The anatomy of a 100km race

running larapinta

It was while running the Blackall 100km the other weekend that this little idea popped into my head. It started out as more of a graphic / pictorial idea, but given I have the artistic drawing skills of a gnat I pulled some words, together instead. I’m sure everyone’s experience of 100km is different, but I thought it would be interesting to take a slightly humourous look at the different stages of feeling as we progress through 100kms. I’m sure there’s a miler version to this as well, but let’s delve deeper into the anatomy of the 100kms.

0-30kms – “Invincible” 

As you start your race and progress through the early stages, you feel like you could take on the world. In fact, it’s a job to contain your pace and excitement because the kilometres feel so bloody easy! The first 10kms are run at such an easy pace, it’s then that thoughts of ‘should I go faster to make up some time for later on’ hit into your mind. As you progress from 10-20kms, the legs still feel fresh as a daisy, but the reality kicks in a little here. From 20-30kms you’re now settled and ready for the day ahead, but a niggling though starts to enter your mind… when’s it going to start to bite?

30-40kms – “Biting”

Having got a solid 3-4 hours of running under your belt, albeit at a gentle pace, the race starts to nibble at your legs a little. You’re feeling good still, getting the food and fluid down the neck and setting yourself up for the next few hours. But the legs start to feel the effects of a few hours running and you’re counting down the kms until you can feel your body move away from fat burning and the deficit begins to kick in.

40-60kms – “OK, I’ve arrived”

This stage will hit people at different times for sure, but it’s around the 50km+ mark that you really know you’re in the race. Fifty kilometres is still a long way and while you might be halfway in terms of distance, for the vast majority of us, we’re not there yet in terms of time. The legs are getting heavier and those little inclines that were a breeze to run up in the early stages of the race seem like bloody great hills. It requires every ounce of mental stamina to keep on running these rather soft gradients.

The good news though is that pretty much everyone else is in the same boat. Bar that annoying bastard who set off really really slowly and is now creaming the field.

60-70kms – “Am I going to finish?”

There’s no doubting that every does consider at some point in a race whether or not they’ll finish and on a personal level, I think the period between 60-70kms can be one of the hardest in a 100km race. At 60km, you pretty much still have a marathon to go and it really starts to hurt now. A good trick I tend to use at this point is to forget about the amount of kilometers to go and instead focus on the number of hours… 4-6hrs seems a far better number to get your head around than 30-40kms 🙂

70-90kms – “I never want to eat another gel in my life”

After 70kms of sweet gels and liquids you’re so over the taste of strawberry or whatever God forsaken fruit you chose to buy 20 gels of prior to the race. Fresh clean water tastes like the hydration of Gods compared to the sticky crap that’s washing around in your stomach and mostly also all over your shirt and back pack. It’s everywhere, like a drunken teenager who’s thrown up an alchopop drink having smuggled a case of behind the sheds to get lathered on. The drunken sensation you’re now feeling around this point through sheer focus and determination is also like that teenager barfing into a fountain in the middle of the town square too. Someone shoot me…

90-100 kms – “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”

I think there are many different sensations, depending upon the race in these last ten kilometers. You can be feeling on top of the world (as I felt the other weekend), or you can feel like death warmed up. Both however provide a sensation of not giving a damn. You’ve made it through 90kms, what’s another 10kms? You’re pretty much there now, you could walk it in if you needed to, but the smell of that ‘real food’ at the finish line, along with a beer is too good now. Everyone around you is screwed too and unless you’re competing at the top end of things, who gives a shit about where you place. You just need to get this thing done!

If you’ve done a 100km recently, what do you think?



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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.

3 thoughts on “The anatomy of a 100km race

  1. Very accurate – but you left out the total stomach collapse part when everything just fails you; then felling 10 x better once that episode is behind you and you’re 5kms further on down the trail

  2. Great article. Everything absolutely true. Beginning from the half distance (50 km) I start a countdown of D+/- instead of kms, so I can figure out the exact war my legs need to face.

  3. Love it… I’ve only done one 100k and there were definite marked mood swings from both fatigue and gut issues that came and went in stages.
    The last one of “let’s just get this thing done” resonates the most!

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