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Getting ready for a 24-hour race

24-hour races are fantastically, brutally easy. One circuit. In the future. As many laps as doable.

There’s something heroic and universally interesting about pushing your physique by 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 contributors to run alongside one another for all the race, as an alternative of struggling alone, hours behind the chief. Members usually crew as much as race relay type, however the gold customary 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.  


For many of historical past, working was a survival tactic. Moreover the occasional burst of youthful vitality, excessive exertion was typically prevented. In Victorian England nonetheless, just a few pain-loving pioneers sparked a newfound ardour for feats of endurance. The English Channel was swam, aggressive strolling drew report 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 report for distance run in 24 hours was damaged at a knee-shattering 309.4km (192.3mi). As of July, the biking report stands at an epic 1026.2km (637.7mi). That’s London to Luxembourg – and again once more.  

24-hour occasions are now 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 annually. [1]  There’s in all probability one close to you.


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

And in case you thought you have been too previous for 24-hour occasions, think about 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 effectively represented within the sport of ultrarunning.[9] Look no additional than Courtney Dauwalter for inspiration. She set the Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc course report 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 are usually not crucial variables on this self-discipline. Far and away, the most effective predictor of efficiency over 24 hours is the working finished earlier than the race.


Most marathon coaching plans are below 6 months. For twenty-four-hour races nonetheless, that is an absolute minimal. Race preparation time depends upon your coaching standing. There isn’t any shortcut to race readiness. For these newer to working, 12 months coaching is advisable. In case you are accustomed to half-marathon distance, or working 40 to 50km (25 -30mi) per week, you may progress to ultramarathoning extra shortly. Do not forget 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


The typical 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 method to do that is to run for time, not distance. When your objective is 3 hours as an alternative of 30km, the main focus shifts from protecting distance quicker to passing time with much less effort.

Ultramarathon runners depend on quantity slightly than depth throughout coaching.[10] Nonetheless, it is best to nonetheless embrace excessive depth exercises to lift cardio threshold and enhance your capability for clearing lactic acid.

Tempo runs (70-80% of max coronary heart price) of accelerating length are a good way to realize this. Brief intervals above 80% of max coronary heart price are advisable to extend maximal cardio capability and strengthen the guts and respiration muscle mass. Respiratory muscle fatigue is a limiting think about ultramarathon efficiency.[11][12]  


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 advisable for 24-hour occasions. Recovering from such a run will possible disrupt your coaching schedule and be counterproductive general. Intention for a run of ~6 hours earlier than your 24-hour race.[13]  

It is very important progress at a manageable price. Enhance your coaching load progressively (5-10% every week) till you’re coaching a number of hours per week, with at the very least one long term of some hours.

Simulate the occasion with back-to-back runs on drained legs and embrace particular coaching on your occasion. The terrain, elevation profile, and local weather of your race decide how it is 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 in a 24-hour occasion is a singular problem. The end line is a day away, irrespective of how briskly you’re. 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 novice runners have a tendency to begin too quick and alter tempo too usually. Analysis into 24-hour pacing technique exhibits that the most effective runners begin at a decrease relative depth and keep a steadier tempo all through.[14]  

Through the race, keep dialog tempo (gradual sufficient to talk). 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 most effective predictor of 24-hour efficiency in leisure runners. The researchers advisable a 60km run earlier than the competitors – that’s a 6-hour run at 6-minute tempo.[13] 


Evening racing and sleep deprivation are key options of the 24-hour occasion. With a view to keep momentum and mileage, sleep is saved 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 basic fatigue. To make issues worse, sleep is usually poor within the lead as much as the race on account of final minute logistics and journey to occasions. Excessive tiredness may cause confusion, hallucination and delayed response time. With most racers choosing only a few minutes’ sleep each few hours, the risks are actual.

women sleeping to recover

To fight the results of sleep deprivation, think about ‘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 identical time every day.


In a typical 24-hour ultramarathon, a 70kg racer burns roughly 10,000 cal – 4 occasions the traditional each day consumption.[18][19][20] It’s unattainable to eat this many energy throughout a race, so to attenuate the deficit and optimize vitality 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] Nonetheless, for longer ultra-endurance occasions, fats is more and more necessary as an vitality supply.[18][6] Have a wide range of meals out there, savoury and candy to fulfill cravings as they come up.

Carbohydrate consumption ought 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 ideally suited vitality sources. Take a look at your meals in coaching. It’s important that your energy are effectively tolerated. Peanut butter sandwiches can work simply in addition to costly vitality bars.

Caffeine and taurine-based drinks can assist you keep alert, and increase efficiency however abstain from stimulants 7 days earlier than the occasion to reinforce the impact on race day.[23] Caffeine ought 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 newest suggestions are for average doses of 50mg per hour. Vitality gels containing caffeine are a straightforward solution to handle consumption.[21][18]  

In preparation for the race, a carb-rich eating regimen is important to forestall a detrimental vitality steadiness and gasoline coaching. Consuming 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of physique weight per day, within the days earlier than the race is advisable to “carbo-load”, although many athletes battle to eat this quantity.[18][24] 


Correct hydration aids digestion, muscular contraction, and cognitive perform, which in flip improves efficiency. In concept, the intention is to interchange what you’ve misplaced on account of respiration, sweating, and urinating.

It’s usually said that weight lack of simply 2% by dehydration can have an effect on well being and efficiency. Nonetheless, high 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 forestall 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 in the course of the race than non-finishers.[26][27][28] 

woman hydrating during a long run

The newest suggestion for hydration is subsequently to “drink to thirst”. This ought 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 necessary elements, so take a look at your hydration technique in coaching to keep away from GI upset on race day.


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 best method, you may conquer this distinctive ultramarathon – and luxuriate in it too.  

There are vital 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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