Training For The Pico Veleta 50km Race | Spanish Exclusive


Training For Pico Veleta | (The Rise To Veleta)

Myprotein International Head Of Endurance | Lee Grantham

At the start of 2010, I heard about a race, tagged, “the toughest in the world”, a foot race 50km up hill from the city of Granada and finishing on the peak of Mount Veleta, along the highest road in Europe!

Country Spain
2016 Dates Sunday August 7th
Distance Km 50 km
Cost 40-60€

I was fascinated, at this point for me the pinnacle of distance running was the marathon – I didn’t know people went or even wanted to go further! There was an instant attraction and I began training immediately.

Six years later and I’ve completed the event 6 times, and after the first moved to the very foot of the mountain. Hooked.

Climbing Pico Veleta

The race has been run competitively every year since 1985, initially with only 4 competitors who made the finish line. Race director and Club President of Maracena, Enrique Carmona is the founder and ran the race 20 times – including victories. Historically, it’s a classic date in the race calendar, the centre piece to Granada Summer of Sport!


Training at altitude

The appeal is not only in the rise or the distance but the temperature and the altitude. The race begins in the dark at 7am, around 20°C in the centre of Granada at 640m altitude in the South East of Spain. The route then twists up, initially through small white villages then through forests and more switchbacks than I’ve wished to count. The temperature continues to rise.

Luckily, by the time you break through the treeline around 2400m the mercury is above 40°C and for the next 10-15 you’re tackling 7-8% gradients without shade and the air is getting noticeably thinner.

There’s a section between midway 25km and 40km where you feel completely alone with your thoughts:

“Can I make this?” “Did I set off too quick?” “Where’s the next water station?”

A shorter race starts with 11km to go, “The mini rise” or Mini-subida, it’s a group of enthusiastically loud encourages just at the right moment. It’s worth another 5km in energy at least. You take on more isotonic drink and water, 10km to go, you can make it!

als sport

By this point many are walking, we’re above the clouds, close to 3000m high and the gradient just ramped up to 10%, more on the switchbacks but we’re getting closer with every step and if you’ve paced it right it’s a kick to be passing people and gaining position this late in the race.

Since the start you could see clearly the distinctive peak but now it appears so close, almost within touching distance, you turn another corner there’s often plenty of snow around and it can get very windy. One long straight, the hikers shout you on in Spanish, “VENGA, ANIMO!”, for those moments they’re your best friends, they lift you.

Finally you make the last right turn and see the finish line, the feeling is over whelming and just writing about it 10 months since my last attempt is exciting. You cross the line. “Never again!” as the medics ensure your heart and mind are in tact… Never again that is, until next Tuesday, when you start to plan how to go faster next year!

How To Train For Climbing Pico Veleta

Training is really no different to marathon training. If you’ve completed a half marathon then within 8-10 weeks with the right approach you can be ready!


The key weekly sessions for a marathon remain the same for Veleta, a long run, intervals and a tempo run. The only difference is that you substitute the flat for the hills on each of those sessions.

Like marathon training, over the weeks, you gradually increase the distance of your long run, the overall volume of your intervals and I also like my tempo run to increase slightly in distance and pace.

You also have a small taper in the final 2 weeks, what you’ll notice though in comparison to marathon training, is you’ll recover quicker because the nature of uphill running means less pounding on the quadriceps.

marathon training plan

Long Run |

Start steady with a portion at race pace. Done up hill/treadmill ideally 5-7%). EG: I’ll do 50-75% of the run at race pace or the entire run at race pace -10-20%.

Tempo |

Warm up increasing pace – TEMPO – cool down, decreasing pace (Tempo part done up hill/treadmill ideally 5-7%)

Intervals |

Jog back, active recovery or 50-100% of the interval time jogging

Note | 

Of course not everyone has access to the highest road in Europe or a hill longer than a few hundred metres or miles, in this case like it or not, the treadmill becomes your best friend.

The negative is that tanning is difficult, but the positive is that having a drink close by is always easy.

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