Running Strategies for a 24 Hour Event


Experience From -
Misty Fillus , Matt Mahoney , Joe Prusaitis , Eliot Collins , Kevin Tiller , Peter Bakwin#1 , Shawn McDonald , Jeff Washburn , Rich Schick , Peter Bakwin#2 ,

Misty Fillus

I'm all set to try my second 24 hour race on August 4th. I've been looking at several internet sites for information and tips on pacing. I was going to try a 25/5 ratio which seemed to work well for many people and seemed sensible to me. However, I came across a comment from someone who recommended a 5/1 ratio. He said he got 103 miles doing it that way. He said late in the race it was a lot easier to do that than to run the 25/5. It makes sense to me too, since in my first stab at a 24 hour, i couldn't run more than 5 minutes at a time near the end.

has anyone tried this or have comments on it?

Matt Mahoney

If you ask 10 different people how to run a 24 hour race, you will get 10 different answers. I don't run/walk a 25/5 or 5/1 ratio. Instead, if there is any wind, I run downwind and walk upwind. It really doesn't matter how you break up the running and walking, as long as the total running that you do is not much longer than your longest continuous training run or race. For me, that's about 30 miles, so I plan to run 30 and walk the rest (60 or so). Late at night I don't do any running at all, but at sunrise I get a second wind and make up a lot of distance.

Practice race walking in training, as you will be doing a lot of it in the race unless you plan to go 130+ miles. For the race, use caffeine to stay awake at night, and don't use any for a month before the race, in order to increase its effect. Try to eat your regular meals at the normal times. Walk a mile or two after your meals to allow digestion. Bring extra shoes and change them during the race if they get uncomfortable. Train by walking barefoot to toughen your feet to prevent blisters.

Joe Prusaitis

George Beinhorn wrote:

25/5 is "much" harder on the body than 5/1 or 10/2, regardless of how the shorter "intervals" feel. The runners who used 25/5 in a 24-hour race successfully must have been very, VERY fit.
Chuck Zeugner wrote:
I'm going to run the Ultra-Centric in Dallas this year, and I'm going to do 25/5. That's the ratio that a lot of the leaders used, and it seemed to work for them.
I used the 25/5 for the TAMU-24 last Fall for a 106.7 mile day. It was my first 24-HR event and it was suggested to me by a friend. So, it's the only plan I had. I found the 25 too short and the 5 too long for the first half of the event, so it forced me to take a walking break that I normally wouldn't have. The 2nd half day, I found the 25 too long and the 5 too short, so it forced me to run further and walk less than I might normally have done. I also found it easy to remember to walk every time my watch hit x:25 and x:55, even after brain quit functioning. I ran well all day and night, never bonking, or slowing too much. I ran comfortably, and had a good push for the last hour. It is only one of many plans, and I have only done this one, and far from an expert on the subject. I will try it again this fall at the Concentric 48 HR event and see how this works for a 2nd and longer time. It maybe that I shift to a different plan should the wheels fall off.

Eliot Collins

I am not that great a runner and the longest race that I have completed is 50 Miles. I have found, however, that running for five minutes and then walking for one minute in all races longer than 10K works well for me. I run and then walk right from the beginning of a race, i.e., I do not wait until I have to walk.

I use a Timex Ironman Triathlon watch which has an alarm feature that can be set to go off repeatedly at five and then one minute intervals (5, 6, 11, 12, 17, 18, . . . 1439, 1440).

Kevin Tiller

My only comment is that you shouldn't look for a prescription to blindly follow. Why not start with what makes sense at the start and finish with what makes sense at the finish ? Generally, the longer the run, the more fried my brain gets and I would not have the means to follow any such complicated plan. I ran 109 miles on a "whatever feels right at the time approach". I will do this in future also.

Peter Bakwin#1

Blade Norman wrote:

Ok...let's say a runner wants to do a three day closed loop (such as Across The Years). And they have decided on a ratio of 50% walking and 50% jogging (trying to keep it simple) The next obvious variable is what type of format? Should you attempt to run and hour/walk and hour,alternately? 30 minutes/30 minutes? 10min/10 min? Some type of "ladder" where you start with more running vs walking and allow the runner to walk more as the three days progress. What about a "reverse ladder" where you walk more from the beginning, in hopes that it will allow the runner to "have more left" for day 3. I would be curious to see listers comments.

