24-Hour Run (Ultramarathon)
This one’s definitely not for beginners, but saying that, it should have its own space on your running to-do list. Even if you only do one in your lifetime – it’s something that you will be proud to tell your mates and grandchildren about. After all, running for 24 hours non stop shows that you are a resilient character. You’re a tough ‘un from the school of hard knocks and holey socks. So, yeah, the 24-hour run is one that we highly recommend.
There’s a plethora of 24-hour endurance events these days. Think of cars and in the FIA World Endurance Championship you have all the best sports cars and racers competing in teams with drivers doing 2.5 – 4 hours a session. They can total over 3000 miles in the fastest circuits like Le Mans.
Due to the popularity of all the televised endurance events, and sports in general branching out into new formats, it’s no surprise that running wants a chunk of the endurance cake. Yep, running is a legendary sport – let’s face it, running away from hairy animals was probably the first sport known to man. Anyhow, there are endless endurance events here in the UK, but the US and Europe are also loaded with them. Literally take your pick.
Fancy a Running Holiday in Australia?
The Coburg 24-Hour Carnival in Australia is a superb running event now with 6, 12 and 24-hour categories to choose from. If you are planning on travelling to Australia then it’s a well-established organisation that should provide a great day out for you and your family.
It’s a long way to go and a big commitment is required, financially as well as mentally and physically, but surely it would be worth it? Time spent basking in OZ’s golden sunshine combined with the lovely sport of running. Sounds like a winner to us.
Not to mention there are plenty of ex-pats over in Australia. Maybe you can grab a bedroom at your mates house if you know anyone over there?
Coburg 24 Hour has a rich history that they can be genuinely proud of. While most people believe ultra-distance track running events started in the 1980s, Coburg Harriers actually hosted their first such event in October 1954. This is quite possibly the first of its kind in the world. They organised a 24-hour track event, which was non-stop running, at McDonald Reserve in Coburg. 260 miles was the distance that the teams aimed for, but the winning team come in just shy of the target with a still amazing mileage count of 255 miles 1424 yards. Averaging a time of 5.37 per mile. The track would have been pitch black if it wasn’t for the surrounding kerosene street lamps and lights. Amazing!
How Should I Prepare for a 24-Hour Run?
An ultramarathon is any road race over the traditional marathon distance of 26.219 miles long and on a 24-hour race you’ll be accomplishing something similar. The good news is, you don’t have to run the full 24 hours without having a break. It’s expected that you will have staged walking breaks or if you’re super tired even a 15-minute nap will do wonders for your shattered body. Like all other running events, your first time out will be a big learning experience, but the information you take home will be invaluable for your next attempt.
Read on and we’ll give you plenty to think about with these tips:
- Get plenty of sleep and rest the week leading up to the race and especially the night before. Prepare well and race easy.
- Walking is expected, especially uphill. It’s about being the tortoise and not the hare, especially on your first endurance event, where you will still be getting to know your body in places you’ve never taken it before.
- Might sound obvious, but know your current fitness level and not previous ones. It’s not nice when you unintentionally think you’re fitter than what you are and you end up in a bad situation. Believe me, I’ve been there. Bearing this in mind, always ere on the side of caution so go a little slower rather than a tad too fast.
- Keep to your usual running rules such as drink to you thirst and eat what appeals to you. What I mean is, don’t fill up with food and forget to drink. It’s fluid intake that you need to prioritize over food.
- 24-hour endurance races are typically run on a short loop, which makes it easier to monitor the race over such a lengthy period. Imagine being a marshal, it would be quite boring at times you would imagine, and the bigger the course the more people and expense, etc. Ideally you want a loop that is roughly 1 to 1.5 miles long. There are mountain endurance events for fell runners that are over long distances, but you’d be better looking at doing them once you are familiar with a short course.
- Focus on the details. If you are in any race, be it on a car, motorbike or on foot, there is what you call the racing line, which is basically the shortest way around the course. Try and stick to this as much as possible, because you don’t want to make the race harder for yourself by running further than necessary.
- Terrain is worth paying attention to. Watch out for any trip hazards and undulations. Run on the safest route.
- Pacing yourself correctly is one of the most important aspects of your race. Once your legs are out of glycogen and you’re shattered then your race will be miserable. So don’t head out like a bullet train and then think you can walk for fifteen minutes to recharge. You’re not a Porsche 918 and you don’t have regenerative braking to recharge your batteries, unfortunately. Ration your power reserves!
