A big challenge: running a 50 mile race

You may have heard of my 30 day challenges, where I try something new for 30 days. Those challenges are great to try out a new habit and see how you like it.

But I’m also a big believer in picking out really big goals too. In 2010 I trained for a few months so I could climb Kilimanjaro, for example. For 2011, I went skydiving and ran my first marathon in San Francisco. 2012 ended up being a blur: lots of work, plus trips and time with family. I still managed to run a couple more marathons and finish a Tough Mudder race back in Kentucky.

Which brings me to my big goal for 2013. On April 6th, 2013, I’m going to try to run 50 miles for the American River 50. It’s an ultramarathon from Sacramento to Auburn with flat ground for the first half and single-track dirt trails on the second half. The cutoff limit for finishing is 13 hours. As a running friend put it, “You really just need to make the 32 mile cutoff in 7.5 hours or so; after that you could walk the rest of the way!”

In theory, if you run the American River 50 in 11 hours then you can qualify for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. But I’ve gotten a chance to run the trail half of the course a couple times now, and I don’t think there’s any way I can finish that fast. So I’m just shooting to finish in 13 hours. By the way, if you’re interested in ultramarathons (any race longer than a marathon) or trail running, there’s a great documentary about the 2010 Western States race called Unbreakable.

So that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. Wish me luck, and if anyone want to suggest running music, please leave a comment pointing to a good YouTube video for running. Thanks!

30 Responses to A big challenge: running a 50 mile race (Leave a comment)

  1. Enjoy the ultra and best wishes for a great run!

  2. Hey Matt:

    I have run this myself. Did it in 11:15. It is a GREAT run but the last 1.5 miles or so with 1,500 elevation gain is someones joke on us. 🙂

    Yu will do great! One thing I suggest: gummy bears. The “wall” at mile 40 is so much harder than at 20 of a marathon and gummy bears as easy to carry and get you back in the game when your head is out of it.

    Good luck, brotha!


  3. Great, I confused myself.

  4. Enjoy the Ultramarathon, I recomend you the Eye of the tiger from the movie Rocky


    Regards from Cali Colombia South America.

    Carlos Bedoya

  5. Matt, have you been training for endurance races?
    If not you can gain some knowledge from Rich Roll (http://www.richroll.com/) He’s a vegan runner BUT also a guy who in quite short amount of time started competing in ultra races.

    I just don’t want you to get hurt, that’s all.

  6. Excellent Matt!
    You are doing the same as done by some great ones means work-balance life.
    Hope for best for that race.

  7. I once walked 32 miles in a day, while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I was very, very tired. Running 50 miles? Phew.

  8. Looks like you and I share a common interest of challenging ourselves. I am doing AR50 this weekend as well. If it goes well, I am looking to step up the ante to the Western States 100 mile endurance race. Hope to see you out there and good luck!

  9. Matt, that’s fantastic! Huge goal of mine to run an ultra.
    After you’ve got this, I highly recommend you become an Ironman!

  10. This would take months of training, unless it was an April’s fool 🙂

  11. That is so cool! Hope the ultramarathon goes well Matt.

  12. Matt, first of all good luck on your new challenge!
    Also you can get an extra motivation viewing reports. This is a video report of a great race, Cavalls del Vent (Bagà, Barcelona):


  13. Jeramey Jordan

    Good Luck! What a great challenge! Remember to stick to your plan, take in the beautiful scenery, and enjoy the journey!

    Here’s a new good song I recommend running to:

    Born 2 Run – by 7Lions


  14. Good luck in your race. I think its great you take up these challenges.

    Music wise gotta be a bit of Marley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXYzFp7F-Fw

  15. Trail Runner Nation has a great podcast to listen to while running and also a vibrant community of ultra-runners. I’m not at that level (yet) and still find it interesting and engaging.

  16. Hi Matt,

    Best of luck – with Bruce Springsteens Born to Run (150 bpm) you’re bound to make the 32 mile cutoff!


  17. Well, good luck Matt. 50 mile run is not easy. I used to be a runner back in the day but never listened to musing while running…thought it was distracting. I am a better bike rider now though than runner – It’s a lot more relaxing and fun. Water will be your best friend during the run.

  18. Hi Matt, that is a great challenge, WOW. Best of luck.

    However, I would not do to many these mega marathons. My cousins has finished the South African http://www.comrades.com 7 times and the impact/trauma on his feet from all the training and running has left them in pain and disfigured.

  19. Good luck!

    No song is better to run to than The Final Countdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw

  20. Evan Anderson

    Have fun! If I realized you’d be running this distance this weekend, I might have convinced myself to come down and join you. I ran my first 50 miler last year, and it was a blast. One thing that really helped me was packing some goodies in my drop bags as a nice pick-me-up in addition to the snacks they had there. For me, it was 8oz containers of chocolate almond milk, but choose something you know you can eat on the trail.

    Looks like a nice and fast course. Remember to take it easy for the first 30 miles or so… it’s nice to be looking forward to the second half of the race as you go through the halfway point. I’m sure you’ll post some pictures. Also, you might want to switch off your tracking between your watch and your phone or the like at some point, because I suspect neither will have enough battery for the whole race unless you run fairly fast. (Or borrow a triathalon watch the the 310XT or the 910 — both of those have a 20-hour battery.)

  21. Good luck Matt, massive respect for you, it is not easy!

    i would suggest you download the rocky 4 soundtrack, nothing pumps you up better than that album.

  22. Your goals are amazing! Different compared to your goals in Google Analytics ha!

    I hope you’ll finish your race. LOL


  23. That is just a filthy challenge…and I mean “filthy” in that Mariano Rivera cutter-you-know-is-coming-but-can’t-hit-it-so-it’s-awesome sort of way. I can run 9 miles in about an hour and a half, but I can’t even fathom 50.

  24. Good Luck for your New Race. I got this suggestion for you


    They have nice playlist for walking, jogging and cycling. I used to download their music for marathon.

  25. Wow, that really is hardcore. I’m impressed you are even contemplating something like that.

  26. Running 50 miles is absolutely bonkers!

  27. I admire your courage Matt!

  28. Its a shame such events have been targeted by evil forces. Whatever your cause how can you celebrate any kind of victory that see’s and eight year old boy sent to his death. Such races as the Boston Marathon should be celebrated not a scene of tragedy.

  29. How’d you make out – leadville 50 this weekend was fun!

  30. Congrats on your finish, Matt! 12:26 is a great time, and 50 miles is tough. Hope you are still running ultras, they certainly can be addictive. 🙂