I must admit, I was hesitant to release this one on ultra marathon training. I thought, “Who in the world would enjoy reading 31 benefits from running 31 miles through the night?” So I did not release it and moved onto other articles.
A few months went by, and I finished a few more ultra marathons. After my last race, I remembered what I wrote, and decided I didn’t just want to post it, I had an obligation to post it.
At my most recent ultramarathon about two hundred runners showed up. We ran 50 miles in the 20° F weather. After the race it hit me! I know who would enjoy reading 31 benefits from running 31 miles through the night. My crazy loving ultrarunning family, that’s who! Even if my writing helps one person cross the finish line, I consider it a success.
So with that, ultra running community, this one’s for you!
Running Through The Night
Running through the night can go any which way. I’ve completed some long training runs during the night hour. When training for 100-mile ultra marathons, you need to squeeze in mileage anyway possible.
The inspiration for this article came to me after running 31 miles through the night during my ultra marathon training. It was a training run I completed a few months back in preparation for my last 100-mile race. It wasn’t the first time I ran through the night, and it won’t be the last.
It’s beneficial for other runners to hear about unordinary ultra marathon training methods. Since running 31 miles through the night is unordinary, I couldn’t help myself from writing about it. Hearing about unordinary bouts of human endurance breaks up our pattern of thought. It helps broaden our minds and distinguish between real restrictions and excuses when we run.
And what’s one of the most common excuses while training? Yes, you guessed it, the excuse of “I have no time.”
I left my home at 1:30 am and ran 31 miles making it home in time to recover and leave for my day job. Nothing like walking in the workplace with a sore pair of legs and a smile on your face.
We only have so much time in the week, and when running the real long stuff sometimes we must sacrifice sleep. If you have a family, like me, and are an ultra runner, you understand this the most. The longer the race we are training for the more time we need to spend on our feet. The time required only becomes more demanding as we increase our distance during ultra marathon training.
But we can always make time. Every goal achieved in life starts with the decision, the decision to try. Our future outcomes change in any given instant. It only takes a moment, that moment we make a decision and take immediate action. Each decision we make dictates our lives. So make it a good one!
Running through the night sure isn’t easy but it’s doable. All it takes is one single decision to step outside your door and move your feet forward.
While ultra marathon training, it takes unusual training behaviors. Because well, to run an ultra marathon is unusual. It’s uncommon. But even running for the first time feels unusual.
Anything that creates stress in our lives is uncomfortable. It’s all relative to our current habits and abilities. To achieve big goals, the abnormal goals, we must take abnormal risks and take abnormal action. If we want to accomplish the unthinkable, like an ultra marathon, we must do the unthinkable. Running 31 miles when you typically are in bed sleeping is unthinkable.
I’ll never forget the time I woke up at 12:00 am to run a 66-mile training run for my first 100-mile ultra marathon. Or the several times I’ve run all night to make it home in time to feed my son breakfast.
When we run through the night, we go all-in and look pretty crazy in the process!
So what drives someone to run through the entire night? Why would they trade in the pillows and blankets to run along the moon and the stars? Well, there are many reasons why and here’s 31 of them!
1. Run More Effectively
Did you ever notice that when you force a run, you tend to pace slower? But when your run flows it feels automatic and goes much quicker?
I’ve never run faster than when my run flows from the inside-out rather than a force from the outside-in. Here’s where running through the night comes in handy. When you run through the night, you are in an automatic state. This state creates a much smoother flow, so your run becomes much more efficient.
Run smooth, run easy, and if you are ultra marathon training…run through the night!
2. Run Faster
When we run through the night, it feels we are running faster compared to when we run through the day.
Why does it feel faster? Well, in the darkness it’s difficult to gauge your speed in relation to the objects you pass. Also, there’s little distraction at night. With little distractions, we become attuned to our body’s rhythm and run with improved efficiency.
Many runners have achieved personal bests on race day times by training in the dark. Give it a shot! A shot in the dark!
3. Lose Weight Instantly
How does running through the night help you lose weight? Simple, by keeping you out of the fridge. Remember, most of our mindless eating occurs after dinner. Also, instead of spending time sleeping, we are running instead, burning more calories. Want to lose weight? Run through the night!