- Walk early and often. Get into the habit of walking near the aid table so you can combine rest breaks with actual replenishment. You can tailor your walking distance so it speeds up or slows down your overall race pace, but without changing your actual running speed. If you want to speed up then you simply need to shorten your walking break and vice versa if you wish to slow down. Don’t feel like a failure when you need to walk and everyone else is running. Walking is essential over such long distances. Planning your race so you have long breaks similar to what you would do at work is a good idea. So maybe every two hours you get a little bite to eat and every four hours you get something slightly bigger, but do it to suit your appetite. Some of us are wolves, while others are kittens and don’t hardly eat anything.
- Find a good rhythm and stick at it as best you can. If you can settle down into a nice pace that you are comfortable with the less likely you will be to burn out. It’s good practice to get something from the aid station every lap or every other lap. Don’t over consume and nowadays with modern sports drinks, such as Lucozade Sport that include sodium, there is less chance of dying through over-hydrating (water intoxication.) What previously happened was people drunk too much water and this lowered their sodium levels so low it was dangerous and death could occur. Science has moved on since then, but it’s still best to be careful. You only get one go at playing dead and there’s no coming back.
- Planning is important and is similar to rhythm. Assess your early race pace and try and evaluate it and adjust as necessary. As we’ve said, ere on the side of caution rather than burn out and ruin your race. It’s not nice when you’re exhausted and have such a long day to contend with. We’re talking 24 hours! It rolls off the tongue easier than you roll down the road.
- Technique when transitioning from walking to running and back is important to get right. Try and make any movements as smooth as possible and don’t jar or change speed excessively quickly. You don’t want to pull a muscle slowing down too quickly, just as you don’t want to pull a muscle accelerating too fast.
- Walking is going to be a big chunk of your race out of the full 24 hours. Don’t try and walk like you’re a power walker, because walking is your chance to rest your legs and recuperate, even though it is only a short while it still helps. That being said, don’t waste excessive time walking at a snail’s pace. Balance speed with your judgement and how your body is feeling at the time. We’ve all heard the term ‘second wind.’ Often when people know the end is near they just want to get the race over with and they get a significant mental and physical boost knowing that soon the hard work will be over.
- The Big 100. The Tone. The One’r. However you wish to pronounce it, 100 miles is a long way to drive, never mind run. Once you’ve got to this stage, it’s possible that you will start to feel exhausted. It might be your body and mind playing tricks on you. In any case, you need to get a hold of your emotions and will power. Pace yourself for the full 24 hours and not for 100 miles. Obviously the more endurance events you take part in, the more attuned your emotions and intuition will be when adjusting your pace. Skills pay the bills, as they say, so hone yours by running and racing as often as possible.
Endurance Running Tips Part 2
- You’re SHOT! Don’t panic, if you start to feel super lethargic rather than Superman, then try the good old mental technique where you say to yourself that you are on your last lap. You’re trying to trick your mind and body into believing that you only have one lap to go instead of fifty. It’s not going to make you feel brand new, but it will possibly give you enough of a boost to get through a rocky period. What will really help is if you meditate as part of your training and visualize such things beforehand. Rather than waiting until you’re suffering on race day, prepare your mind before the event. Then your brain will snap into the same feelings in the race; the effect will be so much more pronounced.
- When problems arise, don’t panic. Stressing out will only lead to more stress and it doesn’t need to be that way. The great thing about running on a loop is that all your possessions and equipment can be in the arena with you. Have a race checklist ready before the event and bring everything you need whether you think it is necessary. Obviously don’t bring an articulated lorry, but a couple of bags of well-prepared running equipment is ideal.
- Don’t stand still. You need to stop for the toilet, but other than that eating and drinking should be done on the move. You don’t want to waste valuable minutes and seconds by getting caught up in something like talking to someone who has dropped out for example. By all means, if someone is injured and you want to comfort them for a quick minute or so until help arrives then that’s cool. It’s your choice at the end of the day. Just make sure if you do stop it’s justifiable.
- Sleep later. You have come to smash your mileage/distance rather than get a good nights sleep. However, if you are really suffering from tiredness and feel wobbly on your feet, it isn’t wise to keep going because if you fall you could injure yourself or someone else. Try and get a quick 15 minute nap, or at the worst, 20 or 30 minutes. It will be better than nothing and you should be doing everything in your ability rather than dropping out. You won’t get big miles in a 24-hour race unless you make sacrifices.
