Wednesday, May 22, 2024

If at First You Do not Succeed, Run That 100 Miler Once more – iRunFar


This month, I’m wading into the saturated discipline of efficiency hacking to make a case for why it is best to return to the beginning line of the 100-mile ultramarathon you completed no less than as soon as earlier than, even when you have already got the belt buckle.

After a busy month at my day job when my coaching targets needed to be adjusted, I used to be on the lookout for reassurance for my upcoming 100 miler. I puzzled: How usually do runners enhance their efficiency at a given race?

It seems that if, at first, we don’t succeed, we must always run that 100 miler once more! In relation to 100-mile races, and as we’ll focus on in depth all through this text, the info present that almost all of contributors enhance their efficiency once they return for a number of makes an attempt on the identical occasion.

Western States Starting Line 2021

The beginning of the 2021 Western States 100. Photograph: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

The Dataset and Strategies

We started exploring this query by creating a pattern dataset primarily based on each version of six totally different 100 milers. I favored occasions for which I already had race outcomes helpful — UTMB, Western States 100, the Javelina 100 Mile, and the Superior Fall Path Race 100 Mile — after which I added the Thames Path 100 Mile and Tarawera by UTMB 100 Mile for improved geographic illustration. I counted the runners who began an occasion a number of occasions, so runners who didn’t end (DNF) have been included, however runners who didn’t begin weren’t. This produced 10,949 information factors.

Please word that some particular person runners could have a number of information factors every as a result of they ran a number of races no less than two occasions every. For instance, Fiona Hayvice has run the 100-mile version of Tarawera — the place she podiumed in 2021 — 3 times and the Western States 100 — the place she completed within the high 10 in 2017 — twice.

2017 Western States 100 - Fiona Hayvice - Finish

A joyful Fiona Hayvice upon ending fifth on the 2017 Western States 100. Photograph: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

For this text, we outline improved efficiency as ending a race after DNFing on the primary try or ending quicker than the primary time a runner accomplished that occasion. We should always word that, beneath this definition, a runner may do a single occasion 5 occasions and run their private greatest on their second try, and we think about this an enchancment – even when that runner will get a DNF on every of their third, fourth, and fifth makes an attempt on the race.

We’ve got no lifelike means of figuring out which athletes could have educated on a course or how a lot time they spent on very comparable terrain, so the definition of earlier course expertise on this article is restricted as to whether the runners have beforehand tried the race.

Lastly, we word this dataset compares occasions as they seem within the race outcomes. We didn’t add handicaps for working in unusually sizzling or chilly situations or on an adjusted course. We all know that, in apply, course situations influence race efficiency. Nevertheless, to maintain the methodology clear, we use the imperfect-but-defensible commonplace of evaluating ending occasions to one another with out subjectively passing judgment on which years have been more difficult to finish a given race.

The Probability of Bettering at a 100 Miler Will increase With Repetition

The probability you’ll enhance your end result at a given 100 miler seems to extend each time you run it. Whereas 46% of runners with two outcomes on the identical race improved their end result on their second working, that charge climbs steadily for every repetition. Amongst runners who’ve executed the identical occasion 10 or extra occasions, just about all improved their efficiency.

There could also be different elements at play, although. For instance, it’s potential {that a} file of improved efficiency is a part of what attracts runners again to a specific race or that the runners who love one race sufficient to do it 10 or extra occasions are additionally essentially the most motivated to enhance their efficiency at it.

The chart and graph under present that the proportion of runners who enhance on their first end result at a 100 miler will increase with every repetition of the occasion.

100 mile repeat improvement statistics - improved results chart - image 1

A chart outlining how the proportion of runners who enhance on their first end result at a 100 miler will increase with every repetition of the occasion. Picture: iRunFar/Mallory Richard

100 mile repeat improvement statistics - improved results graph - image 2

A graph displaying that the proportion of runners who enhance on their first end result at a 100 miler will increase with every repetition of the occasion. In different phrases, runners who’ve began a 100-mile race 5 occasions are extra possible than runners who’ve began it twice to have run quicker (or completed) no less than as soon as in comparison with their first end result on the occasion. Picture: iRunFar/Mallory Richard

Enchancment in Repeated 100 Milers Is Constant Throughout Genders

The performance-enhancing advantages of returning to a 100-mile race the place you will have prior expertise on the course are remarkably constant, no matter gender.

