Getting ready for a 24-hour race


24-hour races are superbly, brutally easy. One circuit. Sooner or later. As many laps as potential.

There’s something heroic and universally interesting about pushing your physique via a full cycle of the earth’s rotation. Not like most races over a set distance, this ultra-marathon occasion is a race over time. 24-hour races allow individuals to run alongside one another for your entire race, as a substitute of struggling alone, hours behind the chief. Members usually staff as much as race relay type, however the gold commonplace stays the solo self-discipline. 

Finishing a 24-hour race requires a mixture of bodily conditioning, technical preparation, and psychological toughness. Getting lapped and lapping others is par for the course, relaxation is a relative time period, and in the case of energy, it’s cheat day. However that is all a part of the fun.  

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

For many of historical past, working was a survival tactic. Apart from the occasional burst of youthful power, excessive exertion was usually averted. In Victorian England nevertheless, a couple of pain-loving pioneers sparked a newfound ardour for feats of endurance. The English Channel was swam, aggressive strolling drew document crowds, and cyclists raced round a velodrome for six days straight.  

Quick ahead to the current day and excessive endurance occasions are plat du jour. This yr, the world document for distance run in 24 hours was damaged at a knee-shattering 309.4km (192.3mi). As of July, the biking document stands at an epic 1026.2km (637.7mi). That’s London to Luxembourg – and again once more.  

24-hour occasions are not the protect of the elite. Seasoned athletes race alongside grizzled journeymen. Technophiles obsess over biometric information, whereas enjoyable runners in vibrant pink sustain morale. Ultrarunning participation has grown by 345% within the final decade with an estimated 10,000 occasions hosted every year. [1]  There’s in all probability one close to you.

AM I BUILT FOR ENDURANCE?

If the trim figures of the extremely elite depart you feeling heavy, don’t fret. Analysis into the components affecting ultrarunning efficiency present that measurement and physique fats share will not be the primary predictors of success.[2][3] These research concluded that earlier race occasions and coaching historical past had been most carefully related to ultramarathon efficiency.

And when you thought you had been too outdated for 24-hour occasions, contemplate this. Extremely-endurance occasions are persistently dominated by runners of their forties[4][5][6][7] with most runners coming into their first occasion of their mid-thirties.[8] 

Ladies are properly represented within the sport of ultrarunning.[9] Look no additional than Courtney Dauwalter for inspiration. She set the Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc course document in 2021, and completed the Moab 240 (sure, it’s 243 miles lengthy) 10 hours forward of each different competitor – males included.

The take dwelling message is that age, measurement, and gender will not be an important variables on this self-discipline. Far and away, the very best predictor of efficiency over 24 hours is the working carried out earlier than the race.

HOW LONG SHOULD I TRAIN FOR A 24-HOUR RACE? 

Most marathon coaching plans are below 6 months. For twenty-four-hour races nevertheless, that is an absolute minimal. Race preparation time is determined by your coaching standing. There is no such thing as a shortcut to race readiness. For these newer to working, 12 months coaching is beneficial. If you’re accustomed to half-marathon distance, or working 40 to 50km (25 -30mi) per week, you may progress to ultramarathoning extra rapidly. Keep in mind that coaching for a 24-hour occasion requires acclimatization to new pacing, new technique, new gear, night-time working, and sleep deprivation – don’t rush.  

man preparing for a long distance run

TRAINING INTENSITY 

The common runner takes lower than 10 hours to finish a 100km ultramarathon. In a 24-hour occasion, that’s not even the midway level. In coaching for a 24-hour race, the emphasis is on constructing cardio capability at low depth. A technique to do that is to run for time, not distance. When your purpose is 3 hours as a substitute of 30km, the main focus shifts from protecting distance quicker to passing time with much less effort.

Ultramarathon runners depend on quantity quite than depth throughout coaching.[10] Nevertheless, it’s best to nonetheless embody excessive depth exercises to boost cardio threshold and enhance your capability for clearing lactic acid.

Tempo runs (70-80% of max coronary heart fee) of accelerating length are an effective way to realize this. Quick intervals above 80% of max coronary heart fee are beneficial to extend maximal cardio capability and strengthen the guts and respiratory muscle tissues. Respiratory muscle fatigue is a limiting consider ultramarathon efficiency.[11][12]  

THE LONGEST RUN 

A query usually requested is, “how lengthy ought to my longest coaching run be?”. Not like shorter endurance disciplines, working 70% of the race distance in coaching shouldn’t be beneficial for 24-hour occasions. Recovering from such a run will seemingly disrupt your coaching schedule and be counterproductive general. Intention for a run of ~6 hours earlier than your 24-hour race.[13]  

You will need to progress at a manageable fee. Improve your coaching load steadily (5-10% every week) till you might be coaching a number of hours per week, with not less than one long term of some hours.

Simulate the occasion with back-to-back runs on drained legs and embody particular coaching to your occasion. The terrain, elevation profile, and local weather of your race decide how it’s best to put together. Are you coaching for a mountain path in Canada or a monitor occasion in Australia? Lastly, taper your coaching a month upfront of the occasion to permit for full restoration.

PACING 

Pacing in a 24-hour occasion is a novel problem. The end line is a day away, regardless of how briskly you might be. Terrain, elevation, and climate are sometimes changeable. Runners of all talents are on the identical circuit, which interferes additional with particular person pacing technique.

