Running 50 Miles Scares Me to Death

I have nine weeks to get ready to run 50 miles.

On some level, I’m confident that I’ll be able to do it.  On another, I’m terrified.

When I finished my 50K two weeks ago, I had something left in the tank.  If it had been necessary, I might have been able to run another three or four miles that day.  Running a slower pace, maybe I could have even managed 10 more.

Still, that puts me at 40 miles, not 50.

The fear

I can’t do it. It’s this thought that has woken me up in the middle of the night several times since I decided to run this race.  I can’t remember the last time I was scared about running, if I ever have been.

When I was trying to qualify for Boston, I was never scared.  I had my doubts at times, but “failure” in that case meant finishing a few minutes later than I had to, and another six months of training.  The last miles would hurt as I tried desperately not to let 3:10:59 slip away, but that’s it.  Finishing was not an issue.

This feels so different.  If things don’t go well, if I start too fast and hit a wall with 25 miles to go, I don’t know what will happen.  I can’t imagine quitting.

The alternative, then, is to suck it up.  To walk/run/shuffle for the remaining marathon, and probably experience more physical pain than I ever have.

The training

Part of what makes it so scary is that so much of the race-day mileage (nearly a third of the race!) will be new territory, since I won’t cover more than about 35 miles in training.  When I’ve asked my ultrarunner friends about how to train for a 50-miler, the advice of most of my them has been, “Do a bunch of 50K’s.”

You’re not supposed to run much more than 30 miles in the training.  If I manage a 35-miler beforehand, that still leaves 15 miles of unknown.

15 miles.  Fit people train for months to run a half marathon.  Yet to run a 50-miler, you leave at least that distance for the big day.

My plan is to do training similar to that in Run Less, Run Faster for the next nine weeks, but to increase the distance on the long runs.  I’ll probably do three or four 20-25 milers, a 30, and a 35.  And one day a week, I’ll do the strength-training workout that I’ve grown to swear by.  (And oh yeah, there’s a baby coming too.  Any day now!)

The excitement

But something about being so scared tells me this is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  Anything less and it wouldn’t be much fun.  For me, that’s how it works (and it’s probably related to why I like gambling a little too much).

Anyway, I’m excited.  I’m in one of those modes where I’m totally juiced about running again.  And if that takes signing up for something so scary that it wakes me up in the middle of the night, so be it.



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  1. I’m sure your fear is MORE than completely normal. Its a big run. But you are a strong and incredible runner- you can do it! And even if you don’t, I think the best thought to have is- its not the end of the world! I know I know- easier said than done, right? 🙂 Hope you’re having a great weekend.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Asparagus Pasta Bake (With or Without Meat) =-.

  2. I think it’s normal to be scared. YOU running 50 miles scares ME. I couldn’t imagine having to go 15 miles more than ever before; I guess you can only hope and pray those 15 miles go faster than the 35 before them.
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..The Birthday Day =-.

  3. Good luck with the fifty miles! I think that it’s awesome that you’ve even signed up for this race and after reading your blog, I’m sure you will be able to do it 🙂

    PS I got my No Meat Athlete tee and my carnivore family loves it!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Happy Easter =-.

  4. Stephanie says:

    You can totally do this! You are a strong runner and you definitely have it in you!

  5. When I ran my 50 miler, the furthest I went was 24 miles or 25 miles, I think…but that was the 3rd 20+ miler in 5 days for me. I ran 20, 3, 21, 7, 24 or something similar to that. It seemed to work out pretty well for me; I didn’t feel as though I needed to go further in my training.

    The 2 best pieces of advice I was given prior to the race were:

    1. Wear compression socks or leg sleeves (zensah leg sleeves are awesome) – even if not during the race, get some on after the race. It makes a big difference.

    2. Here’s how the race is going to go: First 30 miles: This will feel pretty easy because you are running slower than you would in a marathon or even a 50k.Somewhere between 33-35 miles: It’s going to start hurting and you’ll find yourself in a dark place.Somewhere between 38-40 miles: You’ll realize that it’s not going to hurt any more than it does right now, and hey, only 10 miles left!Last 10 miles: Won’t be so bad, you’ll have a high compared to the low you felt in the mid/high 30s so it will be much better.
    Apparently, in a 100 miler, you get that low point multiple times, but the trick is just getting used to it.

