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February 22, 2017

How To Run 100 Miles

BY: DEVON YANKO

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Everyone, anyone CAN run 100 miles. In fact, I feel that of all the distances, 100 miles can be distilled down to a most primal level, the most simple. The task for most seems impossible to wrap your head around, impossible to even consider. The reality of running 100 miles or any big audacious goal is that our perceptions of our own capabilities, our own limits stand in the way. The reality is that we are often scared, soft, entitled, seeking the easiest way, avoiding failure at all costs. We don’t ever get close to our limits and so we cannot fathom even coming close.

But anyone can run 100 miles, it is simply a matter of changing your mind.

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I didn’t start my ultra career liking the 100 mile distance. And still even now, my favorite distance is 50 miles. But the 100 mile distance has taught me the most about myself, who I am as a runner and what I am capable of as a human being. Running 100 miles, I have broken through my greatest mental barriers, solved the most complex questions and faced down the most impenetrable darkness.

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Step one to running 100 miles is becoming 100% comfortable with the uncomfortable realities of failure.

None of my 100 mile races have been easy or come together perfectly. I have finished, I have dropped, I have fought back and triumphed, I have failed. And each of these experiences have been a cost I have been willing to pay. Failure, risking it, accepting it, being knee deep in it, is a part of it. It is a feature of almost everything worth doing. 

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Step two, be all in.

One of the most important things that I was ever told about running 100 miles, and has stayed with me and guided me through my career was “never start a 100 mile race that you aren’t 100% committed to doing everything and anything it takes to get to the finish line”. Its easy to be committed when we imagine a perfect day, where nothing goes wrong. But we must commit to face down anything that may come. Commit to walking it in. Commit to sitting in the chair for hours and getting back up. Be all in. Because if you aren’t, when things go sideways- and they will- you will not do whatever it takes to work through the problems. You will give in before you need to, you will not see your immense ability to fight, you will not see how deep your reserves truly are. 

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Step three, embrace your inner pessimist.

Part of that commitment and the action that follows it can be greatly aided by anticipations. The premeditations of evils is an ancient technique and does have magical powers even if it doesn’t actually make things easier. By anticipating the things that could go wrong- your stomach gives, you miss your crew, you are dehydrated, you just mentally don’t want to do this any more… you prepare yourself for things to be as hard as they need to be, how hard they actually are. This past year before WS100, I ran the canyon section of the course multiple times before the race. Each excursion sucked, it never got easier, I never had a single good training run on that section. So on race day, when things went south before I even go to the canyons and I willed myself forward into them, I knew it was going to suck. And surprisingly, it sucked but not nearly as bad as it had in every training run. So I emerged from them with momentum and strength, ready to run. When I stand on the line of 100 mile race, I have anticipated that in every single step I take there could be hardship.

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Step four, acknowledge it won't be easy. In fact, embrace it.

You can’t, in fact, make running 100 miles easier. Yes, you can train better, prepare well- which, side note, entails a great deal LESS than you are making up in your head- but you can’t actually make the distance less of a daunting, epic undertaking. That is a fact. But you can in fact toughen yourself up. You can summon an insane amount of toughness if you let yourself. When I’ve talked about cultivating badassery in the past, I am talking about being tougher and more resilient than I ever knew as possible. Obstacles are going to be as big and daunting and immense and difficult as they are going to be. And you can have the toughness to meet them.

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Step five, persist. You must simply, keep going.

Part of toughness is simple perseverance. Life and running are not about one obstacle but many. As the Haitian proverb goes, “Behind the mountains are more mountains”. You will never have a life or a run free of obstacles and so you must relinquish your desire to be free of obstacles. Instead you must persist and persevere.

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I’ve been told 1,000 or more times “I cannot imagine running 100 miles”, and honestly, neither can I. Running 100 miles like any undertaking is about the process, not the finish line. You cannot focus on the finish line, you can only focus on the step in front of you, what you need to do right now, in this very moment. Bring it back to the process- what do I need to do right now, do I need to eat, drink, push, pull back, take a deep breathe or just run? “Excellence is a matter of steps” (Ryan Holiday). And so you must must alter your perspective and choose how you will look at things. Where you head goes, the body will follow. Action follows the right perspective.

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I don’t think, or even advocate that everyone must run 100 miles or even try, but running 100 miles is a metaphor for life as much as the experience of running 100 miles is distilling down a lifetime in a day. But everyone can become a person who could battle the distance, the obstacles, the journey. Anyone can genuinely learn how to seek and push their own limits. Because life might just be the greatest ultra of all. 

Breathe deeply, steady yourself and step into the journey ahead.

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Comments

Sally | February 22, 2017 at 9:16am

I disagree. Everyone CAN'T

I disagree. Everyone CAN'T run 100 miles. Sometimes wanting something doesn't make it so. I've never had a lack of motivation or drive or toughness. But my knee will NOT hold up to that distance. I think it's a little hurtful and arrogant to assume that just because you can run 100 miles that everyone else can, too. You're not taking people's physical limitations into account. Not everyone is built for it. I wish I was, but I'm not. There are other people who also are not. Not everyone was graced with your physical attributes. The mind might be willing, but some body parts aren't going to make it, no matter how hard the person tries or how much they want it. Sometimes runners might have a dream that doesn't work. That doesn't mean they have to quit running. Running will give them a new dream. But it might not give them a 100-miler.

