You may lose a few toe nails.
What goes into running 100 miles?
Whenever I would think about the physicality involved with venturing 100 miles from any given start line, I would imagine a body so brutally broken down that the only way it could move forward was from sheer mental tenacity. And then, I ran 100 miles, and my world changed. While a beautifully broken body can be the fate of many an unfortunate runner, it wasn’t mine. Running 100 miles is exceptional. It strips you down to your most essential and primal self. Your only priority becomes taking one step in front of the other; in a lot of ways, learning how to prioritize forward movement is revelatory in understanding what it means to be human. I thus invite you to savor every early morning, however difficult it is to not hit snooze. Relish those long training runs where it’s only you and your thoughts, a majority of them negative, probably interrogating your sanity. Indulge in missing a workout every now and then and remember how important it is to realize that you’re only human and being human means being imperfect. And then, when you cross the finish line after experiencing every range of emotions that even Freud wouldn’t be able to analyze, celebrate YOU. Celebrate the fact that you overcame a challenge so large that there isn’t a single feeling that even begins to compete with pride. Celebrate the fact that you set a goal for yourself and you did it. And even if you don’t get to the finish line the first time you try, celebrate the fact that you let yourself be vulnerable enough to show up. Running any distance is a freedom and a therapy that has broken me down so many times that every time I get back up, I’m 100 percent stronger for it.
The physicality of running 100 miles.
You need to be strong to run 100 miles. Not to be confused for rail thin, vein popping, zero body fat percentage strong, running 100 miles requires you to be diligent. Benjamin Franklin once said that energy and persistence conquer all things. The more you show up for those disgustingly early workouts, the more you train your body that your mind is driving your performance. To run 100 miles, you need to show up consistently; follow a plan that prioritizes recovery and pushes each week to feel scared just about 70% of the time. You should never feel “comfortable” looking at your training log. Welcome the unknown, it’s what you’ll be experiencing throughout your entire race. Do your research, hire a coach, become a student of this sport and ask as many questions as you can. Consult your local running shop, buy all the books you want, and above all keep a journal or a log of all your training. Track how you’re feeling week to week and consult it regularly! It’s a treat when you’re done to look back at all you did and even learn something new from yourself. Stretch, roll out and do core work. Make these three simple tasks as necessary as brushing your teeth (which hopefully you do consistently). When you have 10 extra minutes at the end of the day, spend five of them in a plank and the other five becoming best friends with your foam roller. Do a yoga class once or twice every other week and remember that sometimes to go far, you've got to get bendy. And at the end of any hard workout, STRETCH AND ROLL BABY. It's like that old fire drill saying, "stop drop and roll," which I suppose is eerily similar to what I'm trying to articulate as well.
The nutrition aspect of running 100 miles.
Running 100 miles has been frequently described as an eating contest; this is true. If you can keep your energy levels high and consistent throughout the duration of the race, you will have a beautiful day out there. But do not expect to have a miraculous day on a whim of eating whatever you want at aid stations without having trained with fuel. One of the biggest mistakes I hear about is athletes neglecting to use their race day nutrition on training runs-or using it only on, “the long stuff.” Your training is a perfect time for trial and error. If you know for certain you only like to eat whole food, start small. Bring a few snacks for even short runs and get used to digesting nutrients across varying distances. If what you packed worked well, double the quantity and double the miles and see how you hold up. The same goes for performance nutrition as well (of which that I am a fan of). Utilizing products that are designed for performance is your best option when it comes to a successful performance. A lot of times brands carry a multitude of products allowing you to choose which ones work best for you. A general rule of thumb is to ingest 200 calories an hour. Whether that be through an energy gel, an energy drink, energy chews or solid food if you can get those calories in consistently you can be almost guaranteed a consistent performance. And while you’ll be out there for a long time, if you’ve found that your stomach through training has been pretty solid, when you come into an aid station nibble on whatever looks appealing. If you’re lucky enough to have an iron stomach, the more calories the better. Always indulge what your body is asking for. If race day is cold and rainy, soup can be your best friend. If race day is hot, humid and sticky, watermelon and potato chips suddenly seem like God’s greatest creation and I don’t even believe in God. Remember this: food is fuel on and off the trail. Don’t overthink it too much (as difficult as that may be) and give your body what it’s asking for—but also don’t forget to eat while you train!
The mental aspect of running 100 miles.
Beyond the more tangible aspects of training comes the mental toughness you need to compete in ultra-marathons. Become a student of your body. Learn how to listen to the signals it’s giving you. Consequently, learning how to differentiate between what is healthy to push through and what is a clear sign you need to slow down. Constantly remind yourself of why you signed up in the first place. What is your why? Every time you want to give up, come back to your why. You may not know exactly what your why is when you sign up, and that’s okay. I guarantee you’ll figure out, most likely on a random trail run and you will be overcome with such profound emotion and in that moment it will all make sense. No one can tell you, push you, or persuade you to run something of this magnitude. Running 100 miles must come from your own innate desire. And every time it gets difficult before you subject yourself to negative self-talk take a millisecond to be proud that you’re even trying. Not every run will be perfect and not every race will go the way you want it and it’s hilarious how similar to life that understanding is. Laugh at the days that are hilariously bad, and tell your local barista how far you ran on Sunday when you felt amazing. Be proud of what you’re doing because what you’re doing regardless of time and position is incredible, don’t ever forget that.
A few other helpful tips:
-Smile. A lot. At everyone. Even when it hurts.
-Drink a lot of water through training, racing, running and recovery.
-Use a lot of anti-chafe/lube.
-Say thank you more often; to your partner for acknowledging and being willing to support your passion, to your coach, to the aid station volunteers and to yourself.
-Eat a lot of really yummy food (all the time).
Enjoy every beautiful step of this adventure.
Run Hapi and Healthy,