    Good luck! I’m thinking of a doing a 50 miler at the end of May myself (Pineland Farms Trail Challenge) but haven’t decided for sure. There’s a 25k and 50k option as well – the 25k would be a nice fast competitive race, the 50k will probably have some competition I want to race against with a little more rest than I had last year (5 weeks after a marathon instead of just 3 weeks after a goal marathon), and the 50 miler would just be fun. No matter which I choose, I’m running the barefoot 5k race the day before.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Watch My 2 New Coaching Session DVDs Online – For Free! =-.

    • Blaine, I just tried compression socks DURING a run for the first time this weekend. I liked them (I think), but I need to see how they work on a much longer run.

      Thanks for Piece of Advice #2. I think you have told me that before, but I had forgotten it and now it seems like great info. Any idea how I should adjust my marathon pace? Any kind of formula to use? My biggest fear is going out too fast.

      Awesome that you’re doing a barefoot race. Is it REALLY barefoot, or VFF-style?


        There’s a regular 5k/10k, a canicross 5k (you run the course tied to your dog) and the barefoot 5k…in the barefoot 5k race, there are 2 division, completely barefoot (which I’ll do) and shod (minimalist shoes only, vibrams/huaraches/socks/etc).

        As for the advice on how the race will go, it helped me a lot during the race. It was still a low point but at least it was an unexpected one, and I knew I was home free once I got through which was a great feeling in and of itself.

        As for the pace compared to marathon pace, you want to go much slower. (Not that that’s particularly helpful…heheh.)

        Looking back, my overall pace was basically half again my marathon pace. My previous marathon had been around 6:15 pace, and my 50 was a 9:21 pace. I went out in low/mid 8’s, though. It was probably a little quicker than I should have, but in the end it seemed to work out okay for me.
        .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Watch My 2 New Coaching Session DVDs Online – For Free! =-.

  6. I think part of the fear comes from the leap up to a 50 miler being much more significant than any previous leap we’ve made. When you bump up to 50k, you are only going 6 more miles than a marathon. Significant yes, but not so much that we can’t make a leap of faith. With 50 miles, you are essentially making a 19 mile leap. It is natural to feel apprehension of the unknown.

    That said, you will do awesome! You have to know that you will experience highs and lows but that if you just keep relentlessly moving forward you will make it.

    My advice is to go in to your first 50miler open and curious and ready to learn how your body reacts. Don’t go with splits and expectations. Go out conservatively and let the race unfold.

    Honestly, I think you’ll have a blast. 50 milers are my favorite distance of all ultras, so maybe I am biased.

    Good luck!
    .-= Devon ´s last blog ..Lake Sonoma 50 mile Race Report =-.

    • Devon, that’s a great point. That really is the scariest part of all (and I can’t imagine the leap from a 50 miler or 100K to a 100 miler).

      Thanks for the advice. I definitely won’t expect anything in terms of time; I’ll just do what I can to enjoy every minute of it.

  7. SOOO many exciting things going on in your life! Being scared is a GOOD thing! It keeps us on our toes. Would you want to run this if you were NOT scared?
    Good luck!

  8. if anyone can overcome the fear of racing 50 miles and totally finish the ultra, it’s you!!! (besides, every negative thought seems worse at night ;] )
    good luck!

  9. I know you can do it, Matt!
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Can Anyone Say Chauffeur? =-.

  10. Matt

    Never having run more than 26.2 I don’t have any personal experience to share – but I do have second hand advice from none other than Scott Jurek do ‘back-to-back’ runs … he mentioned that he never runs more than 30 miles a day in training (though his 30 milers often involve 8000 feet of vertical climb 🙂 , but often runs 30 miles on consecutive days to train his muscles to run while still tired.

    Good luck and I have no doubt that you will complete it.
    No pressure but don’t let us down 😉

  11. You’ll do so well — you’re prepping appropriately, which is half the battle, right? Your discipline is inspiring! Keep up the good work!
    .-= Robyn´s last blog ..Inaugural post =-.

  12. I can’t wait for the race report! I think the fear is great in a way as it means it’s something special.

  13. well that is how I feel about running 13.1 in SIX MONTHS, so I think you’re way ahead of me! you’re going to do great, though!!!
    .-= Meredith @ Sweat Every Day´s last blog ..easter! =-.

  14. Good luck with it! I think it’s awesome that you qualified – doesn’t that in itself prove that you CAN do it?
    .-= Anne Moss´s last blog ..How about an Alternative Passover tradition? =-.

  15. Goodluck Matt! You can do it! Just believe in your self and you’re good to go. Hurray for your victory!
    .-= Sand Sock Girl´s last blog ..“LADIES, LET’S GO FISHING!” – Fishing Seminar April 23-25 =-.

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