When it comes to running, there are a few types of people: those who log a 5K for charity every now and then, those who train diligently and complete marathons, and the crazy ones—the 50-miler crowd.
No one sets out on a run and accidentally does 50 miles—that kind of distance takes work. However, as more people get on the long-distance bandwagon, the idea of completing a 50-miler is appealing to a larger crowd of runners. If you’ve made the switch from “never in my life” to “I just signed up for my first 50-miler,” consider these tips. Good luck, and welcome to the crazy side.
1. Do your research
Read magazines and websites and consult with local pros and 50 mile veterans. Ask everyone you can what they recommend, and filter that through your own knowledge and experience. Ask these vets what they wish they’d known before running their first 50 mile distance and what is most important to them as they head out for their next one. Ask about mileage training, food— anything you can think of. These people and the articles written by them and about them are a valuable resource.
2. Train smart
The most important training element is the weekly long run. Some say if you keep up with your long runs, incorporating moderate lengths (6-8 miles) during the week, you’ll be set. Skipping long runs once a week is hard on your body and your mind. You need to know your body can do it. So set your schedule, being careful not to increase mileage by more than about 10 percent each week.
3. Try new things during training, not during the race
You’ll have plenty of gear—drop bags, food, extra socks and shoes, and either handheld water bottles or a hydration pack. Be sure to try everything you’re using before race day. You may find that your belt bounces without proper balance or your headlamp fits best with a bandana underneath. These things are inconvenient on a training run but can be devastating during the real thing.
4. Practice walking
That might sound counterintuitive, but while most people training for a half-marathon or marathon intend to run the entire race, most people preparing for their first 50-miler should plan on walking, maybe even a great deal, and even walking takes practice. Ideally, even a walking pace is quick, not dragging. It’s important to incorporate walking into your plan so you aren’t caught off-guard when you need it. Walking well is important in a race as long as a 50 miler.
5. Do the next thing
On race day, take on a “do the next thing” mentality. You’ll have your plan, and now you’ll execute it. Break the day down into smaller tasks and get them done, one after another. Eat before you crash because that’s in your plan. Walk before you burn out, because that’s in your plan. Stay slow before the halfway mark—it’s in the plan. Think through the next hour, the next drop bag, and the next several hundred calories— whatever it is that helps the distance feel attainable. With your training, your plan, your body, and your mind, it certainly is.