Recently, I completed a self-supported, solo 12-hour run. I’ve always wanted to do a 12-hour event, but I could never really find a race that spoke to me. So, I decided to take things into my …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 180 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today what I learned running solo for 12 hours. So recently, I completed a self supported solo 12 hour run.
I’ve always wanted to do a 12 hour event, but I could never really find a race that I got excited about and nothing really spoke to me. So I decided to take things into my own hands and just do it myself.
So in this episode, I’m going to share what I learned running solo for 12 hours. What prompted me to want to run alone for so long, how I approached my training, how I fueled during the event and some interesting lessons I learned along the way.
And if you’ve ever considered doing an ultra marathon, this episode is for you, I think you’ll learn a lot. Also, if you have no desire to ever do an ultra marathon, I think you’ll still get a lot out of this episode, because a lot of the training, and the fueling principles especially, apply to races that have many different distances. Cool.
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So let’s talk about this: what prompted me to want to run solo for 12 hours? So I came across a podcast where some people were talking about the 12 hour walk. And ‘The 12 Hour Walk’, if you’re not familiar, is a book that Colin O’Brady wrote.
Colin O’Brady is a pretty badass adventure guy. Like he’s done all kinds of endurance events like walking solo across Antarctica, and actually breaking the record for doing it faster than anybody else.
So he walked across Antarctica, pulling a sled with all of his, you know, food and equipment and everything that he needed for this track. And he ended up walking something like 12 hours a day, because I guess that’s how much daylight they had.
And he covered I don’t know, 50 miles a day or something close to that, 48 miles a day. But he ended up doing this for like 53, I believe, straight days. So that is pretty insane to do something like that.
So during the pandemic, he, you know, was back home and, you know, was itching to get outside and do something. And of course, you know, all this stuff is shut down. He couldn’t travel.
And so he decided to just take a walk and he left his house and he ended up walking for like 12 hours by himself without his phone. And he was just like, this is really fascinating. And he learned some interesting lessons along the way by doing this.
It’s a very personal sort of inward journey. It was for him anyway. And he thought, wow, I think a lot of people could benefit from doing something like this. So he wrote the book, the 12 Hour Walk.
And it’s a great book, if you want to check it out. It really goes into a lot of detail about all the things that he’s accomplished, and he’s accomplished some crazy events, some crazy endurance events.
But in the book, he talks about this 12 hour walk and encourages people to just do this. Leave your house, go walk for 12 hours by yourself unplugged. And some of the rules that he puts down are this, so it’s supposed to be done solo. So you do it by yourself, no friends, no dogs, no turtles, cats, anything, any other animal, it’s just supposed to be you. So it’s a solo journey.
And the length of time needs to be 12 hours. You know, it can be longer if you want, but that’s like the minimum right? So 12 hours is the length of time we’re talking about. And you need to be by yourself and there’s no, no phones involved.
So no headphones, no texting, no talking to anybody on the phone, no listening to podcasts, no listening to audiobooks, no listening to music. No, you know, FaceTiming people while you’re out there, it’s supposed to be a solo journey. Now you can take your phone with you, which I did. And I recorded a few short videos or a few voice memos or typed in some notes. I especially took some notes about my fueling during the event, just so I could keep track of when I was, you know, fueling.
So I could, you know, know how much time had elapsed between the last time I fueled. But it’s supposed to be done in silence, like you’re supposed to be just quiet, you know, and really not talk to people. And so that’s what the 12 hour walk is.
Okay, so I heard about this. And I heard some people talking about this on a podcast. And it really started, the wheels in my brain started turning because I was like, oh, man, I’ve always wanted to do a 12 hour event. And a lot of the 12 hour events or 24 hour endurance events, if you’re familiar with these things, a lot of times they do them on a short, one mile or two mile loop.
A lot of times they’ll do it at a track. So you’re running around a track for like 12 hours. And to me, that sounds terrible. The few miles like loop through the woods would be doable, but also you get sort of, you know, just used to the same things over and over again. So that really never spoke to me.
