Doing A 50 Mile Race For The First Time

Doing something for the first time is always fascinating for me. In an hour I’ll be starting the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run which will be the first ultramarathon I’ve ever run. Assuming that RunKeeper and my iPhone works (with it’s special magic Mophie juice pack), you can track me live on my RunKeeper account. I also imagine my wife Amy will be tweeting things out during the day.

While I’ve done 21 marathons, there’s a big difference between 26.2 miles and 50 miles. I’ve spent the last three months studying it, training for it, and thinking about it. Today I get to experience it. It started out with a simple question. My friend Katherine McIntyre (my partner Ryan’s wife) says it best in her post “Crazytown.”

So, at the end of August I sent a link to the American River 50 mile run to my marathon-running friend Brad, with the subject line “Crazytown?” and asked if he had any interest in doing that race.  Within 48 hours he signed on to do it with me.  Gulp.  Ah, the danger of hanging out with people who have the same willingness to dive into an unknown and quite large challenge.  So, I was committed.

I didn’t really start thinking about it until January, when I also went “gulp” and decided it was time to get serious about training. There’s no way I could have done it without the help of my coach Gary Ditsch and the support of Amy, who put up with about 50% more running than usual, including about six weekends that were basically all about running.

While we were in Hawaii, Amy and I decided that it’d be too much for her to come sherpa. She’s still struggling with a broken wrist and she didn’t want to add anything else to what I had to do or think about. It was a tough decision because I love it when she’s with me on these marathon (and now ultra marathon) weekends. But due to the magic of technology, she’s close by and I’m thinking of her a lot.

My amazing assistant Kelly Collins (who is also a runner) offered to run the last ten miles with me so she’s here with us. I know it’s going to be great to have a friend who knows me well help me through the last 20%. At dinner last night with Katherine, Ryan, and their son we all acknowledged how special an experience this is and how much we appreciate all being here together. And, as I sit here eating a bagel with peanut butter on it and hoping the coffee I’m drinking does it’s special magic trick in the next ten minutes, I’m deeply appreciative of all the help and support I’ve gotten from my partners, friends, and people I don’t know directly but have an online relationship with who have been helpful along the way.

Thanks to everyone who has provided any sort of support – especially emotional – during this journey. I’m looking forward to the experience of the next 12 hours. See you on the other side.

  • RtimR

    Amazing! Good luck Brad and enjoy! gogogo 🙂

  • Been following your planning around your run for some weeks, be watchful of your health, you don’t earn a living from this. My thinking is that when you do an extreme run like that, you’re subsequently putting your body into an extreme situation, as if you’d drive a car with the pedal to the metal for hours. All it takes a small malfunction or error or wear, especially you’re not 20. Plus, while you’re improving extraordinarily on some aspects of your body, you’re likely abusing others in potentially non reversible ways. 
    Of course, it’s your life, your fun. I’m mid thirties and don’t do extreme sports, but I work around the house a lot. For example I cut around 200 trees one summer  and I can say a few years later joints feel different still etc. 

    • brgInRedSidis

       Raul,  Brad has lots of endurance experience and he’s trained hard for this race – so I think he’ll be just fine. Don’t sell us old people short!  

      Last year I turned 50 and I celebrated by racing a 6 day mtn bike stage race at altitudes above 9600 ft.   I trained for 9 months for that race and my body was more than prepared. It was extremely tough but I came out of it the most fit I have ever been. As a software engineer – i don’t earn my living from riding a mtn bike or running

      Our bodies were made to move – I never did anything athletic until I was 41 – now as 50 year old woman – I can out ride and out run a lot of men in their 30s. So I have no doubt Brad is capable of racing this race and coming out of it without damaging his body.