- BYOA – Bring Your Own Aid – while this option isn’t for everyone. It is going to save you decent chunks of time. You can even set your own fold-able table and chair so you can grab your drinks, but also you will be able to sit in your chair to change running shoes, for example. The extra effort is minimal, but the benefits are huge. Perhaps not something to try until you get deeper in your endurance career.
- Be prepared! There are lots of videos on YouTube that show you how to pack various kinds of running vests for endurance racing/running. It’s surprising how much lightweight gear you can squeeze into modern vests. Even water bottles are fold-able or alternatively you can have a CamelBak, with the straw or mouthpiece. Store your equipment in the order you are going to be using it. You don’t want to put the most useful stuff in the bottom of the vest/bag. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do stupid things.
- Safe energy. Don’t waste your valuable energy and time faffing about with water bottles and other heavy items that you don’t need to carry. There is an aid station for a reason.
- Bring a friend, or even better, bring a few. Your solitary friend or partner will rapidly get bored if they’re stood about for 24 hours, not to mention rather tired. If you can encourage a little entourage to follow you it will give you a mental lift. They can have a banter and as long as they’re on their best behavior, they can probably have a sneaky can of lager. Whatever way you go about this, just make sure that your friends don’t ruin your reputation at the event if they get too rowdy. There is a fine line between having fun and being reckless. Your buddies can help you prep and save you valuable time and energy. They can sort lights out and other little tasks that are trivial, but vital at the same time.
- Lights are super important. Make sure you pack a decent head torch and also try and have spare batteries at your aid station. A back up torch won’t go amiss either. Its’ always better to be over prepared than under prepped.
- Lap recording is something else that you will want to get right. Record your own laps as well as relying on the event organizers then if something goes wrong you are safe in the knowledge that you’re one step ahead of failure. GPS watches are improving, but generally they don’t have the legs in their batteries to keep up with a runner over a full day. GPS tracking is a relatively battery-hungry item. Imagine if you were sending signals into lower space orbit!
- Track your pace. Use your sports watch to keep track of your pace and the information will be valuable later on. You can always go back through data and see where improvements can be made in your running style and general performance. There are endless reasons why you might have had a slow lap. It could have been something as seemingly insignificant as not having the right music on you MP3 player.
- Smile and be happy! It’s super important to enjoy your day out, but also be courteous and thank everyone else that goes out of their way to help people like yourself. If it wasn’t for the event organizers and marshals then there would be no endurance races. The world is full of helpful people who often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Be appreciative and say a few kind words to them. The same goes for your fellow runners. Try and keep in their good books. Don’t go about being rude and selfish. Sounds obvious, but we all know an ASSHOLE!!!
- Psychology is a big part of any sports, especially running. You can use it for good or bad. Personally I like to be nice and would rather win by winning fairly than outsmarting someone using legal, but not very nice, psychological tricks to win. Any form of cheating is bad and not something I wish to be associated with. You are only cheating yourself after all, so why have a prize that is pointless. Things you can do is try and look like a faster runner than what you are by blitzing past someone who is struggling. This might demoralize them even more, but like I say, it’s not my cup of tea, however, maybe you will be more ruthless.
- Weather – you ideally want cool, cloudy and windless conditions. Not that the weather always delivers what we want. Don’t try and outrun the weather, though. If the sun is blazing down, then use your judgement and pace yourself accordingly. Heatstroke is the last thing you want during a 24-hour race.
- Taxi! Don’t drive home. Get a friend to pick you up, because after being up for 24 hours running non-stop you will be feeling shattered, never mind wanting to drive. Plan ahead and make sure you have rock-solid arrangements so you aren’t left high and dry.
- Downhill training is something that you can add into future running plans, because it helps with muscle strength and endurance. Just something to bear in mind.
Hopefully you’ve learned a few things from our list!
24-Hour Running Essentials..
Our list isn’t exhaustive, there are lots more things that we can add, but some of them are personal preferences. You will best find out which ones are to you liking by taking part in a race. If you feel that a full-fat 24 is too much for a first timer, then why not try doing a 6-hour and then a 12-hour. They’re still something to be hugely proud of. Heck, most people struggle to run for a few minutes. That isn’t an exaggeration either.
Five More Runner’s Reads
Hit Us up with Your own Endurance Tips?
Have you anything to add that you feel we’ve missed out? It’s always good to get feedback from our readers. Your voice is important to us so please speak up if you have any issues with our content.
As always, keep on doing your warm-ups and cool-downs and stay safe, happy and injury free!