Amongst ladies, 54.47% of runners who returned to one of many 100-mile races within the dataset carried out higher as veterans than they did as rookies.

The share of males who improved was practically equivalent, at 54.37%.

The dataset contained one runner who recognized as nonbinary, and so they ran quicker of their second try at their chosen 100 miler. (That’s a 100% enchancment charge! Properly executed, even when the scale of the dataset means it’s not a statistically vital discovering.)

Enhancements Are Most Widespread Among the many Quickest Runners in Repeated 100 Milers

Within the e book “The Sports activities Gene,” David Epstein suggests the “Matthew impact” could apply to the realm of sports activities. It’s a reference to the Bible passage, stating, “For to each one who has, will extra be given …” Epstein was describing how a number of the greatest athletes have genetic predispositions that promote distinctive athletic efficiency, and their efficiency will increase at prodigious charges with coaching and expertise. These athletes are good to start out with and simply get higher.

This idea appears to have bore true within the dataset. We have been shocked by this discovering. We anticipated that because the quickest runners already decrease their time at assist stations and push exhausting all through their 100 milers, maybe they’ve much less room for total enchancment.

In distinction, I as soon as struggled a lot in a 100 miler that I took a nap on the aspect of the path. I may enhance my time at that race simply by eliminating the nap on my subsequent try.

As an alternative, the quickest runners have been the almost definitely to enhance with course expertise.

2022 UTMB champion - Kilian Jornet v2

Kilian Jornet, 2022 UTMB champion. Photograph: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

To discover this idea, we created bins or groupings of athletes primarily based on their quickest end at a race, calculating their time as a proportion of the full allowable time. For instance, Kilian Jornet’s quickest finishes at UTMB have been 19:49 in 2022 and 19:16 in 2017. If runners can take as much as 46.5 hours to complete UTMB, then Jornet’s quickest finishes fall into the grouping of utilizing between 40% and 49% of the utmost time allotted to runners for an official end.

The graph under exhibits that charges of enchancment have been highest amongst quicker runners.

100 mile repeat improvement statistics - improvement by performance grouping - image 3

A graph that teams runners primarily based on their quickest outcomes at a given race. Because the races on this dataset had totally different time caps, the ending outcomes have been calculated as a proportion of the full time. Notice that the quickest runners (these within the first two groupings) characterize a small proportion of the full runners. For instance, the dataset contained 88 runners whose quickest end result positioned them within the 40% to 49% class, in comparison with 2,872 runners who used over 90% of the allotted time to get their quickest end. Picture: iRunFar/Mallory Richard

Avenging the 100-Mile DNF by Returning to the Identical Race

When you DNF your first 100 miler, the info recommend it is best to attempt once more. If you’re seeking to sort out unfinished enterprise at a race, you could find some encouragement in understanding 62% of runners finally completed a race the place their first end result was a DNF. On 2,510 events throughout this dataset, runners returned to a race they beforehand DNFed and bought a belt buckle — or finisher’s medal — for his or her hassle.

2022 Hardrock 100 - Courtney Dauwalter - finish

Courtney Dauwalter profitable and setting a course file on the 2022 Hardrock 100 after DNFing the earlier 12 months’s occasion on account of abdomen points. Photograph: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

That mentioned, a end isn’t assured, as 1,507 runners within the dataset DNFed all their makes an attempt at their chosen 100 miler. We’d wish to suppose that, race lotteries and entry processes allowing, these runners may even avenge their DNFs someday sooner or later.

If we are able to stray from information evaluation for a second, we’d wish to take a second to acknowledge the heart it takes to sort out any race the place a runner has beforehand DNFed, particularly greater than as soon as. There are so few points of our working the place we mortals can declare widespread floor with the likes of Jim Walmsley, who had two DNFs on the Western States 100 earlier than happening to win on three successive events and set a course file within the course of. Having the braveness to sort out a course or occasion that has already bested a runner no less than as soon as is one thing to be happy with.

