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An Ultrarunner’s Asset – Patience

“Just a little patience…yeeeeaaaaaahhhhh”

While reading a good interview with one fast and tough ultrarunner, Pam Reed (on, the part that resonated with me the most was the advice she gave for ultrarunners (and all runners).

A few of the key points:

  • “You’re way more capable of doing things than you think you are…Nobody can run 100 miles, right? Nobody can run 135 miles. Not until you try, until you just get out there and do it.”
  • “Obviously you have to train, but you don’t have to be wacko about it.”

Then the one that really hit me…

“And that’s where the biggest word in ultrarunning, in my opinion, is patience. You’ve got to have a lot of patience.”

This stuck me as a simple yet powerful reminder…and then I thought of the 80’s GnR tune…couldn’t help it.

Back to ultrarunning…

In a world (at least the developed world) where high-speed, fast, instant, is the common flow of daily life for many, patience is often the antithesis of our current culture. Yet it is believed to be the most important concept in ultrarunning by a top athlete that has quite a few miles on her shoes.

Whether it is the most important…doesn’t matter. Is it an important ultrarunning asset and worth some thought? I definitely think so!

Ultra Comparison Versus the Marathon

One of the easiest way to create some perspective of the ultra distance is to compare with something we are likely familiar with – the marathon.

Depending on experience and current fitness, I think a marathon effort should feel easy for the first 15-20+ miles. This easy effort range is 57-76+% of the overall distance.

Can we compare these easy percentages to the ultra distances? Let’s give it a try.

Easy effort range (based on experience and current fitness):

  • 50 km: 18-24+ miles
  • 50 mile: 29-38+ miles
  • 100 mile: 57-76+ miles

Taking a look at the 50 mile numbers, I could be groovin’ in an easy effort for 38-ish miles.

Does it take that patience-thingy to keep it easy for that long, especially in the relatively early miles? The legs are spunky, everyone is smiling, the sun is rising…for many of us (myself included) the answer is a chorus-like ‘yes’.

The Multi-Dimensions of Patience

Patient pacing also increases the opportunity to provide extra attention to two other critical ultra components; calories and hydration/electrolytes. The longer the distance, the more important this often becomes.

The Hammer fueling handbook provides some great starting points if you are new to ultra fueling.

The Ultra Bank

I have experienced a few flavors of the patience spectrum – from  the good to somewhat bad (had to regroup midway through a 50 mile race).

Does patience guarantee anything? Absolutely not, but I think patience is an ingredient that can pay significant dividends in many ultra adventures. And if you need an iPod reminder in the early ultra miles, this song should do the trick. 🙂

Thanks for the reminder Pam!

What roll has patience played in your ultrarunning adventures?

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

[Photo: Courtesy of alancleaver_2000]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “An Ultrarunner’s Asset – Patience”

  1. on 28 Sep 2010 at 7:47 am Mark

    It’s very true. I’ve seen folks drop from a 100 mile race, not because they were injured, but because they just couldn’t face leaving a nice warm aid station to go back out onto the dark cold trail. When you know you’re facing a good 8 hours of run/walking through the night, probably not going to see a soul, it takes a lot of patience and determination to pull through.

  2. on 29 Sep 2010 at 9:18 am David Hanenburg

    And that eight hours through the night is after moving on your feet for that last 12+ hours. I remember the last aid-station at Bandera…a nice campfire was going…a couple empty chairs…fortunately my wife and son were waiting for me at the finish so I had to keep moving.