I'm interested in this too & hope the experts will respond. I have not run a "real" multi day (just some multi day adventures). When I did 24 hours at ATY last year I tried to walk one lap every 30 mins. This worked well through about 100 miles (16 hours), at which point I could no longer keep that up & walked more. But, when the sun came up my run/walk ratio increased again. I think if I ran slower at the start (50 miles in 8 hours instead of 7:30) I might keep the run/walk ratio high longer. For 48 hours (which I hope to try sometime) I was thinking to start out walking one lap per 20 mins and running a slower pace than in the 24. I think you have to plan for (1) significant slowdown over the 3 days (2) significant slowdown in the wee hours of night. Both your run/walk ratio and running speed will go down. What matters is that you start slow enough that the slowdown is reasonable and not a total crash (this is kind of tricky on the track because running feels so EASY at first) A guess would be start out running 10-15 mins and walking 5, but make sure the running part is real comfortable. I think doing 20-30 mins run, 10 walk won't work as well because the benefit from walking will decrease after 5 mins or so. Also, running 2-3 mins and walking 1 is not as good for me because after a while it takes some time to get going again when I start to run.

I don't know that there's a rule of thumb for 72 hours, which is not a standard event. For 48 hours I heard that you should get 90% of your 24 hour distance the first day. Last year at ATY Aki Inoue did 120 the first day and 100 the second, a very respectable effort. For 24 hours it appears that the best runners to 10-20% more miles in the first half than the 2nd half.

Shawn McDonald

Blade had some questions about walk/run plans for 3 day races, and I have thought about this some as I may be doing my first multi-day race in the next year or so. So far I've just done two 12-hour races and one 24-hour race on the track. Based on those three experiences, I would say start out with a plan to run for 30 mins. then walk for 10 mins. and repeat. The run periods are of duration that you can get into a good rhythm and at the same time short enough to lessen the effect of hot weather you might face during the daylight hours. During the walk breaks you can take in fluids and food, and attend to other needs like going to the bathroom, or foot care. After 12 hours or so (assuming the race starts sometime in the late morning or noon), maybe switch to a shorter turnover between walking and running, doing 15 mins. run and 5 mins. walk. This gives enough of a walk to take in nutrition, and short enough rest to avoid getting cold. This could be a big factor at a race like ACY where it can get cool at night. Also, with a 5 mins. walk break I find I can get going at running better than when I walk for 10 or 15 mins. straight. I don't know how this plan would work out in the 2nd and 3rd days, but at least for the first day with this plan you cover lots of miles while still getting in regular food, fluid, and rest breaks. Considerations of how much to walk and run include getting ample calorie and fluid intake, avoiding getting overheated or chilled, allowing time to let your legs rest from the pounding of running, versus getting stiff while walking or taking a rest stop and not moving, and also the effect of hours/days on your feet in terms of blisters, swelling, and the mechanics of circling the track hour after hour, in terms of causing joint and muscle pain and stiffness.

Other questions would be:

Any ideas out there about these issues would be appreciated.

Lazarus Lake

Shawn McDonald wrote:

Blade had some questions about walk/run plans for 3 day races, and I have thought about this some as I may be doing my first multi-day race in the next year or so.
I have been fortunate enough to see some of the great multi day runners in action. Strategies ranged from those like Al Prawda, Doyle Carpenter, Don Choi, etc, who almost never left the track, to those like Park Barner and Phil Parker who daily blasted out 80 and 90 mile runs in relatively fast times, and spent long periods away from the track. (then there are those like Ray K whose strategy was based on not being right in the head and mixed both methods). the run-walk strategy they all employed was the same, tho. they didn't walk very much. the most common thread in all of them was a very efficient, low-impact stride. park and parker had flowing strides, the others more of a rolling gait. mortal folks like me had to mix running and walking in order to maximize time on the track. still, the key was to run as much as possible. my experience was that there isn't any way to avoid spending the greatest portion of the race in pain, so you might as well run a lot while you still can. although there were long periods where I was reduced to walking only, those would be followed by some pretty good stretches of running later on. followed by more bad stretches, followed by...

Other questions would be: Do you sleep at night during a multi-day run, and for how long at a time, or try to take shorter naps spread throughout the day ?
Some runners had inflexible circadian rhythms, and continued to sleep at night. I preferred to sleep during the hot part of the day during the races in hot weather. but it was important to sleep very little (unless you can run really fast every day). for 48 hours or less I was shooting for one nap between 30 minutes & an hour. longer than that I needed a 3 hour nap or so every day. at any distance (even a mere 24 hour) overwhelming sleepiness could be temporarily overcome by a 5 or 10 minute nap as required.

Do you change shoes during the event? How often
I changed shoes every 6 hours. different shoes give at least some semblance of a change on the stresses. i believed that changing shoes reduced the damage. could have been placebo effect, but thats ok as long as it helped me feel better.

What about massage and stretching?
Massage treatment was often available. and i made use of it. but to be honest, i felt the physical benefits were ephemeral at best. however, having sensations that were not pain brought joy to my heart. and most of the masseuses being attractive supportive female humans strengthened my resolve. it was best to limit the time in the massage tent. i saw some folks get addicted to it (to the detriment of their results).

