100 Miles or Bust!

How often in life we complete a goal that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it.

-Robert Brault

The day after I wrote about why I like goals that seem impossible, my friend Robert Cheeke posted this quote on his Facebook page.  That was the tiny little nudge I still needed in order to do what I’ve been kicking around in my head for months, so I went ahead and did it.

I signed up to run a 100-miler. The Old Dominion 100 Mile Cross-Country Run in Woodstock, VA on June 4th (and into the 5th).

Right now, I’m not capable of running 100 miles—at least, not in 24 hours.  That’s the time you need in a 100-miler in order to “buckle,” which doesn’t mean “collapse on the ground,” but rather “earn a belt buckle.”  Sort of like “medaling” in a race, only you get a belt buckle instead of medal.

And yes, that’s right—if you finish 100 miles but take longer than 24 hours,  they don’t even give you a stinking belt buckle.  Evil.

But the fact that I’m not capable of doing it now doesn’t mean that signing up was a dumb decision.  To the contrary, I’ve found when it comes to crazy stuff like this, signing up is precisely the first step in becoming capable—if I didn’t have a hard deadline in the future at which point I’ll either be able to run 100 miles or have literally the most painful day of my entire life, then it wouldn’t happen.  I’d keep putting it off, saying “one day.”

“One day” is now June 4th.  And some of the 5th, since it starts at 4 AM.

How the F do you train for a 100-miler?

With a 50-miler, they tell you to get in as many marathons and 50K’s as you can.  So you could take that advice and double it, but the biggest problem with that is it’s hard to find many 50-milers and 100K’s to use as training runs.  Not to mention that a slow 50-miler is probably a 12-hour training day.

With that in mind, here’s my tentative race schedule for the winter and spring:

  • January 2: PHUNT 20K
  • February 26: Hashawha Hills 50K
  • March 19: HAT 50K
  • April 9: Bull Run 50-miler
  • April 18: Boston Marathon
  • June 4: Old Dominion 100-miler

There’s no 100K on here, and only one 50-miler, but that’s the best I could do.  I’ll probably do several 20-25 mile runs within a few days of each other in lieu of these missing long runs.

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect beyond that.  I’d like to keep my speed and strength up instead of focusing solely on distance, and I’ll start off by working in as much of that as I can, but really I can’t say what will happen once the mileage starts to pick up.

Oh yeah…and I’m kind of scared about what kind of self-doubt must bubble up when you’re running through the woods in the middle of the night, after you’ve already been running for 18 or 20 hours, trying to finish before 4 AM.  I don’t hear many ultrarunners make a big deal about this, so maybe it’s not so bad.  But it sort of seems like if I’m going to buckle in the “collapsing, curling up, and letting maggots go to town on my eyeballs” sense, then this would be when it would happen.

So there.

I’ve signed up.  I’ve announced it.  I’ve committed myself to it.   The chances of it actually happening have just skyrocketed.

I encourage you to think about what you might do in 2011, and not just tell yourself you’re going to do it, but to take some sort of action that commits you.  Why wait until New Years?

Giveaway winners

Two giveaway winners to announce today, before I give you details of the final NMA holiday giveaway.

First, the winner of the Madre Labs Immune Punch and $50 iHerb.com shopping spree is Kristina from spabettie.com (rhymes with spaghetti?), who said she’d probably buy Immune Punch if she won (the drawing was random, really).

And second, the winner of Susan’s holiday stocking stuffer extravaganza, including GU’s, Ryder’s sunglasses, and Road ID schwag is Charlotte, who asked Santa for a Patagonia parka and bribed him with some of Christine’s NMA cookies.

Congratulations to both winners!  One more holiday giveaway coming later this week!



Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

How to Eat Plant-Based and Get All the Protein You Need

Want to eat a whole-food plant-based diet, but worried about protein?

wooden signpost near a pathOur 7-Day Kickstart Plan is unique in that it focuses on the highest quality whole foods (including the 7 foods worth eating every day), while also providing protein-boost options, in case you're especially concerned about protein. The Kickstart Plan includes:
  • A 7-day meal plan, built around the foods worth eating every single day
  • Daily protein boost options to give you the confidence that you're getting what you need
  • Focused on simplicity and speed, to minimize stress and time commitment
It's the best way we know of to get started with a whole-food, plant-based diet, for just 7 bucks. Learn more here!


  1. Wow! That is just awesome. Best of luck with the training. I’m sure you’ll rock it. Hope you guys enjoy the holidays 🙂

  2. If anyone can do it, you can!

    As for me, I’m a little tired of giving my myself major goals at the beginning of the year. I want to enjoy a bit of spontaneity in my training and racing in 2011. It will be a nice change.

