Getting ready for a 24-hour race

24-hour races are superbly, brutally easy. One circuit. Sooner or later. 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 individuals to run alongside one another for all the race, as a substitute of struggling alone, hours behind the chief. Contributors usually staff as much as race relay type, however the gold normal 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 with regards to energy, it’s cheat day. However that is all a part of the fun.  


For many of historical past, working was a survival tactic. In addition to the occasional burst of youthful vitality, excessive exertion was typically prevented. In Victorian England nonetheless, a number 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 12 months, 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 knowledge, whereas enjoyable runners in brilliant pink sustain morale. Ultrarunning participation has grown by 345% within the final decade with an estimated 10,000 occasions hosted every year. [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 proportion are usually not the primary predictors of success.[2][3] These research concluded that earlier race instances and coaching historical past have been most carefully related to ultramarathon efficiency.

And in the event 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 getting into their first occasion of their mid-thirties.[8] 

Girls are nicely 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 an important variables on this self-discipline. Far and away, the very best predictor of efficiency over 24 hours is the working carried out earlier than the race.


Most marathon coaching plans are beneath 6 months. For twenty-four-hour races nonetheless, that is an absolute minimal. Race preparation time is dependent upon your coaching standing. There is no such thing as a shortcut to race readiness. For these newer to working, 12 months coaching is really helpful. In case you are accustomed to half-marathon distance, or working 40 to 50km (25 -30mi) per week, you’ll be able to progress to ultramarathoning extra shortly. Keep in mind 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 common 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 purpose is 3 hours as a substitute of 30km, the main target shifts from overlaying distance quicker to passing time with much less effort.

Ultramarathon runners depend on quantity slightly than depth throughout coaching.[10] Nevertheless, you need to nonetheless embody excessive depth exercises to boost 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 really helpful to extend maximal cardio capability and strengthen the center and respiration muscle mass. Respiratory muscle fatigue is a limiting consider 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 isn’t really helpful for 24-hour occasions. Recovering from such a run will possible disrupt your coaching schedule and be counterproductive general. Purpose for a run of ~6 hours earlier than your 24-hour race.[13]  

You will need to progress at a manageable price. Improve your coaching load step by step (5-10% every week) till you might be coaching a number of hours per week, with no less than one long term of some hours.

Simulate the occasion with back-to-back runs on drained legs and embody particular coaching on your occasion. The terrain, elevation profile, and local weather of your race decide how you need to put together. Are you coaching for a mountain path in Canada or a observe 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 novel problem. The end line is a day away, regardless of how briskly you might be. 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 newbie runners have a tendency to start out too quick and alter tempo too usually. 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]  

Throughout the race, keep dialog tempo (gradual sufficient to talk). Count on to stroll. Strolling early and infrequently permits you to relaxation and eat whereas nonetheless growing 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 very best predictor of 24-hour efficiency in leisure runners. The researchers really helpful 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. In an effort to keep momentum and mileage, sleep is stored to an absolute minimal. Except 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 normal fatigue. To make issues worse, sleep is usually poor within the lead as much as the race attributable to final minute logistics and journey to occasions. Excessive tiredness may cause confusion, hallucination and delayed response time. With most racers choosing just some minutes’ sleep each few hours, the risks are actual.

women sleeping to recover

To fight the consequences 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] 

Lengthen 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 similar time every day.


In a typical 24-hour ultramarathon, a 70kg racer burns roughly 10,000 cal – 4 instances the conventional every day consumption.[18][19][20] It’s unattainable to devour 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] Nevertheless, 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 superb vitality sources. Check your meals in coaching. It’s important that your energy are nicely 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 boost 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 accordance with particular person tolerance. The newest suggestions are for reasonable doses of 50mg per hour. Power gels containing caffeine are a simple approach to handle consumption.[21][18]  

In preparation for the race, a carb-rich food regimen is crucial to stop a adverse 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 really helpful to “carbo-load”, although many athletes wrestle to devour this quantity.[18][24] 


Correct hydration aids digestion, muscular contraction, and cognitive operate, which in flip improves efficiency. In concept, the intention is to exchange what you’ve misplaced attributable to 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. Nevertheless, high ultra-endurance athletes often 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 towards 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 in the course of 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 ought to be within the vary of 150-250ml each 20 minutes relying in your choice 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 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 appropriate method, you’ll be able to 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 steerage, and steadiness your coaching with enough restoration. 


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