I asked myself this after I made what now looks like a stupid, idiotic decision to commit to the Spartan Ultra 50K Race, a 50k trail run with 60 (sixty) obstacles included, in Bigfork, MT, on May 6., at age 47. So far in my fitness journey I’ve completed exactly zero running challenges of even half of this distance.

Every year I do a birthday challenge in which I train and try to prove to myself that the old lie, “age is just a number” is anywhere close to true. This year, since I have been so crazy busy trying to build and open Intentional Sports, a nonprofit organization that stands committed to inspiring Chicago’s youth through the power of sports. I felt like I needed to commit to something pretty nuts.

I’ve always worked out, and for any kind of lesser challenge I knew I could kind of “fake my way through it,” relying on athleticism and basic fitness. THIS is different. There is no cheating the mileage, and there is no way to fake your way through 60 obstacles.

Training for this type of challenge reminds me of my all-time favorite quote from author Orison Swett Marden: Success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price and it’s yours.”

So here’s a basic breakdown of my training split for the Spartan Ultra 50K Race, and then I’ll give you a few thoughts about how it’s going. First, in case you’re ignorant about Spartan races (like I was), then I’ll just say this—it’s a lot of running with some obstacles that break up the miles. Those obstacles tend to emphasize a lot of pulling, hanging, climbing, and carrying. To that end, I have varied my workouts quite a bit every couple weeks, but here is the current regimen, broken into two sessions per day.

Andy McDermott training for the Spartan Ultra 50K Race
Andy McDermott

The Spartan Ultra 50K Race Workout Plan


1) 14-mile run (long, slow day)

Monday (recovery day from running)

1) Early a.m.: push/puil/core circuit (at least one exercise of pressing from the floor, and one hanging exercise), followed by 30 minutes of elliptical

2) Lunchtime: 30-40 minutes of stretching, stationary bike or elliptical


1) Early a.m.: biceps/triceps/core/mobility circuit, followed by a 7-mile run

2) Lunchtime: stretch + 30 minutes elliptical/bike


1) Early a.m.: run and strength alternator. 8 miles run broken down to 8 rounds of:
run 1 mile, 2 sets of shoulder exercises (1 press, 1 raise), 1 set of hanging core work

2) Lunchtime: stretch, followed by 30 minutes of either elliptical/bike


1) Early a.m.: grip strength, including hanging and carrying circuit, followed by a 7-mile run

2) Lunchtime: stretch, followed by 30 minutes of either elliptical/bike

Friday (recovery day from running)

1) Early a.m.: leg strength/mobility/core circuit, followed by 30 minutes elliptical

2) Lunchtime: Stretch, followed by 30 minutes bike


1) Early a.m.: Bodyweight workout, including upper-body push-pull (chest/back/bis/tris/shoulders), and core, followed by 8-mile run

2) PM: stretch/mobility

So, a lot of drudgery and perseverance! A few thoughts:

I’ve played soccer for roughly 42 years, and I did a fair bit of running in shorter distances (5-10k) when I was competing for the World Police and Fire Games in the Toughest Competitor Alive. But NEVER have I run this kind of mileage, nor did I think I ever would. No one would rank me as a RUNNER.

Strangely, I am enjoying it. Well, sometimes I hate it, but mostly I appreciate the slow, quiet, put-my-stupid-phone-away pace of running all these miles. Also, it’s winter in Chicago, so I’ve been relegated to the treadmill for a lot of these miles, so I’m catching up on a lot of movies… Overall, it’s been nice to slow down my heart rate and step away from the rat race in this manic season of life.

For the resistance work, I have lowered the weight and increased the volume. A lot of the focus has been on bodyweight training, since that’s the focus of so much in obstacle course racing. When possible, I overload my bodyweight a bit, adding weight to my frame and pulling/hanging with the load.

I have been able to maintain my size and strength, even with all the running- which is good in this case because my only hope in surviving this race is to do well in the obstacles… All of this bodyweight and volume training has confirmed what I’ve always preached to those who might get discouraged by not having a gym or proper equipment to work out: Our muscles are stupid- they have no idea where they are or what they are pushing/pulling/lifting/throwing!

Lastly, I do believe that most folks can take on way more of a challenge than they might think. Yes- this one might actually crush me when it’s all said and done, but I am enjoying the one step/mile/day at a time mentality of a long runway here. Admittedly, I was in somewhat of a mindless groove in my fitness life; just “getting in in” every day, not improving- staying “comfortable.”

But, the only way to ever improve at anything is to push into Uncomfortability a little, and redefine.

TIME MANAGEMENT: All of this training takes hours most days, and I have five family members, three careers, and one fat bulldog which all deserve my time as well. I can’t overemphasize the importance of planning and preparation!

Stay tuned as we push ahead—we’ll take a look at nutrition and recovery next time; how to fuel and maintain your machine. Our machines are incredible and resilient, but when we push the envelope, it takes a lot of TLC to keep going and going and going!

Andy McDermott is a proponent of basic truths about health and wellness, based on lessons he’s learned personally over a lifetime of fitness. McDermott has published more than 100 articles and videos for national media publications. He is currently the Founder & Chief Development Officer for Intentional Sports, a nonprofit organization that stands committed to inspiring Chicago’s youth through the power of sports. McDermott posts fitness challenges on social media:
Twitter: @Andywhatsnext 
Instagram: @andywhatsnext
Facebook: Andy Mcdermott