The Mystique of the 100-Mile Week

Is there something special in the 100-mile running week?

By on May 20, 2016 | Comments

AJW's TaproomEver since the first running boom in the 1970s, there has been an air of mystery and mystique around the 100-mile training week. While, in the end, it is nothing more than a number, I have found, over the years, that something about the elegant simplicity of that third digit in the weekly training volume can be inspiring and motivating. Having talked to dozens of runners over the years it seems that the benchmark of the 100-mile week is, indeed, a real thing.

Back in the Golden Age of road ultrarunning in the ‘70s and ‘80s many runners used the 100-mile benchmark as a gauge of fitness and durability. Virginia ultrarunner David Horton was notorious for his large volume as he typically attempted to peak three times a year for Barkley, Hardrock, and JFK 50. Horton always took care to balance the numbers with the limits on his body, but was certainly a diligent mileage counter and knew he was ready when he could roll through consecutive 100-mile weeks with no ill effects.

In the late ‘90s young Southern California phenom Ben Hian became synonymous with big miles and consecutive 100-mile weeks. Setting his sights each year on his local 100 miler, Angeles Crest, Ben spent the summer pounding out the miles on the trails of the San Gabriel Mountains at times peaking at as much as 180 miles per week. One of his little secrets was the Thursday morning before work 25 miler which he often used to pad the miles and work the legs before his trademark 75-mile weekends.

In recent years, several others have zeroed in on the 100-mile benchmark week and, in my opinion, none more consistently than Nick Clark. In Nick’s build up to Western States in 2012, where he finished third in a phenomenal, 15:50, he ran up 10-consecutive 100-mile weeks between the end of March and the beginning of June. Included in that total was a monthly mileage average of 419 miles a month from January to May with over 62,000 feet of climbing each month, as well. A quick scan of Nick’s blog from that period indicates that he certainly used the 100-mile benchmark as a gauge and was not unwilling to head out for a second run on Sunday afternoon to hit triple digits.

As I reflect on the 100-mile week mystique and apply it to my current circumstances, I cannot help but jump on the bandwagon. And, while I have no intention nor the ability to run off 10-consecutive 100-mile weeks, I have to admit that the inspiration of the past has fueled my fire. Just this past week I enjoyed 105 miles and 23,300 feet of climbing in my build-up to Hardrock and this morning, as I sit here writing over my coffee, I feel no ill effects. While it is, ultimately, just a number, I can’t help but think that it’s a number worth aspiring to. After all, we all need goals, don’t we?

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Ontario Beer Co - 100-mile aleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ontario Beer Company in Toronto, Ontario. OBC’s 100 Mile Ale is a classic American Red Ale with a smooth finish and a refreshing kick. I got a hold of a 16-ounce can of it last week at a local beer shop and really like it. A perfect way to close out a 100-mile week.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Have you experienced the 100-mile training week? If so, how did it make you feel?
  • Do you have another weekly mileage threshold on which you place great significance?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.