    • That’s not a bad idea. Actually this year was sort of like that for me. I still did a lot with the two 50’s, but compared to the Boston qualifying, it really was a relaxing year. Good luck with it!

  3. That’s so exciting! Thank you for sharing your news. Can’t wait to read along as you prepare for it!

  4. Wow. I’ll be interested to read about your training for this one. I wish you not luck but strength!

  5. Oh Matt, you’re crazy, but the really good kind. Just don’t die because I like seeing your posts pop up in my reader(or, if you do plan on dying, prepost a lot). Hopefully I’ll be able to come cheer you on at the Boston Marathon!

  6. good luck with the training! setting goals is the best way to progress! looking forward to hearing the progress as you train.

  7. That is so cool! Congratulations on taking the first step and signing up. I know you will buckle (in a good way).

    The distance that seems impossible to me right now is the marathon. I’m just getting into distance running and haven’t run any long distance races, but I am signed up for a 10 mile race in April (the Cherry Blossom in DC) and a half marathon in June (Virginia Wine Country Half) – right now, those are long distances for me. I’m excited about those races, but the distances don’t seem impossible to me. I know that I am going to have to train for both races because I haven’t run that far yet, but I have absolutely no doubt that I will be crossing both finish lines. Maybe this post can be the kick in the tush that I need to take the leap of faith and register for a marathon? =D

    • There you go! If you do register and pay attention to your body to make sure you don’t get hurt, then all you’ve got to lose is the money, which is probably insignificant compared to what doing a marathon might mean to you.

  8. YES!!! It is official! I am so excited for you!

  9. HELL YEAH! So stoked for you. It’s all about pacing. It’s good, imho, that you aren’t doing a ton of longer races first. Do enough. And spend the rest of the time getting stronger and faster!
    Can’t wait to follow your progress. I’ll keep you updated if I sign up for one…

    • Thanks Matt. I agree, there’s something to be said for not doing TOO much beforehand. It’s like only doing 20 or so before a marathon, you gotta leave something for the big day. Although I guess leaving 50 for the big day is a different story, but that seems to be what people do. Good luck with your 50!

  10. Fishback Boy says:

    I’m stepping up my game and planning on my first ultra trail race this next summer. Give it hell Matt and best wishes you make it to the start ready to go.

  11. Way to go,Matt!!!!!

  12. AWESOME!! Can’t wait to read your posts as you and I train for 100.

  13. OHHH my goodness you are a ROCKSTAR!!! wow 100! I seriously can’t even imagine, so excited for your training&recap! good luck, I hope youre enjoying the beautiful holiday season!

  14. Matt, that’s HUGE! Wow!

  15. jon Weisblatt says:

    Awesome! Congratulations on taking the plunge. In the immortal words of John “The Penguin” Bingham: “The miracle isn’t that i finished. The Miracle is I had the courage to start.”
    Good luck and have fun!

    • Jon, that’s really so true. While to me this goal does seem “impossible” on a gut level, I do know that once I start and get into the training, one thing will follow another and eventually I’ll get there. I only know that because I’ve been through it with the 50. Good quote.

  16. The 100 is definitely a different beast, and probably the most important thing is to get your mental game right. Patience, guts and determination will see you through, and I’m sure you’ll do great.

    • Thanks Mark. I didn’t really think of it as being mental, but you’re probably right. I think Ann Trason said something about getting to a point where it still hurts, but doesn’t hurt any MORE. With that in mind, I’m hoping that I can convince myself to finish when I’m sure the inevitable “maybe I should just stop, why am I doing this to myself?” thoughts happen.

  17. I’m sorry but running a 100 miles in less than 24 hours doesn’t SEEM impossible given that you have qualified for the Boston marathon and have completed a couple 50 milers. Rather it sounds like an achievable, though challenging goal.

    If you had said your goal was to solve a millennium prize problem for your thesis or finish a 2:40 marathon, then I would say that seems impossible. And if you had said you’d wanted to be the first to swim across the Atlantic, then I’d say it SOUNDS impossible…

    • Oinky, I can see your point. On an intellectual level, I can look back and see that I went from marathon to 50 without a problem, so 50 to 100 might be similar. And I can envision myself doing this.

      I guess what I mean by impossible is that on a gut level, it feels like something that’s way beyond my abilities. Only relatively recently, maybe two years ago or so, did I realize that anyone even could run 100 miles. I think that contributes to this goal seeming difficult enough that it’s inspires me, because I know I don’t feel like this when I set a goal that is easy to get.

  18. This. Is. Awesome. Can’t wait to read all about it.

    I’m signed up for a 6 hour race in April- the goal is to cover as many miles as you can in the 6 hours. The course is on a 3 mile loop, so my goal is to keep my sanity out there. I’d been mulling it over for months, and your blog really inspired me to just do it. You better believe I’ll be wearing my NMA shirt!

