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Getting ready for a 24-hour race

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

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 members to run alongside one another for the complete race, as a substitute of struggling alone, hours behind the chief. Contributors typically workforce as much as race relay fashion, however the gold commonplace stays the solo self-discipline. 

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


For many of historical past, working was a survival tactic. In addition to the occasional burst of youthful vitality, excessive exertion was usually prevented. In Victorian England nonetheless, a couple of 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 not the protect of the elite. Seasoned athletes race alongside grizzled journeymen. Technophiles obsess over biometric information, whereas enjoyable runners in vivid pink sustain morale. Ultrarunning participation has grown by 345% within the final decade with an estimated 10,000 occasions hosted annually. [1]  There’s most likely 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 dimension and physique fats proportion are usually not the principle 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 in the event you thought you had been too old 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] 

Women are well 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 house message is that age, dimension, and gender are usually not an important variables on this self-discipline. Far and away, the very best predictor of efficiency over 24 hours is the working achieved earlier than the race.


Most marathon training plans are below 6 months. For twenty-four-hour races nonetheless, that is an absolute minimal. Race preparation time is dependent upon your coaching standing. There isn’t a shortcut to race readiness. For these newer to running, 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. 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 technique to do that is to run for time, not distance. When your purpose is 3 hours as a substitute of 30km, the main target shifts from protecting distance sooner to passing time with much less effort.

Ultramarathon runners depend on quantity slightly than depth throughout coaching.[10] Nevertheless, it’s best to nonetheless embody high intensity workouts to lift cardio threshold and enhance your capability for clearing lactic acid.

Tempo runs (70-80% of max heart rate) of accelerating period are an effective way to attain this. Quick intervals above 80% of max coronary heart charge are beneficial to extend maximal cardio capability and strengthen the center and respiration muscle groups. Respiratory muscle fatigue is a limiting consider ultramarathon efficiency.[11][12]  


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

It is very important progress at a manageable charge. Enhance your coaching load step by step (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 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 trail in Canada or a monitor occasion in Australia? Lastly, taper your coaching a month prematurely of the occasion to permit for full recovery.


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 skills are on the identical circuit, which interferes additional with particular person pacing technique.

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

In the course of the race, keep dialog tempo (sluggish sufficient to speak). Anticipate to stroll. Strolling early and infrequently means that you can relaxation and eat whereas nonetheless rising mileage. Scout the course prematurely to match your tempo to the course profile. Steep, rough or technical sections are sometimes higher walked, particularly when drained.

In coaching, run for time not distance. The longest training 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 time racing and sleep deprivation are key options of the 24-hour occasion. With the intention to keep momentum and mileage, sleep is stored to an absolute minimal. Until you compete within the Arctic Circle, there’s no avoiding midnights.

This requires you to beat the circadian drowsiness that hits after midnight, along with the problem of low-light circumstances and common fatigue. To make issues worse, sleep is commonly poor within the lead as much as the race on account of final minute logistics and journey to occasions. Excessive tiredness could 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, contemplate ‘banking’ sleep prematurely 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. Improve your sleep by avoiding display screen time and stimulants earlier than mattress, in addition to sleeping on the similar time every day.


In a typical 24-hour ultramarathon, a 70kg racer burns roughly 10,000 cal – 4 occasions the conventional day by day consumption.[18][19][20] It’s unimaginable to devour this many energy throughout a race, so to reduce 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, typically within the type of gels, bars, and drinks.[21] Nevertheless, for longer ultra-endurance occasions, fats is more and more necessary as an vitality supply.[18][6] Have quite a lot of meals accessible, savoury and candy to fulfill cravings as they come up.

Carbohydrate consumption must 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 preferrred vitality 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 vitality bars.

Caffeine and taurine-based drinks may help you keep alert, and enhance efficiency however abstain from stimulants 7 days earlier than the occasion to reinforce the impact on race day.[23] Caffeine must 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. Power gels containing caffeine are a straightforward approach to handle consumption.[21][18]  

In preparation for the race, a carb-rich weight loss program is important to stop a detrimental vitality stability and gasoline 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 battle to devour this quantity.[18][24] 


Proper hydration aids digestion, muscular contraction, and cognitive operate, which in flip improves efficiency. In idea, the purpose is to interchange what you’ve misplaced on account of respiration, sweating, and urinating.

It’s typically said that weight lack of simply 2% by dehydration can have an effect on well being and efficiency. Nevertheless, high ultra-endurance athletes steadily 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 newest advice for hydration is due to this fact to “drink to thirst”. This must be within the vary of 150-250ml each 20 minutes relying in your desire and environmental circumstances.[18] Sizzling climate considerably will increase fluid necessities, whereas chilly climate blunts sensitivity to dehydration.

Remember that many “sports” 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 check 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 revel in it too.  

There are vital dangers related to 24-hour endurance races. Seek the advice of an train skilled for particular person steerage, and stability your coaching with satisfactory restoration. 


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