How I ran 100 miles in one week

Plus 6 amazing races in North Carolina's Smoky Mtns, Montana's Bridger Ridge Trail, Utah's Red Rock Canyon, Big Sur's Old Coast Road, Wyoming's Bighorn Mtn and Oregon's Silver Falls State Park

This week, Carissa Liebowitz, a longtime friend of (and writer for) The Half Marathoner, shares how she’s been finding new dreams to aspire to as we’ve all been waiting for races to come back. I hope you love it as much as I do 😃 — Terrell

Running 100 miles in a week is something I long thought was reserved only for professional runners and a few nutty outliers that could handle that mileage. Perhaps I am now one of those few nutty outliers, but I also think normal people can do pretty extraordinary things.

It seems that not too long ago (but really, it was 10+ years ago), 25 to 30 miles per week was my gold standard. I trained for my first few marathons on this mileage and was excited when I could hit 100 miles in a month. 

Over time, as I added to my running resume with Boston qualifying times and ultra-marathons, the notion of an average week started to change. I became more and more comfortable with 50 miles per week. The miles piled up and soon, a 150-mile month and even a 200-mile month became possible. 

‘Perhaps I am now one of those few nutty outliers, but I also think normal people can do pretty extraordinary things.’

I sprinkled in bigger mileage weeks thanks to racing ultra-marathons, but tackling anything more than 60-something miles in a week just seemed too crazy.

I value my rest days and easy days as a chance to give me both a physical and mental break from running. I love running, but I've always preferred to keep it in the "I get to" category rather than the "I have to" one.

Running a half marathon on a weekday seemed pretty wild, but doing it day after day? 

Flash forward to 2020. We're in a pandemic and races are few and far between. I participated in a few virtual events and had the chance to toe the line at a few small ultras and trail races. But the usual training blocks on my calendar were nearly obsolete.

How was I to find purpose?

My passion for running for years had centered on racing. How was I to find that passion again for training when races weren't an option?

Races give purpose to training. They are the little voice in your head that tell you to do that final interval, to set your alarm early, and to lace up even when the last thing you want to do is lace up. 

How was I to find purpose in my training without a race on the horizon? 

This crazy idea of running 100 miles in a week bobbled around my head for a long time. I think I'd heard of it from the pros first, but then a few "normal" runners I follow on social media dabbled in their own attempts. Could I be one of those people? 

I first mentioned it to my coach in the spring and as the year wore on, I kept mentioning this was a goal. Though I was unaware at the time, the slow and methodical build had begun.

When we touched base in October and I had absolutely nothing (re: no races, no adventure runs) on my schedule, he finally gave me a time frame to build to the week.

‘I fell in love with running and training all over again.’

I was impatient to just do it already, thinking I could just jump in and tackle it. But as the weeks wore on, I appreciated the small things that made it eventually feasible. I increased my weekday mileage, then got comfortable with seven days a week of running, and inched (miled?) my way towards the goal. 

In doing so, I fell in love with running and training all over again. Every run was a stepping stone towards reaching this goal. If I missed a run, it would be a puzzle piece missing for the week. And I skimped on mileage, how was I ever going to tackle the big scary goal? 

I imagined what it would feel like during that final week while training, much like envisioning a race. Would my legs feel heavy all the time? What day was going to be the hardest? How would I manage to juggle everything else in life? Would running that last mile feel so hard and yet, so incredible?

Much like all my running pursuits, no one would like me more or less if I accomplished this goal. I wasn't going to win any money or receive any accolades for it. But as I headed out for runs during the shortest days of the year, I found myself excited to try something I never dreamed possible. 

And for me, the joy of the challenge keeps me coming back. I might not hit all the big crazy goals that bounce around in my head, but even just trying makes me that much closer than I was in the first place. 

