Ultrarunning – setting distance goals in a set timed race.

Running a timed race can be a challenging prospect, you know you are out there for 6, 12, 24 or even for the crazy folks 48 hours. I have run in a number of these and am in the process of training for my first true attempt at 24 hours. But I always try not to think of hitting a dream distance during that timeframe as then to me that adds a huge amount of pressure on myself to succeed. If I don’t, well then I have simply just failed in that task, no if’s or buts. I couldn’t get to that magical total and it was all for nothing.

Figuring out how to judge an appropriate distance target is hard, no matter what your mind wants to do it, it wants to say ‘let’s get to this distance and then we know we have done well!’. But the closer you get the more nervous you are the more distant that target feels, especially when the wall comes a knocking to hold you up for a brief time. Just like in a marathon or half marathon, when that wall hits, it hits hard.

So I thought why not break that nonsense down? Everyone has their dream target, but what if we broke it down into 3 sections of achievability? Instead of putting all the pressure on yourself for that top target, let’s get to something decent first and if we can, get to that next goal. I am almost 100% certain that this has been thought of in a better more succinct way that I have just tried to explain it, but hey, I want to share my thoughts so here we are. I always try to break down these challenges into a simple 3 tier system. Bronze, Silver and Gold, shall we have a little look?


With Bronze I always try to make it a target that I would feel comfortable with, so for example if I was running a 6-hour race, I am going to say that I would feel happy with between 32 and 35 miles. The reason for this is pretty simple, I know I can run a marathon fairly comfortably (well as fairly comfortable as you can run a marathon!) in the 4-hour range. So I am hoping that in around that 1 and a half hour period that I would be able to drag myself around for another 6.8 or more miles. I know I would be tired, but I have confidence in myself to do this.

Just for reference, if it was a 12 hour I would think anything over 50 miles is great and 24 hours I have set 62 miles as I have never breached that distance in a race before. Like I said, I want to make these achievable, so there is no point in starting crazy high or thinking that because in 6 hours I can run 32 miles that in 64 miles in 12 hours is the next logical step. Unless you are well trained at this type of thing, you will slow down. It is going to happen. So think logically and pick the right first aim.


Silver is where things get a litter harder, it is the part where you set yourself that aim that is just outside your comfort zone. The one that you pick where things are just going right in the race. So here comes the example… If I was in a 6-hour race I would set my Silver target between 35 and 39.3 miles. One, that’s a hell of a lot of running and two the top end of that is a marathon plus a half marathon and that is just a cool thing to say you ran when people ask.

The reasoning for not going further is that I want something that would be very hard to do, but still achievable. I still want to be able to know that I can get to the target during the race. Otherwise, that pressure would build after hitting the Bronze target and that may ruin the entirety of the last part of the race.


Now to the big target, this one I set for if everything is going perfectly. If you read my post about training for the 24-hour race (oh hey, here it is) then you will know what my 24-hour target is. It is the nice big round 100. It has to be that high, but still within the whelm of possibility. I think I could get to 100 miles in a 24-hour race, but I know it will be a hell of a challenge to get to it and that I could and would most likely fail. But I would have to think that getting the first two targets was enough and unless I get to 99 miles. I would see it as a win, as I can use it as a stepping stone to the next race of that length and work on the mistakes and get to that Gold standard then. Who really gets gold on their first try anyway?

It all sounds pretty simple, but the main thing is to set reasonable targets in all three sections, even the Gold should still be attainable in the perfect storm of circumstances, not a pipe dream. If you wanted, you can use this also for a marathon or other races and use the standard for times completed!

I hope this was of some use to you! Let me know if you enjoyed this post! If you want to chat more about any of my posts, please follow me on TwitterInstagram and also to receive updates, Until next time, thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

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