4. Learn Fat Adaption
Fat adaption is a great nutritional choice when it comes to ultra running. Running through the night on an empty stomach will promote a fat adapted body. I’ve run 31 miles with no food or water, 50 miles with no food, and 100 miles with a hand full of fruit and almond butter.
When we become fat adapted, food becomes a source for tapping into our energy supplies, not creating it. Be sure to check out my article Ultra Runner: Fat Is Your Friend. When becoming a fat adapted runner, the night is beneficial because nothing is open. If you leave your house with no fuel, you will finish with no fuel.
5. Run an Ultra Marathon
By running 31 miles through the night you’ve officially run an ultra marathon. Congratulations! A 50k, or 31 miles, is the shortest ultra marathon and a sensible starting point for any new ultra runner. My first ultra marathon RACE was 50 miles in length; my first ultra marathon DISTANCE was a 50k training run.
6. Start Tapering for a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon
31 miles is a perfect distance to end your ultra marathon training for a 50-mile race. Now you can begin tapering for your first 50 miler!
7. Plenty Of Time
Ever go out for a morning run on a time constraint? Sure you have, we all do. The end of my long runs consists of me sprinting full speed in time to be home when my sons wake up. Then we go about our day to sports, parties, or whatever other engagements we have planned.
While running in the middle of the night while ultra marathon training, you have all the time in the world to finish your run. No worries on making it home at a specific time. When you get back home, it’s time for bed. When we run without a time constraint, it’s easier to focus on what you set out to do, run!
8. Lose Track of Time
When running through the night, it’s easy to lose track of time. Every hour seems to be like the other. Running in the dark can have that effect, then, suddenly, you finish.
9. Lose Track of Location
When you run through the night while ultra marathon training, it’s easy to lose track of location. When you lose track of your location it makes your run feel shorter. This becomes a huge relief when running extreme distances.
I wrote this section from my iPhone during my last 31 mile training run through the night:
“I’ve been waiting to pass a particular shopping center to note my halfway point. The shopping center will be around 15 miles into my run. But I come to realize that I already ran past the shopping center. I’ve been running for miles, lost in this run, lost in this moment. To my surprise I ran past the entire shopping center with no recollection of it. Night time running can do this to a runner. One time during a 58-mile training run I ran through an entire town without realizing it. Distance can put you in a trance, and in this trance, we lose track of the location and float through our runs.”
10. Break From Summer Heat
Summer nights are breezy, cool, and a great time to run. The best part is how we take a break from the beating summer sun. While ultra marathon training, the summer heat can be brutal and cause heat exhaustion quick. Just this past August I ran 27 miles during the day where the heat index reached 100 degrees, and it wore me out. Then one week later I ran 31 miles through the night. But I did so on very little fluids, and it almost felt effortless in comparison.
Sometimes the body needs a break from the sun and night running is the perfect place to find it.
11. Explosive Energy At Sunrise
Looking for an extra boost while running? Get out for your run while it’s still dark and catch that sunrise bright and early. It shifts your internal clock forward as your body realizes the new day has come.
If you’ve ever run 100 miles, you have most likely experienced this phenomenon. A 100-mile ultra marathon is exhausting. I’ve even fallen asleep while running! But when that sunrise awakens in the distance and your internal clock turns to a new day, the boost of energy received is enormous.
The sunrise is motivating and it provides more energy to keep us moving forward to the finish line.
12. Next Run Feels Easy
Although these are night running benefits, I must admit, I prefer running in the morning. My body responds better in the morning. It’s in my biorhythm. When at night compared to the morning, for most it takes more effort, especially if you’re sleepy. But if you push through it and get it done there’s a hidden benefit. When your next long run comes along in the morning, it will feel effortless. You will be able to run much longer with what seems to be less effort. It happens to me every time.
Not a night runner? Here’s a trick. Go to bed extra early, sleep for 2-3 hours, then run through the night. If we set our alarm clock based on 90 minute sleep cycles than 3 hours is the magic number
13. Traffic Free Roads
If you’re a road runner and run late at night then you are in luck. When you run through the night, there’s no traffic! It feels incredible to rip down a typically traffic filled road. It’s like competing in your very own marathon, streets shut down and all.
