Have you strung together a good number of 50k and 50-mile finishes? Do you feel like you are a reasonably capable ultrarunner? Sure you may not be fast and you might not post podium results, but you’re confident running on trails and over long distances, so now it is time to contemplate what some folks call “the golden distance” of ultra running – 100 miles. There is the lure of that unknown distance and the appeal of a belt buckle. Likely you’ve heard of Western States, Hardrock and UTMB, but before you decide on one of those, it’s worth considering which 100-mile ultra marathon would be the best fit for you.
Is it Better to Select a Small or Large-Sized Ultra Marathon for Your First Race?
Some ultras are small, really small. This might be fine for a six-hour race but personally, I wouldn’t recommend a tiny 100 for your first time over the distance. If you pick a mid-sized or slightly larger event, chances are you will spend more time running with fellow racers, there will be more and better-stocked aid stations, and the course will be marked more thoroughly. All these factors increase the chance of a successful finish – which should be the aim of your first 100.
What do I Need to Know About Course Terrain for my First 100-Mile Ultra Marathon?
Clearly the flatter and less technical a course is, the faster you should complete the distance and although this doesn’t mean it will be easy, it can minimize factors such as sleep deprivation, fueling problems and failing determination throwing a curveball into your race. It’s also going to be easier to complete a race on terrain on which you regularly train – this isn’t essential but if you live in the prairies then choosing a mountain 100 is going to be hard not just because it is 100 miles, but because of the unfamiliar terrain too.
How to Prepare for Weather For Your First 100-Mile Running Race?
One hundred mile ultra races are hard enough because of the distance without factors such as extreme heat or snowstorms also being thrown into the mix. Sure, it’s impossible to predict exactly what the weather will be on race day when you sign up five months prior, but look at past statistics and consider how much of an added challenge weather is likely to pose. If you can find a 100 ultra marathon that tends to have temperatures in the 50s with dry and sunny skies you’ve hit the jackpot and are once again maximizing your chance for race day success.
Should I have Pacers and a Crew for my First 100-Mile Ultra Marathon?
It’s more than feasible to run 100 miles with no crew or pacers – you can use the aid stations, drop bag facilities and the assistance of volunteers, but there is a distinct advantage to having crew/pacers, especially on your first attempt. If you travel across the country, it might be logistically harder to have friends help out and the added cost of traveling farther with a larger group can put more pressure on you. Stay close to home and you’ll likely have a whole army of friends giving you that added logistical and emotional support that can be the difference between a finish and a DNF.
What do I Need to Know about Ultra Running Race Lotteries?
Now wouldn’t choosing your first 100 be so much easier if you didn’t have to play the lottery game? But lotteries are often unavoidable so it’s worth considering this before you truly set your heart on a race. This is particularly true if work and family circumstances might dictate that it’s “now or never” to run your first, and maybe only, 100-mile race. If this is the case, then your choice of 100s is going to be narrowed down simply by which ones don’t have lotteries. There are many lower-profile 100s that are equally worth doing.
How Many Qualifying Points do I Need Before my First 100-Mile Ultra Race?
The issue of qualifying points could influence your choice of 100-miler in two ways – maybe you have earned points so you can enter certain 100-mile ultra marathons and not others, or maybe it is by entering a certain 100 that you will gain UTMB, WS100 or Hardrock points. Whichever it is, I would not make this a major factor in influencing your race choice. While the ultimate dream might be to run UTMB one day, you should enjoy the process of getting there.
Choose your first 100-mile ultra marathon wisely and you will reap the benefits.