Candice Burt is no stranger to big efforts. In 2020 the ultrarunner and race director set a then women’s unsupported fastest known time (FKT) on the Tahoe Rim Trail in California that stood for two years, and her list of FKTs stretches back to 2011.
But logging ultramarathon-distance runs for 200 consecutive days? That’s a whole different ballgame.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, That sounds like something I’d have to spend years of time and effort preparing for, well, you’re not Candice Burt.
“It was pretty spontaneous,”Burt told iRunFar in an interview. “I like to do something after my season of race directing is over. I got home [in the fall of 2022], and I thought, I want a project for November.”
The spontaneous project Burt hit upon was to break the existing Guinness World Record for consecutive days of ultramarathon distance. These things can be tricky to verify, and a dead watch battery can throw the whole thing out the window. So once she’d done it (verification pending), she decided to keep going.
Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about the record and started being about something more pure.
“It was about exploring what it meant to chase this passion that I have for running,” she said. “I think anybody who loves running has probably thought, It would be so cool to get to run all day every day if my body could only handle it. And so I wanted to explore the idea of getting to run like that day after day. And what is that experience?”
Two hundred days later, in May 2023, she finally ended her streak, having reached a number that felt symbolically significant and, she implied, fairly intimidating to anyone trying to break it.
“I think I could have gone a lot longer,” she said. “But like most people, I just needed to get back to life.”
‘I Just Kept Surprising Myself’
The feat is one of fortitude over speed: Burt generally kept her speedometer pegged squarely in the nine- to 11-minute-mile range. But an ultra at 11 minutes a mile is still an ultra, a few of which in a compressed time frame is hard enough to recover from. How, I wondered, did her body hold up to her punishing regimen?
“I felt as though I got stronger and stronger for longer than I expected,” she answered with a note of wonder still evident in her voice. “So I would say up until around day 100, I just kept surprising myself. It was a huge gift.”
Of course, there were worrisome aches and pains that threatened to blow up into full-blown injuries, especially in the first month. Burt told me she essentially didn’t have enough time in her day to recover as much as she’d like — not with five to seven hours of running, a job, and two teenage children to care for. But as the days piled up, she found her body adapting to the specific kind of stress she was subjecting it to.
“I adapted to running easily. If I jumped into a 200 miler [right now], I’d do great. But in terms of a 50-kilometer race or racing a 10k, I feel like I would injure myself because everything [in my body] is kind of tightened to the particular thing [I’ve been doing] doing day after day after day after day,” she explained.
Unsurprisingly, the mental side caused Burt the most problems — especially once she blew past 100 days. She called it “the doldrums,” and later referred to it as plain old boredom. Her antidotes: work calls, audiobooks, and an endless string of true-crime podcasts.
“It got a little dark,” she laughed, referring to the hours of murders and kidnappings she blasted into her ears daily.
An Ultra Within an Ultra Streak
Remarkably, Burt chose to run the 2023 HURT 100 Mile amidst her ultramarathon streak, back in January.
To maintain the streak, this meant that she had to complete an ultra-distance run the day before and after the 100-mile race. Burt, who now lives in Colorado, also had to coordinate her streak among the travel to and from the race’s location in Hawai’i.
The race, which she’s now finished six times, took her a little over 33 hours this year.
The Gift of Running
As Burt ramps up for her 2023 race directing season, she carries lessons from her exploration — things so much more significant than an arbitrary record.
“One thing I learned was that I needed a lot less to be happy than I previously thought. This was a huge kind of awakening for me. As somebody who always has big goals, I found pretty quickly that every day I got out there running a 50k, it was an incredible day. The experience of seeing the terrain and the weather change and the seasons change. It’s like this beautiful tapestry of experience that’s in my head. Nothing can take that away,” she said. “I think moving forward, I want to simplify my life in such a way that I can just do these things I’m passionate about … No material thing matters more than that.”