Like I just never was really interested in doing an event where I’m going to be running for 12 straight hours or 24 hours around a track or something like that. So I thought wow, this is pretty interesting. Because I get to do this anywhere that I want, I can go and run around my neighborhood, I can go down, you know, I live close to the Ohio River, I can go down to the river and run along the river.
And I’ll tell you about what I ended up doing and where I ended up going in a minute. But it was just sort of like this free form event like you can do it any way you want. So that really appealed to me. The solo adventure part of it appealed to me because I’ve you know, I’ve done a lot of running by myself for sure, I’ve done a lot of long distance running where I’m by myself for long stretches of time, but never more than an hour or two, something like that.
And then you’re like you hit an aid station or you’re running with other people or maybe you’re listening to something on the phone or talking to somebody. And then that aspect of not having your phone on and not having that distraction and, and listening to a podcast or an audiobook or something like that.
I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks when I run. It’s like I get to learn while I’m running. You know, I get to learn about you know, some badass, you know, adventurer guy, or whatever it is. And I really enjoy that. I don’t do that all the time, but I do enjoy that.
And so that appealed to me, like unplugging basically for 12 hours. So that part appealed to me. So this is kind of my, what prompted me, you know, and why I decided I wanted to do this. And then, of course, being a runner, I was like, well, I’m not going to walk this thing, I’m going to run it.
And I ended up doing a run-walk approach. And I’ll talk about that next and I want to talk about the training but just understand that this is something that you can do anytime you want. And if there really aren’t any rules other than what I just mentioned there, like if you need to take breaks, take breaks.
If you need to use a bathroom somewhere, use a bathroom, if you need to get some food, get some food, but the idea is that you kind of carry the food that you need, take a backpack or a Camelback or something like that. And then it should be self supported. There should be no distractions, it should be an internal journey, as well as an external physical journey. Okay.
So how did I approach my training? What did I do there? So, my idea was, my focus was always going to be on 12 hours. I wasn’t concerned about distance or time or pace or anything like that. I just wanted to be out there running for 12 hours.
And so I was going to I made a decision early on, that I was just going to do this slow and easy, that I wasn’t going to try to break any records here. And that if I could get to 50 miles, I would consider that to be a huge success. So that was kind of my goal, really, my big goal was like, you know, just to finish it, and just to keep, you know, running for 12 hours.
So, the way I approached my training, I started training for this thing back in like December, January. And the event was on May 27, that’s the day that I picked, so that was Memorial Day weekend, which was about three weeks after the Flying Pig Marathon, which I did, which was the Floating Pig Marathon since we had so much rain that day, it was crazy.
But I knew I wanted a little bit of time to recover from that race until before I did this other Ultra event. So 50 miles was the goal, May 27, was the date I picked. And I started training in December, basically January, and I was just building my base at the beginning.
I divided my training into three main sections. So the and as we get closer to the race, the running becomes more specific to the race. So at the beginning of my training cycle, I was doing more speed work, doing shorter, faster runs doing hill repeats and, and sprint intervals, and tempo runs and things like that.
As I got closer to the race, I stopped doing a lot of the speed work. And I just focused on, like dialing in sort of that race pace that I was going to use during the event itself, which was very slow. It’s like 13 minute miles, which is what I ended up averaging for the event itself, which I thought was fine, you know, it’s fine for me.
And that’s the way that I kind of approached the training. So, you know, I did a lot of miles, especially in that second and third phase of my training cycle, a lot of miles at a slow pace, and kept my heart rate down. And really the whole point of this was just to be out there for 12 hours, and enjoy it. I guess as much as you can enjoy running for 12 hours or being out there running and walking for 12 hours. And really just to finish.
And so I didn’t I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I did have that goal of 50 miles. And so that was one thing where I was like, I do want to hit 50 miles. And that was totally doable. I knew that if I could get to about a 14 minute pace 14 something I knew that I would get to 50 miles.
So that was kind of the goal from a pace standpoint. So a lot of my training was just done by myself without my phone. So I just leave my phone at home and start getting used to running without any sort of distraction. Okay.