Also, there’s more fresh air because of less traffic. The decrease in cars creates a reduction in CO2 emissions. A perfect time to take a deep fresh breath of air and run.
From an area with snow? Running through the night when ultra marathon training after a snowfall is convenient. When they plow the streets because of snowfall the extra snow builds up onto the shoulders of the road. With a massive snow build up on the shoulder, the only place left to run is in the middle of the road. The heavier the snowfall the larger the pile of snow on the shoulder. With the freedom of an empty road, snowfall no longer becomes an issue. Run in the middle of the road avoiding snow piles and enjoy a smooth and snow-free run.
14. Break Up Patterns
Many feel as if they go through life on autopilot, living through our same old habits and daily routines. But if we want to make a change we need to step back and look at our lives objectively. From a bird’s eye view, it’s easy to see what habits we need to change to reach our running goals.
It’s easy to see what type of patterns, or routines, certain types of people have. Determined athletic people have determined athletic routines. Tired stressed people have tired stressed routines.
If you’re trapped in unproductive routines, the best way to make a change is by breaking up your pattern. When we break up our patterns with outrageous acts, we snap ourselves out of a lethargic state. From here we can become a determined runner ready to tackle any distance imaginable.
No, ultra marathon training through the night will not break up your pattern, it will SHATTER it!
15. Crush Limiting Beliefs
What is a belief? It’s the thoughts we create and the meaning we give those thoughts. If a belief stays with you long enough then it becomes concrete.
Some beliefs can empower us, and some can destroy us. As runners, we face many limiting beliefs that hold us back. But when you tackle a unique challenge, like running 31 miles through the night, you provide the jackhammer to those limiting concrete beliefs. Now you can grow to be the person who will tackle down the next challenge no matter what it takes. Because people don’t run 31 miles through the night, right?
16. Control Your Mind
When we take on extraordinary challenges, we tell the mind “You work for me!” When we are hesitant but push through a run anyway, the next time becomes a little easier.
Running at first can be intimidating. At first, a half marathon is challenging, a marathon is impossible, and most can’t even rationalize an ultra marathon. Then one day I found myself at the Gulf of Mexico ready to run 116 miles across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. Standing at a starting line of such magnitude helps you realize that anything is possible. All you need to do is own your thoughts and put one foot in front of the other.
17. Keep Yourself Honest
While ultra marathon training through the night alone, it’s only you out there. There’s a whole lot of running and a whole lot of thinking involved. No one is watching, but, well, you.
Nothing keeps us more honest than time spent with ourselves. In our moment of solitude, we connect with ourselves on a deeper level. Deep down we know if we are giving our all. We know if we are cutting mileage, or running slow. It’s only you, the road, and your will to train hard.
18. Boosts Your Mood
Did you have a bad day at work? Running at night is one way to let your frustrations out. Exercise boosts endorphin production that relieves stress. So, unwind your mind and run through the night!
19. Gain More Time
Time is our number one resource. We all wish there were more time to go around. Doesn’t it seem impossible to find any extra free time out of our already busy days?
When deciding on training for a new distance, most find themselves saying: I wish I had more time. Well, ultra marathon training through the night will grant you that wish. When we run through the night, we gain more time awake!
Let’s say a runner dedicates 4 hours of night running every week in replace of 4 hours of sleep. That’s 12 hours every three weeks and 24 hours every six weeks. In a year’s scale, you’ve accumulated over a week of extra time. After 40 years you’ve gained an entire year of extra time! Not to mention a whole lot of finish lines crossed! More time in our life and more finish lines in our running? That’s a win-win for any runner.
20. Solve All Daily Problems
Running at night is a fantastic way to decompress from the day. Running helps clear the mind and see your problems for what they are, not worse than they are. Once you recognize precisely what you’re up against, you will have a better aim in reaching a solution. Running through the night encourages creative solutions to these problems.
All my best ideas come to me when I run outrageous distances. When I run for 10 miles I have ideas; when I run for 100 miles I have epiphanies. Meaningful thoughts tend to surface during periods of intense struggles. There are hidden blessings in struggle. Ultra runners know this best. The moment we run is the moment when everything makes sense.
