“I don’t even like to drive 100 miles,” they say.
This is the comment that usually starts the conversation with anyone who finds out I run 100 mile events. I don’t tell people that I run 100 mile events. Most people I associate with know that I am a runner, and then they hear from others that I run 100 miles.
“In one day?”
“Pretty much, the time cutoff is usually between 30-36 hours,” I say. Their eyes usually bug out at this point.
“Yes, I run the distance by myself, but I have a pacer for the last twenty and a crew throughout the race,” I say. This usually requires some explanation about what a pacer and crew are. A pacer is another runner who runs with the participant. They keep them company, make sure they stay on the right trail, offer encouragement, but they cannot pack any of their equipment or carry the runner. Your crew meets you at prearranged points along the race to make sure you have everything you need, help change clothing or shoes, make sure you are eating and hydrating, and offer encouragement. Pacers and crew do a lot more than this, but this is the simplest explanation. See my crew information page.
“Do you sleep?”
“No. Well okay I fell asleep for about fifteen minutes at Salt Flats,” I say. Some runners do take a power nap if needed for 20 minutes. If it is a choice between sleeping for 20 minutes or not finishing, then you should sleep, but you will get stiff while you sleep.
“How do you run 100 miles?”
This question confuses me because I assume people are familiar with the mechanics of running, but I usually come up with some response such as, “I put one foot in front of the other until I reach the finish line. It’s really a mind over matter thing.”
“Do you eat?”
“Yes, but it’s complicated.” Every runner is different when it comes to eating because everyone’s body tolerates different things while running. Your blood is focusing on keeping your legs moving forward. When you put something into your stomach, your body has to divert blood and energy to it to digest. If it doesn’t, you will most likely get nauseated and possibly vomit. There is a learning curve here for your body to be able to do this effectively. You should save yourself some trouble and plan to have some stomach problems while running.
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Eventually, you begin to ache and you’re tired, but sharp pain shouldn’t be happening.” Pain and aching are different to me. Pain means something is injured or I am causing damage. Ache means I’m pushing my body farther than it is use to going. My feet will ache and my legs will ache, during a 100 mile race, but there shouldn’t be pain. If there is pain you need to stop and determine whether finishing this event is more important to you than preventing further damage to your body. Some injuries will heal without causing a long-term impact on your future health and running, others will not. If you have an injury that will cause long term impact, it is probably better to live to run another day.
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Not at all.” I talk with other runners, and I may listen to music or an audio book. By the time you get to the race, you should be pretty comfortable spending time alone running.
“How do you even train for that?”
“It takes six months and a lot of dedication.” It is good to have finished a few marathons before taking on the ultra-distances. Completing a 50 miler is probably a good idea before a 100 miler too. The training plans that I have on this site are 60 months for both the 50 and the 100-mile distance. I don’t recommend shorter training plans especially for your first few events. Once you have some under your belt then, you can shorten the time because your body is familiar with training at that level. However, if you are an injury prone runner you may want to stick with one 100-mile event a year and complete the full six-month program each time.
“Do you walk any of it?”
“Yes most people who run 100 walk the up hills.” Actually, most 100-mile runners walk a lot more than this, some as much as 50 or 60 miles of the race. This is going to depend upon the course and the experience of the runner.
Running 100 miles is definitely not for everyone.
I expect to have this above conversation many times over the next five weeks as Pony Express 100 approaches. I’ll be working out my race plan over the next week and will keep you all updated on how things are going.