That was interesting, because think about this, how much time do you spend completely unplugged. Not looking at a screen, not watching TV, not listening to music, or podcasts, or books, or the radio in your car. Not talking to other people. Not calling someone or texting someone.
Think about this. This is one of the big lessons I learned because I was like, I do not spend much time during any given day completely unplugged. And that’s what was really interesting to me, that it made me hyper aware of how much time I actually spend distracting myself from whatever’s happening in the moment.
Think about it, like I was at the gym this morning. And I usually have my headphones when I’m at the gym and I’m listening to a book or something like that. And I forgot them right. I left them at home. So I’m just like, whatever. I’m just going to sit here in between sets and just look around, I guess I don’t know, what do you do? It’s kind of weird.
I was like, what did we used to do back in the day when we didn’t have cell phones? I guess we would just sit there and look at each other. Right? So I was just sitting there and I looked around and I started to see every single person in the gym staring at their phone.
Every single person that wasn’t actively lifting was like staring at their phone. Every person. It was wild. And I was just thinking wow, that’s so interesting. We are so connected to our phones that even two minutes in between sets we can’t not be sitting there staring at our phones, you know.
So for me, one of the biggest lessons that I learned really is that I can spend time away from screens and I can spend time away from distracting myself from the moment and that I want to be more mindful, I want to have more mindfulness in my life, I want to be more present in the moment, not just for myself, but for other people as well.
And so that was a huge lesson that I learned. And it took training for this event, and then actually doing the event to sort of bring that really into my focus and into my attention. So during the event, there were so many times where I was wanting to whip out my phone and call somebody, or text somebody, oh, I just thought of something I need to tell my kids. I better just text him.
And I was like, nope, I had my phone with me, but it was just for taking a couple of quick videos and some voice memos that I was recording, and a couple of notes that I was writing just because I wanted to keep track of my fueling, right.
So I did have my phone with me, but it was in airplane mode. So it was basically all I could do it use it for was recording messages, taking pictures, that kind of stuff. And I didn’t pull it out that often I was really just focused on being in the moment.
And that was one of the biggest lessons I learned is that I distract myself a lot. And we all do. We are constantly distracting ourselves. Aside from sleeping. We either have, we’re talking to someone, we’re listening to something, we’re watching something, we’re reading something, we are constantly bombarded with information, and constantly connected and constantly distracted from the moment. So just think about that.
How can you maybe change that? What does that look like for you? Can you spend some more time just in silence, maybe mindfulness meditation, maybe just leave your phone at home, when you go for a run, leave those headphones at home, take your phone if you want to, if you need it for emergency or something like that, but just take leave the headphones at home. Interesting, right? It may be an interesting experiment to do.
Okay, so the training I did was pretty standard, nothing really fancy there. Other than, you know, I shut down the speed work during that last six weeks or so and really just focused on really hammering the long distance getting used to running with a backpack because I did carry a backpack with water and fuel and things like that.
And that was it, like the training was pretty, you know, standard and really not a whole lot to discuss there. Other than, you know, just those last six weeks or so I just really ramped up the mileage. You know, I was doing you know, my weekly mileage ended up being I think at the peak was something like 60-65 miles a week.
But the long runs on the weekends were, you know, 25 and 12 was like the longest I did. 26 and 10, something like that. So that was the training. And then so my approach for the race itself, I decided I was going to bring the minimal amount of fuel that I needed.
And I was thinking because I’m fat-adapted, I don’t really need a whole lot in the way of fuel for something like this, but I wanted to maintain some semblance of energy. So I did use some fuel. And the idea was that I was going to start to run fasted and have some coffee before I left the door or headed out the door. I had some coffee about 6am and was out the door by 6:22 is when I started on a Saturday morning.
So I started fasted, just had some saltwater before I started and some coffee and that was it. The saltwater was actually an LMNT that’s an electrolyte drink. So I did my electrolyte drink, no calories, really no sugar or anything like that. And just some coffee, headed out the door.
