How to Run 9 Hours at The North Face 50 Mile Championships

Last year (2010), I ran 9:03 at TNF 50.  That was good enough for 40th out of about 300 finishers.

I realize that 9 hrs is a goal time for many runners, so here are my splits if you want some numbers to pace yourself against.  If this is your first 50 miler (it was mine), please know that this is a very hilly course. I had very good course knowledge, as I had trained and raced on the course countless times.  The weather was ok (it only rained for about an hour during the race), but the trails very muddy.  2011 looks to be drier, so expect faster times this year.

So, here are my splits as taken by my crew (the course is slightly different this year, but the aid stations and distances in between are the same).

Start to Tennessee Valley (1:20):

This section is run completely in the dark, but it’s not technical so it’s fairly easy running. I ran with the intention to start out controlled.  It’s easy to start out fast after a long taper and running on fresh legs.  My strategy worked out well: I would not be passed all day after the initial shuffling.

Tennessee Valley to Bootjack (1:43):

This section is run during the dawn.  It rained last year and it was pretty windy off the ocean going up Mt. Tam.  Typical December weather.

Bootjack to Stinson Beach (1:41):

I ran strong in this section.  Keep in mind that you have to step out of the way of the front runners on the narrow single track to the McKennan Gulch Aid Station. This takes time and will slow you down a bit, but please do it out of courtesy to runners ahead of you.  This is also your chance to marvel at the front runners.

Stinson Beach to Bootjack (:48):

This was perhaps my low point.  I struggled getting back up Tam.  Thankfully, I had a pacer to coach me through this section.

Bootjack to Tennessee Valley (2:31):

Once I got to Bootjack I felt like a million bucks again and flew down the mountain: my best section of the day.  The Redwood trail section was super muddy (a slip-and-slide, really). Ditto for the climb out of Muir Beach.

Tennessee Valley to Finish (1:00):

Be wary of the Marincello Trail leading out of TV.  This is where Heras crushed Geoff Roes last year.  It’s a runnable trail if your legs are good, but it’s a long, slow climb if your legs are shot.  Run wisely.

Here is a link to my detailed race report as well as additional post-race thoughts.

Good luck!

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