— Carissa

P.S.: Have a running experience you’d love to share? I’d love to hear all about it! Leave a comment here, or reply back and I can share it with everyone in next week’s issue 👍 — Terrell

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Races you might love running

Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon

Waynesville, N.C. | Saturday, April 3, 2021

If you’ve ever traveled to western North Carolina near Asheville, you know what you’ll encounter there — lush, green, tree-covered mountains as far as the eye can see, just beyond the wilderness areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah National Forest, the former of which is the most visited national park in America. The course “takes your breath away,” thanks to its stunning spring scenery, organizers say, with a mix of stretches through residential areas, downtown Waynesville’s city streets, and long stretches out on the rolling mountain roads here in the Smokies.

$60 and up | Sign up here

Bridger Ridge Run

Bozeman, Mont. | Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021

First run in 1985, when a Montana State University professor named Ed Anacker came up with the idea for it, this nearly 20-mile race is famous for its brutal climbs and descents along the Bridger Ridge Trail, set along a narrow crest that links several peaks a few miles east of Bozeman. You might experience anything from blazing sun to fog, hail and even snowstorms out on its highly technical trails, known for their ankle-twisting uneven footing, and see everything from mountain goats up on Sacagawea Peak (elevation 9,604 feet, by the way) to thousand-foot drops along the sides of a trail that squeezes to only about a foot wide in some places.

$90 and up | Sign up here

East Canyon Half Marathon

Morgan, Utah | Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021

Tall pine trees, towering mountains and the beautiful landscapes and farmlands of Morgan Valley are the backdrop for this mostly downhill race, which descends more than 2,000 feet through Utah’s Red Rock Canyon from the start to the finish line. You’ll get to take in incredible views of red rock formations, scenic red barns and endless fields just before harvest time along the route, which starts at the East Canyon Reservoir and finishes in nearby Morgan.

$60 and up | Sign up here

Wolf Creek Wrangle Half Marathon

Wolf, Wyo. | Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

Mountains, forests and single-track dirt trails through the wilderness — that’s what awaits at this trail run that winds among the Bighorn Mountains of northern Wyoming that surround Eatons’ Ranch, the oldest operating dude ranch in the West (as well as the rest of the U.S.). From the start at about 4,500 feet above sea level, the race heads onto the dirt roads near Wolf and then into the hills and mountains, along cattle roads and dirt trails that organizers say “are a little longer than advertised.” By the time you reach the mile 5 marker, you’ll have climbed to just over 5,500 feet — the race’s highest point.

TBA | Sign up here

Big Sur Trail Half Marathon

Big Sur, Calif. | Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021

A gorgeous run along Old Coast Road, which connected nearby Monterey and Big Sur before the road now known as Highway 1 was built. Challenging and hilly, with long, steep climbs and descents as well as spectacular scenery throughout, this race features breathtaking views from craggy bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, as well as trails that wind through sun-dappled redwood and oak grove forests and across bridges overlooking the rocks crashing against the shore. Limited to 300 entrants.

$85 and up | Sign up here

Silver Falls Trail Runs Half Marathon

Silverton, Ore. | Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021

Featured among the nation’s “best trail races” in Runner’s World magazine a few years back, this race has gained fame as one of the most scenic of its kind on the west coast. You’ll run past towering fir trees and over several bridges along the way, including a number of stretches that will take you past and even underneath waterfalls along the route, which unfolds through Oregon’s 9,000-plus-acre Silver Falls State Park. The race also hosts a 5K, 7-miler, full marathon and 50K, and it’s walker-friendly.

TBA | Sign up here

A running read I loved, sponsored by The Browser

The Timeless Link Between Writing and Running, and Why It Makes for Better Work. A fascinating look at how running helps rev up (or relax) your brain: “I run because I love it. Because it’s good exercise. It’s the only exercise I’ve ever really been good at, and I’ve done it essentially non-stop since middle school. But I run for another reason, the same reason that many writers apparently run: it makes me better at my job.”

Many of the great reads I share each week, I find in The Browser, one of my all-time favorite newsletters. Every day, they share 5 fascinating articles that I always find worthwhile — if you’re curious about the world, I highly recommend it.

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Words to run by

“It's where we go, and what we do when we get there, that tells us who we really are.”

— Joyce Carol Oates