"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Not a rhetorical question, actually...

Last post, I ended with "How does one train for such things (such as running 600 miles in 6 days)?" I've been thinking about that - quite a bit - because I think there's something lurking in the back of my brain, next to the other "pre-occupied because not otherwise occupied" areas (I have got to start dating again...) that has something profound to say about training.

First, I found the real American best for 6 Days is James Albert of Philadelphia doing 621.75 miles at the second race in 1888 at Madison Square Garden. In the first one, Cathcart was offered a fortune if he broke 1000 kilometers, which he did - barely. In the second, Albert was offered a fortune if he broke that record, which he did - barely. There was a third race that year, but the record stands.

Eleanor Adams, the first woman to finish a 6 day race and then the first to break 500 miles, was asked how one trains for such a race. She said she didn't think one could, except to rest up as much as possible. And that's where the point to all this starts: I started running ultras wondering how one trains for these things and I'm still wondering.

There are basic questions everyone wants answered when they first think about running ultras. 1) How many miles per week should I run? 2) How long should my long runs be? 3) How often should I do long runs? 4) What pace should I be doing my long runs? 5) How can I decide what my goal should be for my upcoming race?

Here's the answers one gets, if one asks those who are experienced: You have to find what works for you. I do long runs on whatever weekends I don't have other responsibilities. I run at what seems like a comfortable pace. I run as far as I can; your body just tells you when you have to stop. The first time you do a race, you just want to finish; after you've done it, you have an idea what you should aim for next time.

Those answers, true as they are, are of absolutely no help.

Which brings me back to the craziness of the 6 Day Race. Obviously, no one trains for these things by running all day every day. Adams never did "long runs" in training, though she ran a marathon or longer in a race setting (not actually "racing" most of them) every weekend and did 100-130 miles per week. Most of the guys who did 6 day races a century ago had run a very fast time at a shorter distance (10K to marathon), but only did one long race, setting personal bests at every distance. I can find nothing about James Albert except the one race result, for example.

Monica Scholz and Hans-Dieter Weisshaar have shown that it's possible to finish a 100 mile race every weekend almost indefinitely, though neither has done 100 in a day in a very long time. Monica planned to do 30 100-milers this year, including 12 on successive weekends - you can see how that went in the comments here. That's the second hint on how these things are done; two not-especially talented runners (and yes, Monica won Badwater and HURT...) have shown the limit of weekly long runs.

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

Just saw Monica broke 22 hours at Rocky Raccoon this year.