength and conditioning coach Andrew Graham.

By using a professional coach to look at my current structural alignment before I start training would help me build a strength plan and most importantly avoid injury later on as the training builds up.

Andrew not only wrote me a Strength program but gave me some mobility drills to work on, as a foundation of strength is the cornerstone to any athletic performance plan.

Alongside this, I worked on a specific running plan courtesy of an online running coach who would periodize the run training by reverse engineering the program from the race start date which builds an endurance base before getting into more specific training sessions.

Step 2 – Strength workout Week 1 – 8 weeks – Strength Phase.

Dead lift start weight 130kg 1RM – end weight 170kg 1RM

Squat start weight 80kg – finish weight 120kg

Pull-up 40kg – 50kg

Bench Press 90kg – 100kg

Step 3 – Run Workout Week 1 – 8 –Conditioning phase

Base running phase

HIIT (high intensity interval training) – 400 meters x 6 sets

LISS (Low intensity steady state) 6km’s x 1 set

Endurance run flat terrain 90 mins

Step 4 – Week 9 – 16 – Race specific – Functional Strength phase

When going towards the race specific phase of training I started to de-load the weights so as not to tax the central nervous system too much, this way I’m able to perform more workload in my running as the recovery is quicker.

However I can’t stress the importance of maintaining all the mobility drills and strength fundamentals like squat, hip hinges, Lunge, press and Pull.

Step 5 – Strength workout Week 9 – 16 weeks – Functional Strength Circuits.

Kbell Swings – 2x 24kg Kbells 4x 30 seconds

Farmers walks – 2x 32kg Kbells 4x 30 seconds

BXT/TRX Push ups – 4x 30 seconds

ViPR back Lunges – 4x 30 seconds

Step ups – 15kg D/bells – 4x 30 seconds

Sledgehammer – 10kg 4x 30 seconds

Step 6 – Run Workout Week 9 – 16 –Race specific phase

Week 9 – 16 – Race specific

Base running phase

HIIT 800 meters x 8 sets

LISS 10km’s x 1 set

Endurance trail run 4 hours.


From my perspective, I believe that you can’t underestimate how important it is to have a solid goal to work towards in your life.

We do it each year for business, relationships and financial planning why not use it for your fitness mapping?

The biggest reward you can receive, is that of which you can get by consistently placing yourself in uncomfortable situations and environments and coming out through the other side with a life changing experience.

Fingers crossed for a successful Atacama crossing and see you on the other side!


Richard Cohen

CEO & founder

The LAB.



More from the blog