How do you train to run for 24 straight days?

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In under three weeks, I will set off from Clingman’s Dome on my Mountains-to-Sea Trail quest. Now that it’s almost here…the emotions and realities of this challenge are beginning to climb their way into my brain.

Even some second thoughts…like why the hell did I schedule this run during the last two episodes of Game of Thrones?

“How do you train for that?” has been one of the most popular questions I’ve received when talking about the challenge. Admittedly, my training thus far has been a series of dart-throw attempts to prepare my body for what is to come.

Here are a few of my most effective training methods thus far…I hope.

Long runs:
For the last two months, I have completed increasing long distance runs on the weekends culminating in a 51-mile training run this past Saturday. My pace is SLOOOWWW at about about four miles per hour on average. This pace allows my body to remain in a somewhat comfortable state with a lower heart rate that minimizes stress and impact on my joints.

Often, I focus on breaking the run into manageable chunks or cycles with frequent walking breaks. For instance, on my Saturday jaunt, I maintained a half-mile walk/1.5-mile run cycle through the first 45 miles of the run. Instead of dwelling on the seemingly insurmountable total distance remaining, these cycles trick my brain into staying motivated by surpassing checkpoints throughout the day.

Saturday also served as the final test toward a green light for this attempt. After all, if I can’t do one 50-mile day, how could I possibly do 24 in a row?

Thankfully, the day went as well as I could have hoped. I certainly cannot count on having the perfect weather that Saturday brought, but my body held up better than I expected with no cramping, blisters, foot issues, or major stomach episodes. The next morning also brought far less soreness in my muscles than expected and I was able to run a six-mile recovery run with little pain.

Don’t get me wrong…the run was very difficult, but it gave me great encouragement that this crazy endeavor may actually be possible.

F45
I have never enjoyed weight lifting. I get bored and often feel a little out of place in weight rooms since I have never perfected my lifting grunt, nor do I own any see-through tank tops.

That being said, strengthening my muscles to withstand the toll these 24 days will take is vital. Thanks to our team at NC State Wellness and Recreation bringing on F45 this semester as a group fitness option, I have found a 5-6 day a week workout routine that helps maintain my cardio stamina and builds/strengthens my entire body.

The new “it” fitness class, F45 is an Australian-born workout company that programs a different 45-minute team training routine each and every day using television screens to guide participants through the movements in each station. The movements combine cardio and strength-based elements with concentration of cardio on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and strength on Tuesday/Thursday.

Since beginning F45 in January, I have noticed a huge difference in my recovery and soreness levels after long runs. Running uses a defined group of muscles in a repetitive motion. The variance of movements in F45 helps strengthen muscles around my joints and smaller stabilizing muscles that help my body prevent injury and recover quicker.

Hills
Yes, I may have run 51 miles in a single day, but days 1-7 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail will be a different beast. Unlike the relatively level topography of the Raleigh greenways and trails, the western North Carolina mountains are anything but flat.

In Raleigh, the best place to find elevation is in Umstead State Park where trails often criss-cross over ridges and dive down into creek canyons. Getting to the park poses a tougher test for my normal schedule, but I will continue to get in at least one run a week on these hills to prepare as best I can for the elevation changes I will face on the trail.

Ben will attempt a charity run to set the fastest known time on the nearly 1200-mile Mountains-To-Sea Trail (MST) in May 2019. The run will benefit the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to help with recovery efforts in North Carolina after the recent hurricanes. To learn more about the run and make a donation, click here

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