As the world gets weirder, it seems so do our running events – and the 4x4x48 challenge is one of a few crazy running challenges currently getting people off their butts and into ‘crazy runner person’ mode.
Inspired by ex-Navy Seal and ultrarunning nutbag David Goggins, the 4x4x48 challenge is one of a few ‘David Goggins Challenges’ that are gaining in popularity.
So what is the 4x4x48 Challenge, exactly?
The 4x4x48 challenge involves running 4 miles, every 4 hours, for 48 hours.
That’s 4 miles, 12 times. Over a 48 hour period.
So 48 miles in total (or 77 kilometers).
In other words, we’re well into ultramarathon territory.
But – this is ultra-running with a twist.
Instead of doing all those miles in one run, the challenge is broken into 12 4-hour chunks.
This means that you’re never running for too long without stopping, so your legs won’t get fatigued in the usual way they do during an ultra.
But it also means that you never really get a proper break – a chance to get some real sleep or let your body recover.
So what does all this do to the body, and what’s the best way to survive a 4x4x48 challenge – perhaps the most gnarly David Goggins Challenge around?
Let’s jump in!
Hard Truths Of Doing a 4x4x48 Challenge
First off, some warning shots across the bow for anyone who thinks they can squeeze one of these in without too much suffering – the 4x4x48 challenge will test your limits, whether physically, mentally, or both.
Before we get into our tips for running a 4x4x48 challenge, here are my main thoughts:
- the mental fatigue is what’s going to really get to you and potentially mess you up. For that, having systems and a good support crew in place is essential (we’ll get into that shortly).
- Going slow is actually a good strategy – I explain why below. And there is nothing wrong with walking – in fact, accepting early on that walking is inevitable will make you prepared for when you need to walk, instead of trying to keep running.
- During the in-between time when you’re at home, I recommend doing normal life things (whether it’s doing the dishes, writing emails, talk with friends, whatever). Why? It’ll take your mind off the 4x4x48 challenge and keep you in the real world.
- Nap whenever you feel you can. This isn’t a sleep deprivation challenge. Sleep is fuel for a 4x4x48 challenge.
Here are my tips and strategies for getting through a 4x4x48!
Training For a 4x4x48 Challenge
Physical training for a 4x4x48 challenge is a pretty unexplored subject, just because the challenge is so unusual. Using the standard tools like periodization training arguably have little to offer.
But here are my top two approaches:
i) Strength Train – Especially The Legs
Doing some strength training is probably the best form of non-running activity any ultrarunner can do, and when you come to things like 4x4x48 challenges, it’s even more important. Why?
Those leg muscles are going to go through an extreme amount of on/off stress. Building them up beforehand is probably the best thing you can do.
I recommend squats and deadlifts every 4-7 days – preferably with free weights like an Olympic bar rather than on a rack machine.
Related: 50 David Goggins Quotes for Runners To Get Motivated
ii) Run On Tired Legs
One thing that is inevitable during a 4x4x48 challenge is that you will be running on tired legs as the challenge progresses. Luckily, we can train for this.
You want to go for a run the day after a hard run or a heavy leg strength training session, when your legs are tired and heavy.
This fatigue training is designed to make your legs perform better when tired, and keep going for longer.
How To Survive a 4x4x48 Challenge
1. Proceed Conservatively: Go Slow
4 miles is not a terribly long distance, in that the difference between a fast 4 miles and a slow 4 miles is probably around 10-15 minutes.
In other words, there’s little to be gained from going fast.
In the grand scheme of things, you’ve got 4 hours to complete each 4 mile chunk – so going quickly to get back and get some more rest in might seem tempting, but in the long run doesn’t have much affect.
Running fast brings with it some issues – you’re stressing your system more, both your muscles and your cardiovascular system. This might not seem like a big deal on your first few rounds, but once you’re well into day 2 you’ll definitely notice if you’ve been pushing hard on those early rounds.
So adopt a very conservative running approach:
- Sit at a solid 2 out of 10 in terms of your perceived effort (think of it as a speed at which you could easily hold a normal conversation with someone).
- Focus on shorter strides to minimally engage those legs.
Both of these tactics will help preserve your legs, paying off dividends as you get into the back end of the 4x4x48 challenge.
2. Draw Up A Plan
It’s amazing how ultrarunning can turn your brain into fuzzy mush…suddenly you forget if you’ve run 40 miles or 60 . . .