And then my goal was to fuel every hour, and to get about 150 calories per hour 150 to 200 calories per hour. That’s all I wanted. I didn’t want more than that, because I don’t really need more than that. So, and I practiced during my training with this and this is something important for you.
If you’re doing a half or full or any kind of long distance event, you’ve got to practice your fueling during training, like all your long training runs should be dress rehearsals for your event. Okay, so just make sure you’re training the way that you’re going to be racing, right so I did this regularly.
And I’ve tried a few different types of fuels and things like that, I ended up going mostly with the Muir energy gels and those things, they have like four ingredients. It’s like almond butter, cacao, some blackstrap molasses, that’s the carbohydrate that they use in there. And then some salt, something, maybe there’s five ingredients, some other kind of flavoring in there, but they’re very clean.
Some people don’t like the way they taste, I think they taste fine. They’re kind of good, actually, I think they have almond butter as another ingredient depending on which one you get: cashew butter, almond butter. But they’re pretty good and have good, clean ingredients.
There are a little bit of carbs, like 12 carbs per packet. And they’re 150 calories. So one of those per hour was kind of my goal. And I had a couple other things that I had just had in my closet that I just pulled out a couple other types of fuel. But they were all very similar and all about 150 calories each. So that was what I planned on doing. And I stuck to that plan pretty well.
So after about an hour of running, I did my first Muir, and then kind of kept doing that every hour or so there was a couple of times where I lost track of time, and I looked down, I’m like, oh, it’s been like an hour and a half and I haven’t fueled at all, better do something. And then the next one I did a little bit shorter, like, you know, I just had to kind of tweak it a little bit.
But at the end of the day, I think I only used eight or nine of those. So it should have been 11. And I think I brought 11 with me, and there were a couple left when I got home. So maybe I used eight or nine of them in total. So it didn’t even need as much as I brought with me, you know, and I was really trying not to weigh myself down the pack that I had fully loaded with water, two liters of water plus all the, you know, goos and the phone and stuff like that, we’d like eight and a half pounds, so it wasn’t super heavy.
But eight and a half pounds is eight and a half pounds added to, you know, your body weight as you’re running for 12 hours, right. So I wanted to keep things as light as possible. So I just brought the bare minimum and I didn’t even use all of it. And I felt fine.
The race itself was pretty uneventful other than so I headed out of my house. And it was cool in the morning. You know, it’s very cool, probably in the high 50s, right. And I was like, oh my god, this is perfect, you know, but it got hot that day, it ended up being in the high 70s.
And two things that really helped. Number one is that I chose a rail to trail, also the little Miami Recreation Trail, that was kind of the majority of the run for me was on that trail. And I hit that during the peak of the day. And it’s very shaded because there’s trees on both sides.
And most of it, there’s some sections that are totally exposed, and it was getting hot. So that helped. So the location that I picked for this thing really did help. Also, it ended up getting cloudy in the afternoon, which was amazing because when the clouds came over it dropped the temperature down and kept me from like, I was getting hot with the sun out I was really getting hot.
And so the clouds really helped a lot. And so for that second half of the day, you know, I finished at 6:20pm. The second half of the day was warmer, but it could have been a lot worse. So I was thankful for the clouds. So I took off from my house. I ran out to this trail, which is about 12 miles from my house. So I took another path called the Watson Way, it’s another rail to trail that sort of connects to this other one.
And I ended up running from my house 26.2 miles to a little town called Loveland. And, you know, that is the farthest I’ve ever run by myself. The farthest I’ve ever run in one direction, that’s for sure. And so when I was in Loveland, I was like, 5 hours and 36 minutes into this thing. So I wasn’t quite halfway but close to it. And I decided that was a good point to turn around. And my goal was to make it a double marathon.
So if I got to, like 52 miles, that was the goal. At that point, I was like, I think I can do this. You know, I’m padding my time a little bit because I might slow down towards the last half of this thing. And I did slow down a little bit towards the end just because I did have a little bit of extra time and so I did a little bit more walking during the last hour or so, a little more walking, and a little less running and it felt fine.
