Thursday, 23 February 2012

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in a 100 Mile Race - Part 2

Copyright: Warner Bros.

After my own mistakes (and a little bad luck) in my last 100-miler, I thought it might be useful to lay out a few of the mistakes that are commonly seen. I'm sure a lot more could be added to these but here are my top 10, all 100-mile specific. The bottom five of the list were posted here, and here's the top five.

5. Running on an injury - it can be incredibly tempting to just 'run it off' if something goes wrong in those last few weeks, especially with the prevalence of lotteries and the time and money expended to get to the start line. But when making that decision to start or continue on an injury, ask yourself which is more important - finishing at all costs or being able to run (or even walk) again within the next few months. Make the judgement as objectively as you can, ideally from a qualified third party if pre-race. Within this mistake category is not looking after your feet and letting them get in bad shape. One little 'secret' I can certainly mention is to use Drymax Socks, as these tend to keep feet in good condition, but if you go through a wet section and have a dryer section coming up (like after a river crossing), it's usually helpful to change socks and shoes.

4. Only running in training - it may seem counter-intuitive but the odds are that you'll be hiking at least part of the race so it's worth practicing this within your training. Power-hiking compared to slow walking will gain much more time than a faster running pace compared to a slower running pace, so a lot of time can be saved if you can hike fast. It'll also allow you to recover and take on calories.

3. Not eating and drinking enough (or the right stuff) - a lot of calories get burned in 100 miles and, generally, the sooner you can start getting calories in you, the better. However, it's not as easy as it sounds and after a while you're almost guaranteed to not want to eat some or all foods. In addition, the amount of liquids and the balance between water and electrolyte drinks will depend on the effort level, temperature, altitude and also the individual. The best advice is to try out as much as you can in long training runs and build-up races to refine what works for you.

2. Not training for the specifics of the course - the conditions and terrain vary hugely from one ultra to another and training will be most beneficial if it includes a lot of mimicking of those factors. Training on the actual course is best, but not often practical and if there's heat/cold/mountains/altitude or anything else in the race which you don't train for then it'll be a lot harder (and thus slower) to deal with.

1. Going out too fast - men have a greater tendency to do this than women, but it's very easy to do since 100-mile pace is gentle compared to any other running. You almost can't go out too slow as it's all about maintaining the pace and not dropping off towards the end, which is when the biggest impact will happen to your overall time.

Good luck in whatever race you're doing!


  1. Thanks for posting this! Great read. Number one has got to be my biggest pitfall. It's easy to run harder than you should when you're feeling good and fresh 40 miles in. And prob number 5 too b/c I'm an idiot.. Another thing that screws ppl over in a long race is spending way too much time at an aid station.. or sitting down to rest! This may be more true in someone shooting for a time goal than just a finish, but it's easy to just sit and never get back up. All of those minutes can quickly and easily add up to a couple extra hours to your finishing time.

  2. every year i watch the Hardmoors 110 entrants fly off. Only 12 have ever finished. Nice blog :-)

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  4. The top four are definitely what I need to focus on for my first 100 - Leadville. Over last few years my training runs have gotten longer 40+ miles, but racing is another game. I just started running official ultras and have made all the classic mistakes. Hopefully I will have them all ironed out by August. Just recently, it occurred to me that I will not be running the hills during Leadville and decided to start powerwalk training. This is by far my weakness, if I am walking everyone passes me. Here are my ultra mistakes:

    Great Post ~SKArunner

  5. what do runners suggest to use for containers for drinking between aid stations?

  6. Anon - it depends on your preference. I prefer hydration backpacks but most don't. Try things out in advance of a race to find what works for you.

  7. Cheers for the good tips :) I'm popping my 100 cherry this May with the Apocalypse100 and will be taking your advice! Train hard-run happy ;)