Same goes for the 4x4x48 challenge. While you’ll easily be able to mentally track your progress over the first handful of rounds, as you progress you’ll almost certainly lose all ability to remember where you are in the challenge, and even what day it is. Running loads plus sleep deprivation tends to do that.
That’s why it’s essential to have a system, and stick to it.
Have a plan like my one above so you can manually track your progress (the less complicated and more ‘tick-boxey’, the better).
Doing maths is next-to-impossible after the 30 mile mark, in my experience.
You should also consider systemitizing your food, hydration, and sleep. Knowing what you’re going to eat, and when, means you can switch your brain to autopilot and just focus on getting through the task in hand.
It’s easy to get mixed up in those latter stages, and – believe it or not – forget to eat, or eat at the wrong time, or drink too much water…
See also: The 75 Hard Challenge: Complete Guide + How To Survive It
3. It’s All About The Support Crew
As much as this is your challenge, given that 4x4x48 challenges are a sort of virtual race, your support crew is essential.
Assuming you’re using your family as a support crew, remember that they’re not just helping you out – they’re giving up their weekends (or whenever, free time) AND probably keeping things ticking over at the house, all while you do something pretty nuts.
Get your support crew on-side and onboard early. Explain to them all your strategies and systems, and that way they’ll know how to support you best – especially once those wheels begin to shake under you…
4. Start In The Morning
What time should you start the 4x4x48 challenge?
I recommend starting in the morning, and either 4am or 8am are good options.
Starting in the morning means you’re kicking off the challenge after a night’s sleep, so on full battery.
I also generally recommend trying to sleep during the night-time – for those midnight and 4am rounds, consider them sleep interruptions) – and nap excessively.
Any time you feel you can catch 40 winks, go for it.
This is a running challenge, not a ‘go without sleep’ challenge.
Sleep keeps you sane!
5. Keep Moving Between Rounds
That is, when you’re not trying to sleep.
When you’re at home between rounds, keep yourself moving a little – by which I mean walk very gingerly around your house. Don’t sit down and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy between sets of miles, then.
Gentle, occasional movement keeps the blood flowing in your legs, which flushing our lactic acid and promotes recovery.
6. Have Your 4 Mile Loops Planned In Advance
The 4x4x48 challenge is to run exactly 4 miles every 4 hours…so you don’t want to unintentionally go running extra miles, especially early on.
In the days and weeks leading up to your challenge, go and map out at least a couple of 4-mile circuits you can do that start and end at your front door.
- Try and choose flat routes where at all possible; and remember that it’s totally fine to walk hills.
- Choose routes that you can safely and confidently run at all weird times of day and night.
- Try and choose a route that you’re not going to get bored of after running it 12 times (if that’s possible).
Gearing up for a 4x4x48 challenge?
Sound off below – share any questions or other tips you’ve got!
51 thoughts on “Here’s How To Survive The 4x4x48 Challenge”
Hi, I did it a week earlier (aka this past weekend). Started at 10pm Friday night. Started off at just under 8:00/mi pace for first 3 legs with 2 hour sleeps during the night legs then fueled before my 10am run and then got quicker as the challenge progressed.
I kept doing normal stuff so still went shopping carried on decorating and even put together a spin bike on the Sunday. Found getting head down before my 2nd night for a couple of hours then in between the next two helped with getting final few done.
Ended up running my last one fastest with two sub 7 minute miles to finish my challenge sign average pace of 7:33/mi over the 48 miles. Did same undulating out and back route.
Oh and it wasn’t planned. I did a normal training week then so it at 9:30pm Friday night and laced up and did it. Crazy hard but super fun. I documented all my runs over on social media and strava
Thanks for sharing!
Cool to hear you got faster, and managed to sneak in a spin session 😀
Great to hear your experiences, if you could share a link to your Strava / social media posts I’d love to check out your challenge!
I am running it now and documenting it all on my social media and will also make a full video of it all after. Thank you for the tips. I am actually icing now before my midnight run! I have a great support system and my family is coming to the track with me tonight to cheer me on. Going into day 2 🙂
awesome stuff Amanda – let us know how you finish!
That’s awesome Richard I started early also due to my work. I’m on my last leg. I start at 830pm. This is a wicked challenge but I had a lot fun! I ran the first 4 legs then been doing walking and running to save the legs. I’ve posted on instagram for my friends to see.
