Oh boy! You really are a glutton for punishment if you’re reading this.
To ensure absolute honesty, and clarity, there is actually no one way to complete a 100 miler. For anybody who attempts it, your success is based on physical readiness, mental toughness and, most importantly, luck. Yes, luck, let’s be brutally true – sometimes a failure is down to circumstances outside of our control.
But, we all do have some agency when it comes to ultra running, and there are so many ways to tailor your training, your diet and lifestyle to give yourself a fighting chance.
So, let us get into it. Here are some tips that may help you when learning how to train and complete a centurion marathon (the dreaded 100 miler).
What does a 100 miler look like?
This section is simply to add a little bit of context. Just as it says on the tin, a 100-miler is exactly what it is: running an ultra marathon that is 100 miles or more.
Typically a 100-mile competition involves running nonstop until you pass the finish line. Most people who complete the distance will be running for between 28 and 50 hours. For most events, the 100 miles is split up into sections with a time cut-off meaning that any stragglers will be eliminated. Not only does this protect the runners, but means those who wish to complete the race will need to be running day, and night and carry all of the kits they need for the duration. There will be aid stations but with many miles between them, you should be prepared for anything.
Tips For training to complete a Centurion Marathon
Our tips are not going to be specific, or give you training regimes. The truth is that everybody is different and what works for me, may not work for you.
Fuel for your Body Right
The biggest issue you’re going to have during your training is not getting sick or injured all the time (this is where the luck comes in too). The physical requirements of running for over 24 hours continuously are beyond comprehension. I’ve been there – diarrhoea, colds, burned-out ankles and pulled carves. The over exhaustion and midnight cramping is part of the experience. While these can’t always be avoided, there are a few things we can do to mitigate the risk of them happening.
While training you need to make sure that your muscles and immune system are given the correct nutrition to repair, protect and serve. While your diet is super important, you’re going to need additional supplementation.
Personally, I like to keep my supplementation as simple as I can. All the energy I need comes from my diet and the additional supplements are to provide my body with the tools to strengthen my immune system, help my body recovery and something to give my body a boost.
Here are a few of the things I take to prepare for my training.
- AG1 (everything under one drink)
- Cordyceps, Reishi & Shitaki (immune system & lung capacity)
- Collagen (joints, muscles)
- Hemp & Cannabinoids (sleep & recovery)
- B12 & D2 (repair, heart health & immune system)
A marathon is an elite achievement. An ultra-marathon is beyond imagination for some. And a Centurion marathon is just cruelty. The physical toll on your body is borderline catastrophic. The vast majority of people who attempt a 100-mile marathon for the first time fail. You could be a monster over 75 miles but the last 25 are going to test you like you’ve never been tested.
When training, it is essential that you find your limits. The point of stress testing your body and mind is to understand your body and what you are capable of. There are two reasons why this is important while running a 100 miler: to know how far you can push yourself, and when to stop.
The best way to stress test is to set yourself a training regime that tests similar situations that you may find yourself in during your 100-mile marathon – a flat 25-mile run simply won’t cut it. You could spice up your training with small challenges like:
- Running in the middle of the night to practice what it is like running in absolute darkness.
- Do not sleep the day before training / ensure you are sleep deprived.
- Run drills during your training to practice self-aid, changing clothes, etc.
- Train in extremely challenging conditions like the Scottish Highlands or Welsh Downs (be very careful here)
- Test a 100 miler on your own so the experience isn’t new (you may decide the whole thing isn’t worth it)
It sounds like it makes sense, but putting yourself into situations that you’re likely to encounter regularly will help you endlessly: mentally and physically.
Test Your Mind: Do Something Extreme!
By far the hardest part of the 100 miles is the mental toughness required to keep going when you’re wet, tired, cold or down. You need to maintain a positive, focused and buoyant mindset to keep it up. Your body will be screaming to stop and your mind needs to keep dragging it along.
It sounds a little ‘left-feild’ but pushing your mental strength on a regular basis as part of your training is an essential part of the process. By training your mind for the ups and downs of the race you’ll be more prepared to cope. As the special forces, guys keep saying: be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everybody has a different way of looking at this, but doing something (that is safe) but very uncomfortable.
The thing I like to (which is very popular these days) is to get into a super cold ice bath. The cold fires every pain receptor in your body and put it into a state of complete panic. To stay in requires you to slow your breathing, relax, focus and get used to the feeling of being very uncomfortable. Other examples could be testing yourself with heights, or scaring yourself half to death by confronting a fear.
The theory behind this is training your mind to get used to stress and gaining the tools to be able to regulate your emotions and to know you will survive this. It may suck now but you’ve been here before.
Thinking outside the box may be what it takes to get over the line.
Try Meditation & Stillness.
The nerves and stress that come with a race may be what is dragging you back. The pent-up tension is not good for your body, your mind or your race. To give yourself the best chance to complete your 100 miler, your mind needs to be relaxed, focused and positive.
Other than being a great tool in your daily life, meditation and mindfulness could be what help you maintain a mental stillness that can get you through anything. The ability to look at things with a positive and thankful mindset will ultimately be the difference between giving up and keeping going.
Calming and controlling your emotions and thoughts on a regular basis has a profound effect on your mental strength and well-being in general. So, even when you’re training for the race, a daily meditation and mindful moment will profoundly improve your general outlook, improve your immune system and create a positive environment for self-motivation.