21. Own The Day
When running through the night, it’s only you and the road, with no one else in sight. During the late night hours when everyone is sleeping, you’re out pushing your limits. When others put on their slippers, you put on your running shoes. When they take a load off, you put a load on. When they go to rest, you go to run. In that sense, the day is yours and YOU own the day!
22. Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
Night owls have outdoor exercise options too. Have you ever ran in the dark on a warm summer night? It feels like flying. No cars on the road and no people at the stores. It’s just you and the stars in the sky. I love running because of the independence. When we run we go at any speed, for however long, in any direction. And this becomes even truer at night. When we live on our own terms we gain a new appreciation for our lives. Can you feel the freedom in that?
23. Productive At Work
Ever walk into work with a sore set of legs? Walking into the workplace on Monday after running an ultra marathon on Sunday is exhausting. I’ve been there plenty of times.
I’m tired and my legs are shot after running 31 miles through the night but for the rest of the day, everything else seems easy. It’s an all-natural cure for workday procrastination. On that day you step up and get work done, period.
24. Become A Superhero
Be safe when ultra marathon training through the night. If trouble arises, you are on your own! So be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions.
On the opposing end, during my late night long runs I’ve helped people in troubled situations. I’ve called people cabs and pushed broken down cars out of the road. One time I even helped with a deer’s head stuck in a metal fence. Sure, you’re not soaring on top of a skyscraper in a pair of tights, but you still can do some good.
Every positive act you perform adds to more good in the world, your life matters and every decision you make. So make it a positive one!
25. Comfortable Running Naked
Well, not entirely naked! When running during the day, we wear what’s most comfortable. For some, running in less feels the best but don’t like the attention. Well, if you run through the night you can wear less and don’t have to worry about who’s watching. There’s a unique sense of freedom gained from running shirtless through the night.
26. Finish An Audiobook
When running through the night, especially a long distance, you have plenty of time to finish that audiobook. You know the book I’m talking about! The one on your phone with the playhead sitting halfway across the scrubber (yes I Googled those terms, haha!). So throw on some earbuds, hit play, and finish that audiobook while finishing your training run.
27. Free Up The Weekend
By running through the night, it frees up more of your weekend. Personally, I dedicate one weekend morning to my long run. However, when training for an ultra marathon, sometimes a morning long run can last for the better half of the day. By running through the night the weekend becomes free if needed.
28. Breakfast Tastes Incredible
When you finish a 31 mile run through the night while ultra marathon training, it can be brutal. But at the same time, it can be incredible. There’s a chance for both but one thing stays consistent, WOW, does breakfast taste good! Many times I’ve run through the night and came home in time to catch my sons when they wake up to make them breakfast. Distance running, family, and breakfast, does it get any better?
29. Sleep Better and Deeper
If you get home in time to sleep after ultra marathon training, then guess what? Your sleep is amazing! Positively disbursing your energy will cause a more restful sleep. You will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world!
30. Dream Of Running
Ever have a dream that you’re flying? Experts say we have flying dreams when we feel a sense of independence. Now, instead of flying dreams I have dreams of running fast, super-fast, and super long. When you make this shift, it’s better than any dream of flying. Running at night seems to enhance dreams of running.
31. Reminds You Of A 100 Mile Finish
While ultra marathon training, I think back to 24-mile races, 100-mile races, or longer races where I’ve finished during sunrise. It’s an unbelievable feeling. Running through the night brings back those memories and inspires you to sign up for another. It’s the little things you notice that touch you the most. Like the warmth of the sun after a long night of running. Or the cool morning breeze against your rundown body. Or when you realize your headlamp is still on after the sunrises. It’s the little memories that bring back the big feelings.
So you made it to the end. Thank you for your endurance. I know if you’re reading this than your mental strength is exceptional. Reading 31 benefits from running 31 miles through the night in one sitting takes time, it takes endurance, and it takes abnormal action. But to run an ultra marathon also takes time, it also takes endurance, and it also takes abnormal action.
REMEMBER…reading about unusual ultra marathon training and running an unusual distance like an ultra marathon breaks up our patterns. It helps shatter limiting beliefs and clears a path for us to do what we once conceived as impossible, like running an ultra marathon!
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