When to Attempt Your First 100-Miler


By Jesse Chula

As Kentucky’s Rough Trail Ultramarathon 50K peaks its three-year-old head around the corner of November, I, like most runners, am already looking further around the bend as I begin to wonder what 2018 may hold. While I have a fairly serious goal set for myself this year at Rough Trail, a top-20 finish and a sub-6:30 finishing time, it’s only natural for us runners to begin setting goals and looking towards what’s next before we’ve even started our next 50k. Since I’ve been involved in distance running in the last five years, I’ve always taken a natural break after my last big Fall race. I’m a quality-over-quantity runner when it comes to racing; 3-4 races a year; 1-2 big ones and I stay relatively happy. I also enjoy other activities related to exercise such as hiking/backpacking, group fitness, spin, yoga, and strength training, not to mention how enjoyable and important it is to just Netflix, beer and chill.

Rough Trail, however, is a perfectly slated race on the calendar – cooler weather, Fall in Kentucky, wildly competitive, and just before the holidays arrive. Regardless of my love for all things Rough Trail (and not overlooking the sheer challenge of that 50k), the folks and Race Directors at Next Opportunity Events have done a phenomenal job in creating, scheduling, and executing other races for us Southeastern runners throughout the year. Races are diverse in distance, season, vibe, challenge, terrain, and experience. Enter into the 2018 picture the War Hammer 100.

I would guess most ultrarunners fall into one of two categories: those who will attempt a hundo and those who just will not even consider it. For some of us, it takes a longer amount of time to figure out which camp we’ll land in and to convince ourselves how crazy we actually are. For me, it’s always been appealing to attempt and complete the 100-mile distance; I’ve always felt a pull. Up until this point, however, I know and feel that I haven’t been physically or mentally ready, or (and especially in my current season of life) had the amount of time available to devote to 100-mile training. Or do I?

I recently stumbled upon a training plan for the 100-mile distance that begins to fit the pieces together in the ‘obtainable puzzle’ of the 100-mile distance. If you knew me personally, you’d know I’m a man with a beautiful family, kids, a great job, friends, myriad of other hobbies, and one who deals with all the other variables that prevent us runners from tackling bigger goals than the year before. If only there were more time, right?

As I’m known to do, I began to ask myself questions and look at realistic goals (and likely completely over-analyze the situation).

  • Are you ever really ready for the 100-mile distance?
  • What is a realistic goal for attempting your first 100? Not just in finishing time, but in the distance covered?
  • Would completing 70, 80, 90 miles of the total distance be considered a huge success for your first attempt?
  • Let’s get serious, would you hate the idea of covering that distance over 24, 28, or 32 hours?
  • How dangerous is the whole sleep deprivation thing?
  • Would my gut hold up and would I be able to take in enough calories?
  • Why am I so drawn to the challenge?
  • Come on, surely I’m doing more harm to my body than good here, right?

And so on and so forth.

Back to those perfectly nestled races from the Next Opp race crew. Their Big Turtle 50-Miler is currently scheduled for April 21, 2018, in Morehead, KY, a mere six weeks out from the War Hammer 100. Training run anyone?

Reasons to jump at this opportunity:

  • Race is open to just 80 runners
  • Race is in its inaugural year
  • Race is point-to-point showcasing some of the best trail running Kentucky has to offer
  • Come on it’s 100 miles, go for it!
  • The experience would be memorable and vibrant regardless of the outcome
  • You’re elite for even toeing the start line

For now, time is on my side. The Rough Trail Ultramarathon is just a few weeks out and should prove to be another excellent opportunity to challenge myself and better finishing times I’ve laid down in previous years. Regardless of my decision for 2018, my gut tells me there’s no better time to say “yes” to the race or distance you’ve always wanted to do than right now. After all, can’t we all agree it’s an absolute privilege to be able to sign up for these wild things in the first place?



  1. Wayne Brown on

    I must say that this is a VERY ACCURATE description of the anxiety most all 100 miler first timers face before making that leap .
    From personal experience only, I would
    bet you’re too for in “mentally” now to NOT go for it ! By your own admission you’ve “always been drawn to it” so that in itself only leaves 2 options ! COMMITMENT or REGRET !
    It’s been my experience that commitment has NEVER made me whish I’d chosen REGRET !
    In fact , it’s my few regrets that taught me how NOT to be afraid to COMMIT !
    As for the training for a 100 miler, all I will say is be EXTREMELY careful on any internet or Non “hands on”program. In my opinion, most plans have WAY too much mileage for normal people who have mostly normal lives. If it’s not what you do for a living, then you shouldn’t train like it is !
    A 100 miler IS NOT about how physically fit you are ( beyond the obvious) it is more about how DURABLE you are ! Yes, you can be very fit, but not very durable . YOU MUST BE DURABLE IN A 100 mile EVENT !
    FACT: 90% of all 100 milers DNF’s are MENTAL !
    Completing a 100 miler is 70-80% MENTAL and 20-30% physical !
    If someone cannot control their thoughts or believes that “self talk” and learning EVERYTHNG THEY CAN about the mindset required to complete a 100 miler is silly or not important…THEY HAVE ZERO CHANCE !
    Unless your willing to put your life on hold ( I highly discourage that ) for this event , my advice to you would be …. Educate yourself on training SMART ! …. Remove ANY AND ALL expectations of times or goals( other than finishing within the timeframe and healthy) . Practice controlling and learning how to control your thinking…most importantly….. HAVE FUN……..let it rip !
    I don’t think people like us make very good spectators !
    As you get older, when you get a chance to do something “ for the first time in your life” your answer should always be YES !!

    I’m just a normal guy who has been where you’re thinking about going numerous times . If I can help you in any way or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail .

    Wayne Brown

  2. Would you mind sharing the training plan you recently discovered? I too am contemplating my first hundred this year… Good luck to you!