People ask me all the time how I run 100 miles and if I’m feeling factious I say one step at a time. But I know they want to know more, how is it possible and how does it feel to run 100 miles without stopping.
Running 100 miles becomes possible through passion, dedication, and a lot of training. Just like running any distance, you have to work up to it. You really shouldn’t just decide one day to go run 100 miles and then do it. The training takes six months, and that’s if you have a good base to build on.
Okay that’s all fine and good, but what happens and how do you feel during the race? This varies from individual to individual and there are good races and bad. I’ll tell you about both extremes. Most races, for me, have had a little of this and a little of that.
The good: running down trails is just amazing no matter how you look at it. You soar on the runners high while you bomb down the slopes jumping over and around rocks, roots, and branches. You crash through creeks. For a runner, there is just nothing like it. When the sun comes up on the second day, it brings you out of any down mood. It’s the most beautiful sunrise you’ve ever seen. You feel like one of the pack because the comradery and respect among trail runners is second to none. Aid station volunteers greet you with a smile and lots and lots of tasty food. They are always very helpful and happy to see each runner regardless of the weather conditions, at least in my experience. Many of the volunteers are ultrarunners themselves. Even if they aren’t they are dedicated and come out year after year.
The bad: it can get really ugly out there sometimes. You are going to go through low periods and possibly question your sanity. Hallucinations are not uncommon. I’d put these on the good list because I think they are funny, but I can see how they would be unnerving to some. You’re going to hurt at some point in the race. Your feet could get blisters. You could have chafing. You could be vomiting. You might have diarrhea. You could get heat stroke, hypothermia, and hyponatremia. Much of this is preventable if you are prepared and know your body.
The more 100’s you run, the more you learn about how to address these problems. Notice I didn’t say prevent them. One of the things you can and should count on is at some point in the race, things are going to get tough (or interesting depending on how you look at it). There is a saying among ultrarunners: It’s not if, but when you have problems. Count on having them, and then have the knowledge and gear to reduce their impact on your race.