You know, all in all, the event was great. I did stop to refill water a couple of times, because the two liters of water that I had wasn’t going to be enough. I ended up stopping at a Starbucks on the way out towards Loveland.
So during the first half, I stopped at Starbucks and got some ice water, took that with me, that felt great. Stopped at a little bike shop that had cold waters and filled up my backpack with cold waters on the way out. I did that again on the way back, stopped at that Starbucks again, on the way back in, I ended up getting an iced coffee, which was amazing. So delicious.
And then that gave me a little bit of an extra boost there for the last few hours that I have out there. And then you know, I ended up just finishing feeling pretty good. The only problem I had during this thing was that my knees are kind of messed up, like I’ve fallen down on the trail so many times that my knees occasionally will kind of start talking to me and my right knee was kind of talking to me towards the end of this thing.
And I was like, yeah, I think I’m ready to be done. And then as soon as I finished and I stopped, and I sat down, and I took a shower and stuff like that my knee just swelled up, it was huge. And just bending, it was very painful. And walking was hard.
Like, I messed myself up pretty bad, like, not even knowing that I was in, you know, doing any kind of damage to the knee. That knee is fine now like it just took a couple of days for the inflammation to go down. I don’t know what the issue is with that knee. But it does do this every now and then.
And I’m just going to take it easy and not overdo it here during the next few weeks. But it’s been fine since then. It took a couple of days for that swelling to go down, but it’s been fine. So the event itself was great. I did it solo, I did it without talking to people.
For the most part, when I did stop, I had to like, you know, talk to the people that sold me the water or the coffee or whatever. But other than that, and one guy that ran past me, there were some running groups running on Saturday morning. And one guy in a running group said, Hey, I love your podcast.
And I kind of just looked and waved because I didn’t want to say anything because I’m like I’m trying to be quiet and not say anything. So for the guy that ran past me and said, hey, I love your podcast, on the Murray trail, I think you’re with the tri-state group, then hey, I’m gonna say, hey, thank you for listening. I appreciate that. And I appreciate that you gave me the shout out during the run, but I was being quiet at the time.
So I wasn’t talking to anybody. And I did run into my son. I’m like, you know, he was running towards me on one section of the trail. And I’m like, what are you doing out here and he’s like, I just went out for a run today. And he didn’t know where I was running. And so he didn’t know he was going to run into me. I’m like, hey, I’m not supposed to be talking to people. He’s like, cool, I’m gonna leave. And I’m like, cool. Alright.
So that was kind of fun. And by the way, I ended up running almost 53 miles total. So it was a double marathon and a little bit more. So that was cool. So a couple of lessons that I learned through this whole thing, number one, that you have to get out of your comfort zone if you want to grow.
And I’ve talked about this before, but this brought it all home to me in a big way that this was an uncomfortable event fFor me. It was uncomfortable for a lot of reasons: because of the silence because of no distractions, because I had to be in the moment. And because it’s 12 hours of running, come on.
It was hard, you know, something that was very challenging to do the training was hard. For this event, the event itself was hard. But coming out of this, I feel like a little bit of a different person. You know, I feel like I have learned some things and I’ve grown and I’ve like, every time I challenge myself and I try to do something like this, like, once a year.
Every year, I try to pick some event, something that I’ve never done before and do it. So anytime I do something like this, it causes me to level up, causes me to grow and it causes me to become more and become closer to that ultimate version of myself that I’m always working towards. It’s a work in progress. It always is.
But doing things like this. I want to encourage you to do something like this because things like this cause you to level up, they cause you to grow and they cause you to evolve as a human being, okay.
The other lesson that I learned is that being alone in silence without the distractions for 12 hours is really hard. We are so used to using our devices and distracting ourselves that to do this was a challenge but it was great. I loved it. At the end of the day. I was like, wow, I’m like I didn’t need it. You know, I don’t need to distract myself, I could just be in the moment.