Cari | February 22, 2017 at 9:21am

Thank you!

Devon, Thank you for sharing your experience, your wisdom, and your story. I've been wanting to do an ultra for a while now, and I've decided that 2018 is the year! (I've filled 2017 with a bunch of fun, shorter trail races as well as volunteering at some ultras-- a much-needed reset from the less-than-stellar road marathons of 2016. Actually, my worst marathon ever has played a pivotal role in my firm and enthusiastic commitment to sign up for my first 50-miler next year, but that's a story for another day!) Reading your blog post here affirms both my excitement and my respect for the ultra distance, and I am amped for the journey ahead. Side note: great reading list :) And have a blast with #birdstrike! Grace + peace, Cari

Ashley Pastore | February 22, 2017 at 10:18am

Persist

As my husband, a far more experienced ultra runner than myself, always says... "left, right, left, repeat...". Great post!

Melissa | February 22, 2017 at 10:43am

I disagree as well. Not

I disagree as well. Not everyone can run 100 miles, and will and perseverance is not necessarily the obstacle. I have friends in wheelchairs who would love to even walk a mile. I'm an avid long distance runner, and I can appreciate the sentiments here, but the title and opening are insensitive to people who have other real barriers to being able to run at all. My suggestion is to simply change the title and opening to "almost anyone" can do this. The fact is, you have to be able to run at least a little bit without serious pain or injury to be able to accomplish 100-mile run.

Sarah O. | February 22, 2017 at 11:17am

Cari, I too had a string of

Cari, I too had a string of less-than-stellar races and some marathon disappointments that led directly to my signing up for my first 50-miler. Training for and running that race were life-changing, and truly reinvigorated my joy for running. I hope you have a similar experience with your journey! Best wishes!!

Yaneli | February 22, 2017 at 12:07pm

keep reading

Hey there Sally - her last paragraph addresses your concern. I 100% agree that the mental approach to running an ultra is something that can be leveraged to approach other difficult or strenuous goals in life. "I don’t think, or even advocate that everyone must run 100 miles or even try, but running 100 miles is a metaphor for life as much as the experience of running 100 miles is distilling down a lifetime in a day. But everyone can become a person who could battle the distance, the obstacles, the journey."

Jaci | February 22, 2017 at 1:10pm

In her final paragraph, Devon

In her final paragraph, Devon states that she doesn't advocate that everyone should run 100 miles, or even try. She acknowledges that it isn't a feat to be undertaken by every single person who runs. I think what she is trying to hit home is mental toughness and pushing beyond what you think you're capable of. No run is ever perfect, and running is a metaphor for life.

HeatherD | February 22, 2017 at 4:23pm

You may want to reread the

You may want to reread the final paragraph.

Joemarie | February 22, 2017 at 4:26pm

You missed the point

This is not about the literal achievement of a 100-miler, this is about this one "unattainable" goal thay we all dream about that sometimes can't even wrap our heads around... 100-miller, Boston Qualifier, illness, life... this is about what it takes to face your challenge head on...

Joemarie | February 22, 2017 at 4:30pm

Just the boost I needed

My "100-miler" is my attempt at my first 50k this year... and yes, by attempt, I've embraced Step 1 and have accepted that a DNF is very (VERY) possible... but that's the point right? Embrace the challenge, do the work and then some, expect disaster... Here I go!

Lisa | February 22, 2017 at 6:22pm

You actually CAN

I saw a guy with one leg, the other was a prosthetic, finish a literal 100 mile race, so truly, anything is possible. It's all in what you tell yourself. I think it was Henry Ford who said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

McClain | February 23, 2017 at 3:24am

YES. You can.

This is good. Running 100 miles takes grit. I finished my first 100 last year at P2P. I am setting my sights on The Mogollon Monster 100. I love the prep. I love running into he sunset. I love running in the dark. I love running into the sunrise. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I, too, believe anyone can do it.

Edward Chapman | February 27, 2017 at 11:52am

Wow - great article

I am so glad I read this. It has reinforced what I already think and made my resolve even tougher. I'm going to cultivate some badassery.

docreport | February 28, 2017 at 12:44am

Thanks!

Attempting (?) my first hunnered in April. Digging deep mentally as well as putting in the miles. I'm convinced that it's the mental fortitude that will get me across the line. Thanks for the motivation and agree with the naysayers, read the last paragraph.

Dawn | February 28, 2017 at 7:15pm

I think you're reading a

I think you're reading a little too much in to things here. With articles like this, there's a general assumption the writer is talking about runners without major illness/injury that are interested in the distance but feel it's too insurmountable. I highly doubt the writer is insinuating that someone with an injured knee, a heart condition, a broken leg etc can run 100 miles.

Carol | March 10, 2017 at 8:25pm

great, inspiring post!

Thank you for this post! It was very timely given that I will be starting training next week for my first ultra (not 100, but who knows - never say never!). I love the idea of challenging yourself beyond what you previously thought possible.

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