      • Kris Duke

        I agree!  I am thinking about doing my first 50-mile race ever (the JFK 50th anniversary of the 50 miler in November), and I can only say as well that I am much healthier now that I am a runner (age 38) than I was before. (Very lazy from age 15ish-37, grin).  — I know MANY people in their 50’s who do these runs and are much healthier than many folks in their 30’s. 
        Long story short, this distance isn’t necessarily ‘extreme’… as long as a person gradually prepares the body for it over months.  I see no reason it would be a detriment to health.  

        Great job to Brad for doing a 50 mile run!  I plan to follow suit very soon 🙂

  • enjoy the ride, Brad!

  • brgInRedSidis

    have a great run Brad!  hang tough dude!  I’m cheering for you!

  • Freds4hb

    Go Brad!

  • pamsolon

    What an accomplishment…. just getting READY for a 50! Way to go Brad! So impressed. 

  • Tom Walker

    Good luck Brad!  It’s an achievement to be standing at the starting line in my opinion.

  • Good luck Brad! I’m impressed with this kind of run.  

  • Ulf

    Brad, I am so happy for you. When I turn 50 I will do my first 50-miler, only stipulation being from my wife that I have a physical before. Cheers!

  • As Micah True would say: keep running easy, light and smooth. The fast part, would come on its own.

  • This is no feeble task, more mental than physical. I’ll be sending you juju today.

  • Luka Valas

    Good luck Brad, great effort!

  • CliffElam

    Best of luck.

    I ran a 50K earlier this year and that last 6 miles was rotten.  I’m glad you have your own personal pace group!


  • Must’ve been amazing for you (or is currently now!!!!).  Wishing you the best. 

    Rare moments they are, feeling so alive as we push the edge of endurance. Tempted to get back out there and do something. THANKS 4 the inspiration.

    While I’ve never done a marathon, I did a 24-hr walk while thru-hiking the appalachian trail and totalled just a bit over 65 miles, 6000 calories of peanut butter, 2 gallons of water and innumerable packages of cliff bars. 😉 Good times. 

    Best from Paris, Brad

  • That’s an amazing accomplishment. Very motivational.

  • 50 miles is insane, good luck and I hope you have some comfortable sneakers!

    • I just signed up for my first race ever (a 10k)… I’ve probably run 50 miles in preparation for this one race. Hard to fathom 50 miles in one stretch. #crazytown indeed.

  • While not a runner, I have a new level of appreciation for this kind of accomplishment at altitude.  I just did my first workout over 5000ft and almost lost my lunch.

  • joewallin

    Brad, thanks for writing about this. Awesome!

  • Chris Lukic

    The question is, now that all the hard training is over, and the race is behind you, would you ever consider doing an ultra again?

    • I’ll definitely do another ultra. However, my next running challenge is a double marathon weekend – one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

  • 50 miles is a big deal. Congrats. This is inspiring. 

  • You are a crazy f**r. Good luck.

  • Shane

    I will be curious to hear if it was the body or the mind that had to rise to the greatest challenge for you; and where that crux was met along the course.

    So do your friends who used to call you “fat Brad” now give you the credit of “ultra Brad”?

  • company newsletter

    Running a 50 mile, I cant do that but it sounds interesting. If I will do that I think that is my greatest adventure in life.  

  • Woodchuck J. Toejammer, Esq.

    Not as difficult as stated all you must do is incrementally run from 10 miles to 26.2 do it every weekend…time no matter….just complete it…then after three months ….train to 30 miles….two months later running each weekend 30 miles…than expand to 40 miles for three months…do interval training on the track after each run to exhausting 6:00 minute a mile 1/4s and you are prepared….do not change running shoes before a new goal!….purchase four pairs rotating them each day which will provide a solid foundation in balance of your training…do the first 50 Mile at say 8 minute pace….to begin for ten miles….then back off to 9:30….until you feel confident around 25 miles…then attempt what ever pace you are comfortable…for five miles…back to 9:30 pace…jog at this pace than around 40 miles pick up your pace to 9:15….let your body tell you the rest….”Woodchuck J. Toejammer” Founder of the “Toe Jammers” of Cupertino California.