You Run 100 Miles!

Most people know someone who has tackled the marathon distance but did you know there are those who go beyond that? If you’re curious about how and why a person would take on the challenge of running 100 miles then read on.

1. Do You Sleep During The Run? No, personally I do not. Since these are races my goal is to finish the distance as quickly as I can; also there is a 30 hour time limit for most 100 milers leaving little time for naps.

2. Do You Walk? Yes, I would say that I walk about 30% of the total distance (30 miles). The “plan” is to walk the uphills, jog the flats and run the downs; of course if the race is relatively flat then you must include scheduled walk breaks. At Arkansas Traveller I didn’t follow this plan and ran everything for the first 16 miles which almost caused me to DNF early in the race due to the heat and humidity.

3. Do You Eat While You Run? Yes, you’re supposed to. In a 100 mile race I’ll burn around 15,000 calories so it is essential that I replace these calories during the run. For me I have a hard time eating as I tend to have no appetite and an unsettled stomach; I force myself to eat whatever “looks” good or something I can just gulp down. At Arkansas Traveller I lived on Coke and Soup during the last 60 miles but typical aid station fare includes Soda, M&Ms, Gels, Sports Drink, candy, chips, cookies, PB and Jelly sandwiches, boiled potatoes and about anything else you can imagine (pancakes, sausage, bacon, hamburgers, etc.). You must also replace your electrolytes during the race by either consuming salt or electrolyte capsules. Personally I take Succeed Caps and in hot weather consume about 3-4 an hour; during the AT100 I took over 60 S-Caps throughout the 24 hours I was running.

4. Do You Stop To Rest? There are aid stations about every 4-5 miles where we fill our water bottles, grab something to eat and see our crew if the station is accessible to them. My rule is to get in and out of an aid station in 2 minutes or less as I take food out with me to eat while I’m walking. My crew usually walks along side refilling me with Hammer Gels, S-Caps, Woerther’s Candies, Starlight Mints, Clip 2 and Tums. I almost NEVER sit; as the old ultra saying goes “Beware of the chair!” It has been the cause of many DNF’s (Did Not Finish) for other runners.

5. How Long Does It Take To Run 100 Miles? As Davy says in his response it really depends on the course. Kettle was my first 100 miler and I finished in 27 hours and 11 minutes due to the fact that I walked the entire last 38 miles. At Arkansas I finished in 24 hours and 35 minutes as I was better prepared both mentally and physically for the night portion; I practically ran an even split (1st 50 miles in 12:09 and last 50 miles in 12:26). My short-term goal is to run a sub-24 but my “stretch” goal is to beat 22 hours.

6. Why Do You Like To Run 100 Miles? That’s the Million Dollar question that I get all the time! First and foremost I like to push myself to see exactly what I’m capable of; the feeling of accomplishment when you finish is unsurpassed by anything else I’ve ever experienced. I love the people I meet during the journey and the beautiful places I get to see. I’ve learned a lot about myself; I can achieve anything I set my mind to and when the going gets tough I’m able to handle the stress in a calm manner (something I try to apply in everyday life). I enjoy reflecting back on the race and going through the “play by play” with family and friends; it’s like reliving the excitement all over again! Lastly, you can’t truly appreciate “rest” or a shower until you’ve run a 100 miler.

7. How Long Does It Take You To Recover? I’m usually running again by the next weekend although I stick to trails and go no further than 7 miles. Typically I do a “reverse taper” and am back to my average weekly mileage by about 3-4 weeks after the race. I ran the Rock Creek 50K three weeks after Traveller and missed my 50K PR by 3 minutes placing 7th overall; my recovery time is getting shorter and shorter as I get more miles on my body.

8. What Do You Think About As You Run? When running a race of this distance you focus on how you’re feeling (body scan from head to toe and internally), keeping your hydration/electrolytes in balance, following your fueling strategy and what you’re going to need at upcoming aid stations. When you scan and something isn’t right you then move into a solution oriented mode to figure out what you need to do to fix the problem before it gets any worse. If you are at a REALLY LOW POINT you start thinking about why you’re doing this as you search for meaning and inspiration to push on.

9. How Much Do You Have To Train? I average about 50 miles per week and a typical week consists of 4-5 runs of 6 to 10 miles and one long run over 15 miles. The Long Run is really the key as it primarily trains the endocrine system to handle the stress you will encounter during a 100 miler. I ran at least one race of 50K or longer practically every month this year.

10. Doesn’t It Hurt? Yes! There are times when the pain seems unbearable; you must know the difference between “safe” pain and pain which signifies a problem so serious that you must quit. By about mile 50 everything hurts to some extent so it simply becomes varying degrees of pain. At Arkansas I actually started feeling better as the race progressed during the last 50 miles; I’ve found that for me late in a race it is less painful when I’m running than when I’m walking or standing still. As Davy said, after the race the pain subsides but the memories and sense of accomplishment last a lifetime!

11. Do You Get Blisters? I am blessed in that I have very few foot problems and rarely get blisters. If I do they are small and relatively insignificant; I usually don’t even notice them until the race is over.

12. What Kind Of Shoes Do You Run In? I run in trail running shoes and love the Asics Gel Trabucos; I’ve tried others but keep coming back to these. I also wear Injinji Socks, use Sole orthotic insoles and Dirty Girl Gaiters. During Arkansas Traveller I ran in the same pair of shoes the entire race, never changed my socks and my feet felt great (it’s all relative).

13. How Many Miles Do You Run In A Year? I just started running in September, 2005 so: 2005 – 492 Miles, 2006 – 2454 Miles, 2007 – 2750 Miles

14. How Often Do You Run 100 Miles? I’ve only run two 100 milers and completed both of them in 2007. I also ran races of all distances including two marathons, six 50K’s, one 6 Hour Timed Event and one 50 miler. For 2008, I will run fewer races and plan to participate in three 100 milers; I will run less 50k’s and no marathons.

15. Do You Win? Not Yet. I am relatively young and early in my ultra career; the highest I’ve placed in a 100 miler was 20th at Arkansas. My running times in general have improved quite dramatically this year and I do think that someday I’ll be able to run a sub-20 hour 100 miler. Is that good enough to win? Depends who shows up that year.

Carey W. Smith

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