Seven-time Western States 100 winner Scott Jurek offers some key long-distance racing tips.
Scott Jurek knows a thing or two about running and winning at long distances. The ultrarunning author, speaker and consultant ran his first ultra, a 50-miler, in 1994. Not only did he like it, he was good at it, finishing in second place.
Between 1999-2005 Jurek won the Western States 100 Endurance Run an unprecedented seven times in a row. He’s also won the Hardrock 100, Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon two times and is a three-time winner at both the Miwok 100K in California and the Spartathalon, a 246K race in Greece, among others.
The 40-year-old credits his long-running, long-distance success to training, planning and mental focus.
Whether your long run is 10, 26.2 or 100+ miles, Jurek has run the distance and learned valuable lessons along the way. Here are his five tips to keep you going mile after mile no matter what distance you’re tackling.
Break Your Race Goal Into Small, Manageable Bites
Long distances can be daunting and mentally vast. The sheer magnitude of running something as long as 100 miles gets people second-guessing themselves, especially when you make it to the 20-mile mark and realize you still have 80 miles to go. But overcoming the challenges makes crossing the finish line that much more of an accomplishment.
While the finish line is the main goal, focusing on specific sections, such as running aid station to aid station or making it the next mile, helps to make the task doable. Even micro goals, like catching someone in front of you, paying attention to your breath or footfalls, or making it to the next shady spot in the road, work as well. Focusing on small, visual goals is good when your main goal seems too big.
Have A Nutrition And Hydration Plan
There are lots of calories and liquid to manage when you consider running 100 miles. And you don’t want to think about it mid-run. Write out a very clear plan as to what to eat and drink both where and when. And practice your plan. That way you know what your body can tolerate at different points throughout an event. For example, I know I get calories from solid food in the first half of a 100 and can better tolerate liquid calories in the second half.
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Adaptability is the difference between success and failure in an ultramarathon. Be able to make adjustments on the go. So many things can go right and so many things can go wrong, but you can still have a successful event.
Plan for extremes in weather. Look at conditions from previous years to get a sense of what to expect. Have strategies for dealing with all the possibilities and think about what’s available, like ice cubes or a cold river when it’s hot.
Have A and B goals, and be prepared to change goals, especially if conditions are abnormal. A goals are awesome if all is good and going well. B goals are back-up ways to salvage your race. And, if you need to, be free form about your day and even have a C goal. I always think about what I can take home or learn from a race.
As you go up in race distance, like to 100 miles, it’s no longer feasible to run 75 or 80 percent of the race distance in training. There is a fine line between being able to recover on a weekly basis and getting benefits from the work. My typical long training run for the Western States Endurance Run would be about 50 miles. Quality and intensity of workouts becomes very important. You need to think about how your can replicate race conditions in training.
RELATED: Western States 100 Course Preview
Focus On The Adventure
Anyone can run an ultra; we all have the ability inside of us. It comes down to the mental component, to what your adventurous spirit is like and if you are ready to try something new. Running 100 miles is about adaptability, mental strength and the ability to get over hurdles. You are put in situations you never thought possible, yet you keep going. It lets you live a lifetime in a day—focus on the experience.