Hey Tony, thanks for sharing! What’s your Instag handle?
I completed the 4x4x48 challenge on my 48th birthday. My brother in law and I completed it together. Our support crew was awesome and was the reason we completed it. We had help with food. We had our family and friends running some of the legs with us. We had trained for a marathon but the total mileage still was challenging. Sleeping in between legs was harder than I thought it would be. So I agree, any chance to sleep take it. But the biggest advice I would give: have people run the legs with you. Keeps it interesting. Gives you others to talk to about the challenge and how it is going. More people involved makes the challenge more worth it.
Awesome stuff – thanks for the pointers and for sharing your experiences.
Definitely would help in keeping it interesting !
How was your mental game towards the end?
That’s awesome. I did it last weekend on my 47th birthday. Started out with a 9 minute per mile pace, but ended up averaging closer to 10 min per mile. Best advice I have for anyone is to keep moving your legs between runs and stretch before going to sleep. Also prep your food. I ate a ton of bananas because they are easy and fast energy.
great tips, Chris! Well done and thanks for sharing 🙂
I was a soldier, punishment sometimes was to be put on 4 on/4 off. So, never enough time to get sleep. Just that schedule alone made you into a walking zombie after a week. Because I had developed a rare, incurable, degenerative joint disease, my officers decided to punish me in the only way they could, given my condition…
So, I’d get it for a month at a time. No fun.
Im looking forward to Running it this weekend, (5th-7th march)
little bit nervous also, Ive recently decided to start a blog, and this will kick start it,
Ill be logging my experience throughout, last leg will be a local 10k (virtual)
Couple of family members have said they will do a couple of legs with me
Great to hear Andy – thanks for sharing the blog, I’ll be keeping an eye out over the weekend!
Good luck 🙂
Great tips, thank you!! I’m running it this weekend as well. Nerves are kicking in but it’s these challenges that help to add the spice to life.
Nice one, best of luck Cameron!
Hello I’m in midst of the challenge! Been enjoying it a lot so far, maybe except for the lack of sleep, but it’s that type two fun. I’ve gone live with a fellow challenger that I met online that’s doing it also. That has been a fun aspect of it as I don’t know anyone local running it.
My online friend raised a good question, does the run end at 4 pm Sunday or 8 pm Sunday. 8 pm makes sense to me as it’s a more full 48 hours, rather than shorter than 48 hours. And having followed David Goggins for a little while, I don’t think he would support going short. So in the spirit of staying hard, I’ll be doing a 13th run at 8. What do you think?
To me, you’ve got 48hrs to finish the challenge.
Your final running window starts at the 44hr mark and you have 4 hours to complete the last 4 miles if you need it.
If it takes you 30 mins to do those 4 miles, then you finish the challenge in 44hrs and 30 mins!
Feel free to go for a 13th run but it’s not necessary 🙂
Good luck and hope you finish strong
Just finished it at 3 am – great mental challenge! Unusual cold and wind made it harder. Listened to an incredibly inspirational book, which made was a good distraction from boredom and nagging physical “owies” that are going to naturally creep in with this distance. Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle. Don’t forget to eat healthy carbs throughout! Good luck and have fun! Relentless forward progress!
GREAT book! His second book, Barking at the Choir, is great too
Woah! That is an amazing book! Gearing up for mine the last weekend in May!
Great advice! It’s currently 8:00 AM CST and I have three more rounds to go. I certainly underestimated how difficult this challenge would be, and I keep asking myself why I’m even doing it, but in the end, I can assure you that it is well worth it. These are the things you’ll remember, pushing your physical and mental limits is incredibly fulfilling. Don’t run it for the admiration of others, run it to prove something to yourself. By all means, reserve your energy when you can, but don’t quit because you want to, it’s easy to surrender to the overwhelming desire to give your body more rest than it needs, but just go into it knowing you will be uncomfortable and that you will likely regret taking it too easy when it’s all over. Thus far, the hardest part has been just starting each run, but I promise once you get into it you will find a rhythm and that sense of dread will be replaced with determination. I would highly recommend to anyone running this to switch up their route. Rather than running the same road over and over again, switching things up helps a lot mentally and keeps things from getting too repetitive. You can do it!
1st class advice Kellen, I should incorporate this in the article! I hope you finished strong!!
Any eating advice?
