200 miles may seem like a lot, but fortunately no one has to go that far on his or her own steam (although there have been solo runners that have accomplished all 200 miles). If you are now wondering: How do I train to run 3 legs in the course of 24 hours? Do I have to run twice a day to be prepared? How long should I go? How much should I eat? How often should I sleep? It can be a lot to absorb, but thankfully, there is a lot of information on the subject. Therefore, we have provided some simple guidelines for you to follow so you can be prepared for the adventure.
Start with looking at what you will be expected to do. For example, on average everyone will run about 17 miles (200 miles / 12 runners). However, you will not be required to run all 17 miles in a single stretch. To that end, being prepared enough to run a half-marathon is more than ample to cover the distance. There are many half-marathon programs, most run about 8 – 12 weeks long. The programs range from those seeking a PR at Runner’s World to a novice at Hal Higdon Training. That said, there are certainly plenty of people who do just fine without running beyond 6 – 8 miles as their maximum distance in any single run.
We would encourage you to run doubles for at least 3 – 4 weeks before the relay. For example, once you know what your legs will be (especially your longest leg) schedule two runs within an 8 – 12 hour period in which neither run is as long as your longest leg. Again, there are plenty of people who do just fine without running any doubles. If you have a good, solid base of miles, you will probably be just fine. However, if you want to know what it will really feel like, consider running a few doubles.
When it comes to pace, you should be able to hold your 10K race pace for your first two legs quite easily (assuming you do not have a lot of hills), especially if you have incorporated some doubles in your training plan that individually are NOT longer than your longest leg. For your third leg, you will likely not be able to hold your standard 10K race pace because you will be tired from the previous two legs and lack of sleep. For your third leg, go out a little slower than your normal 10K pace (perhaps 10 – 15 seconds per mile slower) for the first mile and assess how you feel at the end of that first mile before deciding to ratchet up the pace or back off just a little more.
Like any endurance event, make sure the last full week of training before the relay is a taper. Trust us, you will be thankful you rested. Ideally, your taper would begin two full weeks out or you might bonk!