I just entered my first Last Runner Standing event, and I would love some advice on how to tackle it.
—Brent, Asheville, NC
I am going to start with a semi-controversial statement, and then work backward, so I’m not hiding the ball. Here it is, get ready. OK, I officially oversold this. Anyway: Peak performance in long ultra events requires less training than peak performance in road marathons.
That seems counterintuitive, but it all gets back to the idea that physically and mentally every athlete in a longer ultra is entering the unknown. Where that unknown lies varies based on background and training status. For a professional ultra-athlete, somewhere around five to eight hours, they may be approaching physical demands they never touched in training. Long runs beyond that come with risks to the musculoskeletal system via injury and nervous system via overtraining that outweigh any long-term physiological benefits.
Plus, excessively long runs outside of training races can cause athletes to slow down as they put out less power at the same effort level, reducing the running economy. And, psychologically, I’d rather athletes just be really, really fit and healthy rather than worry about the unknown too much. You don’t need to put your hand on the stove to know it’s hot.
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