Eat real foods, early and often!
Your appetite could well peel off in the latter stages, as sleep deprivation tends to do that.
I’d also recommend taking an energy gel before each 4-mile stage – at the start it may not be necessary, but once you’re say 16hrs+ in to the challenge they might help you round. Just avoid gels with added caffeine as they might keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep 🙂
My husband and I (68 and 63 yrs young) did the challenge that started March 5, 2021 which was our 40th wedding anniversary. Last minute decision and so glad we made it. Had to start 10:00pm central time so not much sleep before we started. But as we’ve gotten older it seems we just don’t get as much anymore. My husband was nice enough to run by my side the whole time even tho he would have finished much sooner than me. We had 10 legs under 49 minutes and 2 legs in the 50’s. We had a total of 48 miles in 9 hours, 7 minutes and 2 seconds. We followed several of your suggestions (food, pad with runs listed and he exercises his legs/back religiously unlike me) and had friends and family out to cheer and run with us. It was an anniversary we will never forget and our daughter made us a great video from our documented before and after entries. Never too old to run!!
That is awesome work – congrats! What a way to celebrate your 40th wedding anniversary, what an inspiration!
Thanks for sharing your story 🙂
Can I please ask everyone that has taken part for some guidance on the type of food you fuelled with on the days prior to starting the challenge and during the challenge, between legs? And also how much water is adviseable as im very conscious of the detrimental effects of drinking too much or too little water, can have on running as long as this challenge entails. Thanks
Just finished the challenge at 1am this morning. It was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am used to running long and on tired legs so knew that the running wouldn’t be an issue. Managing the down time between runs was really important. I managed to get some sleep before the midnight run and also the 4am and just kept the rest of the day very low key. Eating fairly normally but usually quite early after finishing a run to allow time to settle. Definitely having a good support crew and people to run with you will keep you focused when you get to the sharp end of the challenge.
I raised money for Alzheimer Society during the run and was really overwhelmed by the level of support that I received.
Fabulous challenge – go for it
Great to hear, Audrey – congratulations on completing it !!
Hi – considering this challenge next month (4th March).
Do you have to start the 4 miles every 4 hours i.e. at midnight then 4am then 8am or could you run 4 miles between 7am and 8am then 4 miles from 8am to 9am. So run 8 miles in one go in 2 of the 4 hour sections ? Has anyone done that or would that be even more difficult ? I’m thinking I could get a slightly longer sleep in between runs
The format is 4 miles every 4 hours, I’m not sure anyone has been smart enough to ‘batch’ them like you suggest! Did you find any record of anyone doing the same?
Just completed it, walked the entire thing on a treadmill – age 59. The biggest challenge I had are/were blisters, keep changing your socks and such. For the treadmill there is probably more of a challenge of mental fatigue, I tackled this by watching some bad-action movies. I started 8pm on a Thu so I could complete it by 4pm Sat to allow me to relax prior to the following work week.
Wow – impressive stuff doing it on a treadmill – the mental game involved is surely enough of a challenge.
Just about to finish my last leg! Thanks for the tips! I ran in Iowa in 10-20 degrees most of the time and needed heavy duty gear. Made it though!!! Good work everyone!
I’m halfway through the challenge right now, and my legs are totally mush. I feel like I’m holding up okay mentally, though you’re right about losing the ability to do maths. I’ve been able to sleep between the night rounds so I’m okay there.
I totally recommend planning everything you need to eat beforehand. My wife helped me prep my foods. We packed it in individual servings, so all I need to do is warm one and eat it. Decisions are already made. Also have some extra light snacks ready in case your planned portions aren’t enough fuel.
I have a few friends following me virtually. I made my checklist online and shared it with them so they could see my progress. And I’m texting after each leg, even the night ones. One friend is up in the middle of the night with a baby, so he replies with some encouragement. It’s amazing how much just a text helps with morale.
I didn’t think about chapstick or sunblock before I started, but my wife had some for me when I realized they were needed. Also, don’t forget about anti-chafing care. In 4 miles it’s not so much of an issue, but it snuck up on me in about the third round.
At halfway through, I’m hating this challenge. But I think at the end I’ll be glad I did it. All I can think of now is my sore legs.
I ended up walking most of Sunday, but in the end I managed to find some more strength for the last four miles. I completed the 4x4x48 at about 5:00 pm Sunday.