Talking of people that make the remainder of us really feel like mere mortals, the dataset contained a subset of exceptional people who had 20 or extra outcomes on the identical occasion. Tim Twietmeyer leads the pack with 25 outcomes on the Western States 100, the place Scott Mills, Jim Scott, Mike Pelechaty, Gordy Ainsleigh, and Dan Williams even have 20-plus leads to the identical occasion. On the Superior Fall Path Race 100 Mile, Susan Donnelly and Stuart Johnson every boast greater than 20 finishes — and counting.

Whereas there are too few individuals on this membership to attract any statistically viable conclusions, Susan Donnelly’s performances on the Superior Fall Path Race 100 Mile increase the query of whether or not drawing heading in the right direction expertise is one technique for sustaining constant efficiency over many years. Of Donnelly’s 22 finishes on the occasion, 19 fell inside 10% quicker or slower of her common ending time.

Tim Twietmeyer - American River 50 Mile 3

Tim Twietmeyer, who has completed the Western States 100 a file 25 occasions, on the 2021 American River 50 Mile. Photograph: Joey Hollister

Dramatic Time Enhancements Are Uncommon When We Repeat 100 Milers

In case your first end result at a given race was typically reflective of your potential, then subsequent enhancements are sometimes modest. Probably the most regularly noticed type of enchancment within the dataset was for a runner to complete after getting a DNF on their first try at a race.

After that, as you possibly can see within the graph under, a decent variety of runners improved their efficiency by as much as 19%. The variety of runners who’ve improved their efficiency by wider margins is far smaller as compared, although that makes their feats all of the extra spectacular. (A fast shoutout to Nathan Moody for shaving 10 hours off his earlier time on the 2022 Javelina 100 Mile to complete seventh — one of many largest efficiency enhancements we recognized within the dataset!)

100 mile repeat improvement statistics - margin of improvement breakdown 1 - image 4

A graph displaying the diploma to which all runners from the dataset typically improved their 100-mile races in repeat performances. Picture: iRunFar/Mallory Richard

Since there’s a giant distinction between a 1% enchancment and a 9% enchancment by way of the trouble — and generally luck — required to achieve them, I’ve additional damaged down the runners who improved by beneath 10% within the chart under. As soon as once more, it exhibits that marginal beneficial properties are essentially the most frequent, with 413 runners bettering by as much as 1%.

100 mile repeat improvement statistics - margin of improvement breakdown 2 - image 5

A graph displaying the diploma to which runners from the dataset who improved by beneath 10% typically improved their 100-mile races in repeat performances. Picture: iRunFar/Mallory Richard


With the challenges we encounter over the 100-mile distance, it’s uncommon to really feel like we’ve run an ideal race. We generally hobble away from our 100 milers with the feeling that we may enhance upon our efficiency.

The info we share on this article appear to corroborate our emotions that, by repeating the identical 100-mile race a few occasions, our probabilities of bettering our efficiency proceed to rise in every try.

Nevertheless, in the long run, whether or not you run the identical 100 miler greater than as soon as is a private resolution. If seeing new locations is what motivates you to race, then the efficiency advantages of repeating the identical race could also be diminished for you. And for many people who return to a specific race repeatedly, it’s usually the group constructed round that race that may be a larger draw than the potential for a brand new private greatest.

But when bettering your efficiency is a draw for you, then the info recommend that, if at first, you don’t really feel you probably did your greatest, then go forward and run that 100 miler once more.

Name for Feedback

  • When you’ve run the identical 100-mile race greater than as soon as, what has your expertise been?
  • Do you suppose the advantages of prior course expertise apply to shorter distances as properly?
  • Do you suppose the advantages of prior course expertise differ primarily based on a race’s terrain?
Adriana Vargas - 2022 Patagonia Run 100 Mile champion

Adriana Vargas, 2022 Patagonia Run 100 Mile champion. Photograph: Patagonia Run/Carlos Mir


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