I was afraid to stretch for fear of tearing something or having my legs fall off.

Does anyone use scales to weigh themselves at these races to monitor hydration ?
I never saw it. I found that me & my body stayed in pretty much constant communication. if it had a problem, it didn't hesitate to let me know about it.

Is there any way to get a good idea of how many miles you can cover in 48 or 72 hrs.
Yes. Human experimentation.
Jeff Washburn

As for milti-days, I run/walk as I feel, always trying to run as much as possible. At the Sri Chinmoy 6-Day this year, I stayed on my feet for the first six hours, took and hour off to eat. Then I stayed on my feet for five hours followed by an hour off to eat and rest. I repeated this routine for three days before I actually went to bed for four hours. It's much easier to get the proper quantities of food in you by sitting and resting while you eat. I'm not sure if I would use this for a 48 hour race though. I would just try to stay on the track as much as possible. Enjoy the 72 hour race. Multi-day racing involves so much strategy that it can be more enjoyable than running on the trails sometimes.

Rich Schick

A strategy I always felt would be effective would entail putting some miles in the bank, but planning for a slower second half. It would also avoid the pitfalls of starting too slow - slower than your most efficient pace.

It would work like this you would split your goal mileage 60/40 between the first and last twelve hours of the run. Then divide the needed miles by twelve. Run the required hourly mileage, and then walk for any remaining time, these walking miles would be put in the bank in case you slowed too much later in the run.

A goal of 100 miles would require running five miles per hour the first twelve hours and 3.3 miles per hour the last twelve. A runner comfortable at a nine minute pace would run 45 minutes and walk 15 minutes of the first hour - makes it sound almost too easy when you figure just a good walk would suffice for the last twelve hours.

Peter Bakwin#2

I did my first 24 hour only 1 month ago, so its fresh in my mind. What worked & what did not?

Training: I trained like I would for a road marathon, but with a couple of longer runs each week. I would typically do a 20 miler on Weds and 40 on Saturday. All on trails & as flat as I could find. Hill repeats or track intervals (6x1 mile) on Monday, and some quick running with the testosterone gang on Thursdays. All this worked well. I don't think I would do much different next time except do track workouts for more weeks (I got started kind of late.) Oh, and I might take Fridays off instead of doing 7 days per week.

The longest run I did on a track before the race (in my life, in fact) was 15 miles.

I don't think you need to train in the wee hours unless you are for some reason really nervous about how you will do late at night. I think you want as much good sleep as you can during the training phase & doing night runs will just mess that up. This is especially true in the 2-3 weeks before the race! I went for a good taper, cut my miles starting 3 weeks out & barely ran at all the last week. That always works well for me (but I hate it!)

If you can get good sleep the 2 nights before the race you will be way ahead. That can be tough if you are nervous or excited, of course. I purchased an MP3 player just a couple of days before the race and spent so much time trying to figure out how to get it loaded up with music that I forgot to worry about the event.

By the way, the MP3 player was a life-saver at the event. My favorite tunes really picked up my spirits during some difficult times. A 24 hour is mentally very hard (much harder than a trail 100 in my opinion), so you need some motivation.

Pacing: Incredibly important. You must have a realistic plan. The best runners do 10-20% more miles in the first 12 hours than in the last 12 hours. Everybody starts too fast, and only a little too fast kills you many hours later. I used a strategy of walking 400 m every 30 minutes and this was very effective. It allowed me to break up the event in 30 minute pieces and not have to think about the whole monster. I was able to maintain this for nearly 20 hours, then more walking. I did go out too fast. I did 50 miles in 7:27, 100 miles in 16:08, and had trouble after 20 hours. Finished with 135. I think I would shoot for more even splits for the first 100 which takes me into the dead-zone of night when I know I'm going to slow down due to bio rhythm if nothing else.

Keep moving! I sat down exactly once during the race to change shoes. That was a mistake, I took a chance and started with some light shoes that I don't run in a lot & I got a blister. I changed to my trusty Montrails & no problems after that. I am not a fast runner but I got a decent total by running a relatively steady race (though not as steady as I would like) and by not screwing around. It helped a lot that I had crew to deal with my stuff, but if you are doing Sri Chimnoy they will take care of you from what I hear.

Don't worry about having every little thing at the race. Keep it simple. I brought a lot of food that I wasn't able to eat. I ended up going mainly on Succeed Amino, green tea, and noodle soup from the aid station. Make sure you have sufficient clothing to stay warm at night when you are moving slow and your body temperature drops because you are supposed to be asleep. Put on the clothes before you get too cold! I made the mistake of not putting on enough & it caused my legs to freeze up some.