How to know if you are ready to tackle the 100-mile ultramarathon distance
This blog was written in partnership with Ultra Trail Drakensberg – a premier trail race set in the Drakensberg mountain range of South Africa. As one of their race partners, we offer training advice to registered runners.
Ask any athlete or coach this question, and you will likely get many different answers. Registering for your first 100-mile trail race is a big commitment. It will take many months of dedicated training, proper nutrition, and adequate recovery. My short answer to this question is this – life is short. If you have adequate time to train for the demands of the race and you are inspired to do the distance, then what’s stopping you from trying? These suggestions are based on what I’ve observed as a coach in terms of increasing your chances of finishing the 100-mile distance. Every athlete is a unique case!
To cover the question in more detail, here are some tips on how to know if you are ready for the 100-mile distance:
You’ve been running for several years.
You should have years of running experience before registering for a 100-mile trail race. The main point being that if you only started to run in the last year, your body won’t be as resilient in a 100-mile race as if you had been running for many years. This is mainly due to the bones and soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) taking more time to adapt to running longer distances.
You have completed at least a few ultramarathons in the past
When you race ultramarathons, you gain a lot of experience with how to manage the logistics of the race. This can include topics such as pacing, nutrition, gear, drop bags, chafing, blisters, bad weather, low mental patches, and more! If you have run ultramarathons in the past leading up to your first 100-mile distance, this will increase your confidence about how to manage the logistics of the race. If you have raced a 50-mile or 100-km trail race, you will have also likely gained some experience running in the dark.
You believe you could move for up to the entire race cut off if necessary
No matter how talented of a runner you are, you should be prepared to potentially be out on the course for the full time allowed. For the 100 mile distance, this may range from 30 hours – 50 hours depending on the specific race. It is healthy to be intimidated and sobered by that amount of time on your feet (except for rest at aid stations). However, you should consider the cut off time in both your mental and physical preparation.
You can or will work towards adequate fueling during a 100-mile race
If you don’t fuel adequately for a 100-mile race, your body will make you stop before the race is over. Nutrition on long runs and races will need to be a big part of your preparation. If you can fuel well and keep moving consistently, your chances of finishing will be drastically higher.