Going the distance is the very essence of ultrarunning. My dear friend Lesley is celebrating her 50th year by running her first 50 miler. She is apprehensive and asked me how she will get through those last miles. Indeed, those miles from your previous longest distance to your new longest distance are the mystery. That mystery is part of the adventure.
Here are a few guidelines to help you along the way.
Trust your training
You have trained for this. If you keep a training log, use your taper time to review it an remind yourself how you’ve prepared. Consider your previous longest race and how you have gained since then.
If you reflect on your training and see that you are a bit under-prepared, use that knowledge to throttle back your pace on race day. You always can (and should) pick it up in the final third of the race if you end up with more in the tank.
Trust your people
Our running friends, mentors and coaches, with their third-party perspectives, often have a better gauge of our abilities than we do. Savor their support and trust that their words are not empty. Running seems like a solitary sport, but it takes a village to get to the start line.
Know that you are mentally tough and the final miles often come down to that. I rely heavily on various mantras throughout the course of a race. I can’t always predict which thoughts will resonate most with me during a race, but my mantras tend to follow these themes:
- Gratitude: I’m lucky to be here / to have the health and time to train for this / to have the support of my people who help me
- Presence: Just get through this moment / through this mile / up this hill / to the next aid station
- Toughness: I can do anything for 10 minutes / recall a really hard training run / worst case: recall natural childbirth
Embrace the journey
The day is long when you’re running an ultra marathon. Anything can happen and things change along the way. When you hit a low, keep faith that it can and will turn around. Conversely, if your day is amazing and you’re digging deep to kill it in the final miles, consciously appreciate that new level of suffering and accomplishment.
As with life, everything is temporary and fleeting, so feel it and embrace it now. In the words of Neil Diamond, it will all be Done Too Soon.