    • Hey Melissa, a 6 hour race sounds cool. I’ve never even though about doing a time-limit race, but it actually sounds like a fun thing, especially given the added mental challenge of running around the same short loop over and over, as you mentioned. Make sure you get a photo sporting the carrot!

  19. Excellent, Matt! I look forward to reading about your training. I’m especially interested in whether you’re able to keep your speed up or if that declines as mileage takes precedence. Should be a lot of fun reading for all of us, watching you suffer. 😉

    • Hey Dena. I’m interested in that too. This year, I definitely lost a lot of speed when I trained for the 50’s and focused on just running long and slow. But I also slacked off somewhat, and I think if I were really training hard, I could have worked in a speed day each week to keep it up. And that’s my goal this time (actually, to get some speed back, not just maintain). I’d still really like to run a 3-hour marathon before I get too far from my BQ fitness level.

  20. I think by the time you’ve been running 20+ hours you might be able to have a pacer. Maybe they keep away the crazy,nighttime thoughts. I’m signed up fir my first ultra in March – a 60k in New Zealand. Woohoo!

    • If I can’t have a pacer I will die in the woods. I really think so. I’m horrible at navigating as it is, and being in the dark and an unfamiliar trail, with my head all effed up from running 20 miles would only make it a hundred times worse.

      Wow 60K for your first ultra, good for you! New Zealand sounds like a great place to do it.

  21. Awe-some. Making it known and locking it in. You’re good to go; now all you have to do is…run. 🙂 Can’t wait to read about your training.

    My 2011 schedule is planned out, as of two weeks ago:
    May – Half Marathon in Lincoln, NE
    June – Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN
    Sept – Half in Omaha, NE
    Dec – Rock n Roll 26.2 in Vegas, baby.

    My first full marathon ever will be Grandma’s.
    Let the adventure begin.

    • Good luck Nikki! Never heard of Grandma’s, but I’m sure it’ll be nice in Minnesota in the summertime. Las Vegas is on my list; I love the RnR races. Good luck with your training!

  22. That is awesome, I look forward to hearing about your training….. who knows maybe one day for me as well.

    Good luck with finding the right “plan” and executing it.

    • Thanks Tim, I like that attitude. Hope this will inspire a lot of people who have only considered themselves marathoners, not ultrarunners, to think maybe they can do it too.

  23. Old D is a good choice for a first 100 miler. It could be hot, but otherwise a fair 100. I’ve run about 70 ultra marathons…but only 2 successful 100 milers. Make sure you practice some night runs and running when you are tired–maybe back-to-back weekend long runs or do a long run at the end of the day when you are already tired. Best of luck!

    • Thanks Chris. Yeah, the heat is a concern. I did the North Face 50 in DC on this same weekend last year and it was 95 degrees. Definitely slowed me down, but it wasn’t ever a serious problem except when there was a 7-mile gap between aid stations. Obviously I’ve never done 100, but it seems like one good thing is that many hours will be after/before the sun is out, so I guess that will help.

  24. I love those socks!
    I must have them!!!

  25. Jamie in Arkansas says:

    After I read this quote on your blog, I knew I had to share it! My husband has lost nearly 60 pounds this year and took up running AND biking. So I took a photo from his first 10K and added the quote to it, framed it and gave it to him for Christmas. It brought him to tears. Thanks for sharing…it made a wonderful Christmas even more special!

  26. How awesome! I will be running my first 100 in October! It is a very exciting thing. I’ve not yet done an Ultra. My first will be a 44 miler called Brew to Brew in April. I love your site – and ordered a shirt, too! Good luck in your training!

  27. thank you for this post. it was just what i needed to motivate me to register for my first trail marathon (may) and first 50k (oct). running a 100 is one of my life goals. good luck to you and thank you so much for your awesome post!

  28. Great news, and good luck!

    I was going to do my first 100 miler in March, but missing out on 3 of the 5.5 months of training I’d have had for it has led to reassessing my priorities so I’m going to put it off a bit longer.

  29. So, I came across your website yesterday evening when searching going raw/vegan. I ran my first 50-miler in 2009 with minimal training. I was just glad to finish. After I accomplished that goal, I’ve had it on my list to complete a 100-miler. I’m so encouraged by your dedication!!

    I have a number of goals for myself that I probably need to spend more time planning my smaller steps. Up until a few months ago I would come across a small and cheap marathon that I could drive to in a weekend, email the race director to see if I could still get a race bib and go run it. I want to finish a marathon in all 50 states before I turn 30, but I’ve taken a good number of months off from marathoning since starting school back up this January. I’ll get back at it and we’ll see if I can squeeze in 38 more marathons and tackle a 100-miler.

    Keep up the awesome blog!! Your posts are fantastic.

Leave a Comment