No shock that newbie runners have a tendency to begin too quick and alter tempo too usually. Analysis into 24-hour pacing technique reveals that the very best runners begin at a decrease relative depth and preserve a steadier tempo all through.[14]  

Through the race, preserve dialog tempo (sluggish sufficient to speak). Count on to stroll. Strolling early and infrequently means that you can relaxation and eat whereas nonetheless rising mileage. Scout the course upfront to match your tempo to the course profile. Steep, tough or technical sections are sometimes higher walked, particularly when drained.

In coaching, run for time not distance. The longest coaching run earlier than a race was discovered to be the very best predictor of 24-hour efficiency in leisure runners. The researchers beneficial a 60km run earlier than the competitors – that’s a 6-hour run at 6-minute tempo.[13] 

NIGHT RACING AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION 

Evening racing and sleep deprivation are key options of the 24-hour occasion. As a way to preserve momentum and mileage, sleep is stored to an absolute minimal. Until you compete within the Arctic Circle, there’s no avoiding dead nights.

This requires you to beat the circadian drowsiness that hits after midnight, along with the problem of low-light circumstances and normal fatigue. To make issues worse, sleep is commonly poor within the lead as much as the race as a consequence of final minute logistics and journey to occasions. Excessive tiredness may cause confusion, hallucination and delayed response time. With most racers choosing just some minutes’ sleep each few hours, the hazards are actual.

women sleeping to recover

To fight the consequences of sleep deprivation, contemplate ‘banking’ sleep upfront of the race. Extending sleep time forward of competitors and daytime napping are well-liked methods amongst ultramarathoners and have been proven to enhance alertness and muscular endurance in laboratory circumstances.[15][16][17] 

Prolong your sleep by 1 to 2 hours within the weeks earlier than your occasion and add a daytime nap. Enhance your sleep by avoiding display screen time and stimulants earlier than mattress, in addition to sleeping on the similar time every day.

NUTRITION

In a typical 24-hour ultramarathon, a 70kg racer burns roughly 10,000 cal – 4 occasions the traditional every day consumption.[18][19][20] It’s not possible to devour this many energy throughout a race, so to attenuate the deficit and optimize power provide, racers should refuel effectively.

In contrast with shorter endurance occasions, the tempo of 24-hour races permits for loads of consuming on the go. Most energy for the race will come from carbohydrates, usually within the type of gels, bars, and drinks.[21] Nevertheless, for longer ultra-endurance occasions, fats is more and more vital as an power supply.[18][6] Have quite a lot of meals obtainable, savoury and candy to fulfill cravings as they come up.

Carbohydrate consumption needs to be within the vary of 30-50g per hour, for fats, round 4g per hour and protein between 5-10g per hour.[18][22] Pretzels, bagels, biscuits, bananas – even pizza are superb power sources. Check your meals in coaching. It’s important that your energy are properly tolerated. Peanut butter sandwiches can work simply in addition to costly power bars.

Caffeine and taurine-based drinks may also help you keep alert, and enhance efficiency however abstain from stimulants 7 days earlier than the occasion to boost the impact on race day.[23] Caffeine needs to be reserved for later within the race or within the evening when stimulation is most wanted, and solely in keeping with particular person tolerance. The most recent suggestions are for average doses of 50mg per hour. Vitality gels containing caffeine are a simple option to handle consumption.[21][18]  

In preparation for the race, a carb-rich food plan is important to stop a unfavourable power steadiness and gas coaching. Consuming 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of physique weight per day, within the days earlier than the race is beneficial to “carbo-load”, although many athletes wrestle to devour this quantity.[18][24] 

HYDRATION 

Correct hydration aids digestion, muscular contraction, and cognitive operate, which in flip improves efficiency. In concept, the goal is to interchange what you’ve misplaced as a consequence of respiratory, sweating, and urinating.

It’s usually said that weight lack of simply 2% via dehydration can have an effect on well being and efficiency. Nevertheless, prime ultra-endurance athletes incessantly lose greater than 3% physique mass over the course of a race, regardless of ingesting as a lot as 19 liters[25].

In follow, skilled athletes commerce off a level of dehydration in opposition to hyperhydration (extreme water consumption), to stop bloating and hyponatremia (low blood salt). Race finishers present higher sensitivity to their hydration wants, tending to drink much less the day earlier than a race, and extra through the race than non-finishers.[26][27][28] 

woman hydrating during a long run

The most recent suggestion for hydration is due to this fact to “drink to thirst”. This needs to be within the vary of 150-250ml each 20 minutes relying in your desire and environmental circumstances.[18] Scorching climate considerably will increase fluid necessities, whereas chilly climate blunts sensitivity to dehydration.

Remember that many “sports activities” drinks don’t present sodium in excessive sufficient focus (suggestions are 500-700mg per liter). Salted snacks and sodium dietary supplements can improve your consumption while hypertonic options present a dependable provide of electrolytes and carbohydrates.[18]  

Style and tolerance are vital components, so check your hydration technique in coaching to keep away from GI upset on race day.

A DAY LIKE NO OTHER 

A 24-hour race is a day like no different. The ache and struggling are to not be underestimated however the adrenaline and accomplishment are greater than rewarding. With the correct strategy, you may conquer this distinctive ultramarathon – and luxuriate in it too.  

There are important dangers related to 24-hour endurance races. Seek the advice of an train skilled for particular person steering, and steadiness your coaching with sufficient restoration. 

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