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Making ready for a 24-hour race

24-hour races are fantastically, brutally easy. One circuit. In the future. As many laps as doable.

There’s something heroic and universally interesting about pushing your physique by way of 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 contributors to run alongside one another for your entire race, as an alternative of struggling alone, hours behind the chief. Contributors typically workforce as much as race relay fashion, however the gold customary stays the solo self-discipline. 

Finishing a 24-hour race requires a mix 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 in the case of energy, it’s cheat day. However that is all a part of the fun.  


For many of historical past, operating was a survival tactic. Moreover the occasional burst of youthful vitality, excessive exertion was typically prevented. In Victorian England nevertheless, a couple of pain-loving pioneers sparked a newfound ardour for feats of endurance. The English Channel was swam, aggressive strolling drew document 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 document for distance run in 24 hours was damaged at a knee-shattering 309.4km (192.3mi). As of July, the biking document 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 most likely one close to you.


If the trim figures of the extremely elite go away you feeling heavy, don’t fret. Analysis into the components affecting ultrarunning efficiency present that measurement and physique fats share will not be the principle predictors of success.[2][3] These research concluded that earlier race occasions and coaching historical past have been most intently related to ultramarathon efficiency.

And for those who thought you have been too outdated for 24-hour occasions, contemplate this. Extremely-endurance occasions are constantly dominated by runners of their forties[4][5][6][7] with most runners coming 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 document 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 will not be crucial variables on this self-discipline. Far and away, the most effective predictor of efficiency over 24 hours is the operating completed earlier than the race.


Most marathon coaching plans are beneath 6 months. For twenty-four-hour races nevertheless, that is an absolute minimal. Race preparation time is determined by your coaching standing. There isn’t a shortcut to race readiness. For these newer to operating, 12 months coaching is advisable. In case you are accustomed to half-marathon distance, or operating 40 to 50km (25 -30mi) per week, you’ll be able to progress to ultramarathoning extra shortly. Do not forget that coaching for a 24-hour occasion requires acclimatization to new pacing, new technique, new gear, night-time operating, 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 an alternative of 30km, the main target shifts from masking distance quicker to passing time with much less effort.

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

Tempo runs (70-80% of max coronary heart fee) of accelerating length are a good way to realize this. Quick intervals above 80% of max coronary heart fee are advisable to extend maximal cardio capability and strengthen the guts and respiration muscle mass. 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, operating 70% of the race distance in coaching shouldn’t be advisable for 24-hour occasions. Recovering from such a run will doubtless disrupt your coaching schedule and be counterproductive total. Intention for a run of ~6 hours earlier than your 24-hour race.[13]  

It is very important progress at a manageable fee. Enhance your coaching load regularly (5-10% every week) till you might be coaching a number of hours per week, with no less than one future 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 it’s best 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 singular problem. The end line is a day away, irrespective of how briskly you might be. 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 begin too quick and alter tempo too typically. Analysis into 24-hour pacing technique exhibits that the most effective runners begin at a decrease relative depth and preserve a steadier tempo all through.[14]  

Through the race, preserve dialog tempo (gradual sufficient to talk). Count on to stroll. Strolling early and sometimes permits you to relaxation and eat whereas nonetheless rising 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 most effective predictor of 24-hour efficiency in leisure runners. The researchers advisable a 60km run earlier than the competitors – that’s a 6-hour run at 6-minute tempo.[13] 


Evening racing and sleep deprivation are key options of the 24-hour occasion. In an effort to preserve momentum and mileage, sleep is saved to an absolute minimal. Except you compete within the Arctic Circle, there’s no avoiding nighttimes.

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 may cause confusion, hallucination and delayed response time. With most racers choosing only a few minutes’ sleep each few hours, the hazards are actual.

women sleeping to recover

To fight the results of sleep deprivation, contemplate ‘banking’ sleep upfront of the race. Extending sleep time forward of competitors and daytime napping are widespread 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 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 traditional every day consumption.[18][19][20] It’s not possible 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 obtainable, 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 supreme vitality sources. Take a look at 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 also help you keep alert, and increase efficiency however abstain from stimulants 7 days earlier than the occasion to reinforce 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 based on particular person tolerance. The most recent suggestions are for reasonable doses of 50mg per hour. Power gels containing caffeine are a straightforward technique to handle consumption.[21][18]  

In preparation for the race, a carb-rich food plan is important to stop a detrimental vitality steadiness and gas coaching. Consuming 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of physique weight per day, within the days earlier than the race is advisable 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 idea, the intention 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 way of dehydration can have an effect on well being and efficiency. Nevertheless, prime ultra-endurance athletes incessantly lose greater than 3% physique mass over the course of a race, regardless of consuming 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 through the race than non-finishers.[26][27][28] 

woman hydrating during a long run

The most recent advice for hydration is subsequently 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.

Bear in mind 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 components, 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 fitting 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 steering, and steadiness your coaching with sufficient restoration. 


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