Running the Perfect 100kms – Brendan Davies

Brendan is the perfect man to go to on this, given his appetite for knocking out one of these every other weekend it seems and with the IAU 100km Champs happening this weekend too, what better reminder than to go through some of the basics for approaching this distance.

If you’re still thinking about signing up for your first 100kms, or maybe you already have next year and you want some advice, hopefully this article will give you some great pointers from one of the best in the business here in Australia.

So how do you run the perfect 100kms? Well according to Brendan there are three main things that he personally focuses on when he approaches his 100km races:

#1 – It’s all about the last 25kms

Brendan knows a thing or two about racing 100kms
Brendan knows a thing or two about racing 100kms

“For me, I have to get to that last quarter of the race feeling comfortable and knowing that I’ve manage my body well. How do I do this? Well if I’m still running the little hills and tricky sections, then I know my body is in good shape for that final push to the end. It’s not necessarily about being quicker over the last 25kms – although it helps! But it’s about being able to maintain a comfortable pace.”

But what do you need to do in the first 75kms to make sure that you can feel good in that last 25kms?

“It’s essentially about managing your body over the terrain. You should look for the easy way around the course and follow the line of least resistance. That might mean going the longer way around some parts of the course, but the more stress you place you body under in that first 75kms, the more it will come back to bite you in the last quarter.

“Try to avoid doing big jumps off rocks or stairs, look after those quads and try to make your running as effortless as possible. You’ve got to make sure you stay under the ‘red-line’ as much as possible. By that I mean don’t go over your lactate threshold too much too often. The more time you spend above that threshold, the more energy you’re sapping up that you’ll need for later in the race.”

#2 – Eat early and often

“Just as energy conservation is important early on in the race, so to is fueling the body right too. I generally follow a liquid nutrition plan as it’s easier for the body to process liquids than solids when you’re on the move. I will look to put around 300 calories into my body per hour to keep the levels just where they need to be, while also avoiding those sugar highs and spikes.

“I’ll also grab a bit of protein too to help with active muscle repair while I’m running, and will do that through a few bites of a Hammer bar for example. As a guide, I’ll grab around 5-10grams of protein an hour. It’s a tried and tested formula for me, but for anyone else, make sure you trial what you’re going to do with your nutrition well in advance of the race. What works for one person, might not for another.

“As far as hydration is concerned, there’s lots of discussion about what is best, but my rule of thumb is to drink to thirst. It’s so hard to prescribe a set amount of water per hour and it’s probably a dangerous thing to do given the dangers of hyponatremia too. You also have to consider the terrain and toughness of the course, as well as the weather, which plays a big part.”

Mental preparation is a huge part of having a successful 100kms race. If you lose focus, you could lose hours.
Mental preparation is a huge part of having a successful 100kms race. If you lose focus, you could lose hours.

#3 – Mental games

“While the physical effort can take its toll, being mentally ready is a big part of running 100kms too. All too often, it can be too easy to think about the ‘what next?’ The amount of distance you have to go, which can really play havoc with your race. If you want to run well, break the course down into chunks. That could be as much as each checkpoint, or it could be each corner that you see ahead – it’s about whatever works for you.

“In line with the above, you should also try to stay in the present as much as you possibly can too. By that I mean not thinking about how many kms you have to go or what the course is like further up ahead, it’s about what you’re doing at this precise moment. A good way of staying in the present is to focus on your running form and picking your feet up. If you’re focused on that, you’re focused on what you’re doing at that precise moment.

“I also find that repeating a little mantra to myself really works too. It could be a phrase that I’m focused on, or a song that happens to be in my head – again, it keeps you present and in the here and now. Another positive thing to do is to focus on the rewards, which might be a feed at the next checkpoint, or seeing your family and loved ones – that can give you a terrific mental boost.”

What three tips would you offer to someone running 100kms for the first time?

“Firstly, don’t underestimate the course. This is why making sure you’ve looked after your body well in the first 75kms is really important for that final quarter.

“Secondly, prepare for the terrain. As I mentioned before, conserving your energy is vital to running the perfect 100kms, so that means little things like looking for the best line to run. Keep your feet light and airy so to speak and lift the legs rather than push off the surface.

“Lastly, take it easy on the harder terrain, such as rocks. Don’t slam the feet or do crazy jumps, move lightly and ‘glide’ as much as you can along the trail with light feet – your body will thank you for it much later on!”

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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