And it got me thinking about when I was younger. You know, we grew up without the internet without cell phones. Well, we did have like a Sony Walkman you could wear you know, and listen to tapes, you know, that was awesome. But even so, like, we didn’t take those everywhere we went, you know, and so there was so much more in the moment.
Mindfulness, I guess you would call it, we didn’t know, it was called that at the time. Now we have to call it a certain thing, because it’s so different from what we’re used to doing. But that’s just how we were back in the day, you know. And so it just really made me realize how distracted we are all the time.
And how much I am craving, and I think we all kind of crave a little bit of like silence and internal, an internal journey, so to speak. Okay. Another lesson I learned was this, that we all have an inner dialogue, we all have an internal voice that’s kind of talking all the time.
And I realized that that voice never really stops, it’s there’s always going and even being out there, I thought, this voice has got to stop at some point here. And it sort of did at least it got quieter after about four or five hours, but it took four or five hours out there running by myself for this to even like calm down at all. Okay.
And then I noticed that there were times where I started just talking to myself out loud. So that into your internal voice that I had, maybe I was missing it, I don’t know, but I would just start talking to myself out loud. And it wasn’t like seeing anything, you know, mind bending or anything like that.
I would just be like, oh, hey, I wonder if it’s time to drink some water. Maybe I need to grab a gel. Maybe it’s time to feel? Gosh, that tree is cool. Oh, man, I’ve been on here for a long time, those clouds look interesting. Like just whatever. I was sort of, like narrating things, and I had to like, stop myself and be like, dude, what are you doing? I was craving some sort of, I don’t know if it’s a distraction, but some sort of a dialogue.
And so I started just creating a dialogue to myself, Okay. But all in all, I would suggest that if you want to challenge yourself, and if you want to level up and if you want to see what you’re capable of, and if you want to learn some lessons that you know are going to be personal to you, then I would suggest doing something like this, you don’t have to run it, you could walk it. It can be something that you do once a year, twice a year, I’m considering doing this again in the fall as a walk.
And I might invite you to join me, not in person, but virtually and we can all do this, maybe we pick a date. And we all do this together, so to speak. You know, we all do it on the same day in our separate towns in our separate cities, separate countries, whatever. And it could be something where we all learn some lessons together, we kind of come back and commiserate on what we’ve learned together. Sounds cool.
So all in all, this was a successful event. For me. It’s my first 12 hour timed event. And I enjoyed it. I really did. I enjoyed the the aspect of doing it however, I wanted to do it, you know, picking my own route, picking how I wanted to approach the fueling and, and hydration and all those things myself.
Making all those decisions myself and not having to, you know, have it be dictated by a race director and a certain location and a certain day in a certain time and certain types of fuel they have out there. Like I just did it myself. And it was awesome.
And actually, it was one of those things that like wasn’t that big of a deal. It really wasn’t. I devoted one day, one day to bettering myself to being mindful with myself being alone with myself. And I would suggest that you kind of do the same thing. Cool. All right.
So that’s all I got for you here. And listen, if you’ve ever struggled with losing weight, if you want to lose weight and keep it off and you want some help doing that, I want you to know that I have a great coaching program, and it was created with you in mind.
The Coaching Project is my lifetime access weight loss coaching program for runners. You and I will work closely together to put together a custom nutrition plan for you to get you to your goals. And we also talk about building strength and we talk about endurance and we talk about mindset, okay, and then we meet regularly to see what’s working and what’s not and then course correct as needed.
And one thing you have to understand about coaching is it’s not like some other diet or something like that. It’s not like a one size It’s all cookie cutter approach, right? You’re an individual, you have your own sets of goals and lifestyle and food preferences and the way you want to work out and things like that. And I’m going to meet you where you are.
And we’ll put together a plan that you feel good about because you have to enjoy what you’re doing. You have to enjoy the food, you got to enjoy the way you work out. Because if you don’t, you’re not gonna stick with it.
So if you want to just stop struggling, you want to start getting results, check out The Coaching Project. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more, I’d love to see you in The Coaching Project. All right, that’s all I got for you today. Love you all. Keep on Running Lean, and I’ll talk to you soon.