I learned some things from doing this. First, I was a lot less prepared physically than I thought. Second, planning ahead was the only thing that made this possible. Third, a lot more of this is mental than I realized.
Support from friends was important, even if they weren’t there with me. That text at 5:15 am helped me start the 8:00 am run a little more determined.
My wife said this was stupid and insane. She didn’t want me to do it. But she helped me prep, cooked for me, and supported me.
The first 4 miles and the last 4 miles felt amazing The challenge is in the 40 miles in between. Those are all about enduring. The midnight and 4:00 am rounds are dark, cold, lonely, and sleep deprived. They’re the big test of your mental drive. The daytime rounds are where you see other people doing normal stuff (grilling at the park, walking dogs) and you’re sore and tired and still pushing through.
I’m glad I did this. It seemed impossible a few months ago, and I think I can do it again next year, but go into it stronger physically. Thanks, Thomas, for this article. I wouldn’t have been prepared enough to do this without your recommendations.
I’m doing the 75 hard program and during this time I’ve been doing plenty long distance runs. I am 22 years old and plan to do the 4x4x48 on day 75, the day before I turn 23. Yes, single day. What would suggestions be for someone who would want to complete in a single day?… I have time to train accordingly. Day 75 is April 15th. (Yes, I planned to end 75 hard the day before my 23rd birthday).
Great stories, tips, and experiences. Kudo to anyone who gives it a go whether you finish or not.
Just wrapped this beast today. I’m a competitive mountain biker and don’t run much. So as a twist, I did it with a #25 weight vest and rucked it. Made it through 10 rotations, then did the last 2 without for fear of an injury.
Midnight and 0400 were the toughest, but got thru it with pandora and a latte with cream and maple syrup.
Happy that I can still do things like this at 60.
Great inspiration Mark, I’m contemplating this challenge, I’ve just turned 58 so if you can do it at 60, them I can surely do it as well.
Fantastic tips! I’m planning on doing the challenge to celebrate my 53rd birthday in May. Regarding the logging of the runs, do you pause your watch at the end of each 4 miles and hit start when you start the next (so you end up having one 48-mile event), or do you log each 4-mile run as an individual run (so 12 4-mile events)? Thanks! And all the best to all doing this challenge!
Well after reading this magnificent article, I’m planning to do this crazy challenge. I’ll tell you what the result is. Greetings from the south of Spain
Just graduated from Grad School at age 48, and I’m doing this to celebrate. My husband thought we should go sky diving but I chose this. When I told my husband this is how I wanted to celebrate graduation he thought I was crazy but he was totally up to join me. We have a group of friends we do triathlons with and some of them are going to join, and one of my daughters, my other daughter said she would be our support staff. 🙂 I’m excited we will start September 23rd. It should be fun!!!
Took on this challenge on the weekend just been!
Thanks for all the tips! Definitely found the planning and preparation tips useful.
I started at 4pm here in NZ after a day of work and got through it all good, actually surprisingly well. Even got ran my fastest lap last going 27 minutes. I found the 12am’s, 4am’s and 8am’s hardest as my body relaxed while I slept, so I’d maybe recommend some compression gear to help with that while you rest.
I kept notes throughout, recording what I ate and how much water I took on which probably kept me sane.
All round I really enjoyed it and it has now motivated me to give an ultra a go!
If anyone is interested my runs are on my highlights @jasonhodge07, flick me a message if ya got any questions 🙂
I haven’t seen this mentioned by anyone in the comments, but I believe that the original Goggins challenge has the rule that you must complete your 4 miles of each 4-hour period within an hour — so the slowest you could do is a 15 min/mile pace, which is a fairly speedy walk. Were the people posting here following that rule? For me, that would ramp up the difficulty a lot, especially getting further along in the challenge.
You can also consider to do the ultra interval challenge (too).
A great challenge 8x10k in 24 hours.
I do this as a fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project. 2020 I did the 4x4x48, 2021 I upped it to 5x4x84, & 2022 took a break was diagnosed w/ Hashimotos. This year I’m healthy enough to continue & were going for 5X4X112. Each time is a new experience, adventure & flat out torture. I don’t focus on speed, or I’ll burn out faster & it takes a toll on my body when I have rests in between. Last challenge I burned over 10k calories & I’m pretty sure I inhaled bowls of pasta which I normally don’t eat. Towards the end of the 112 hours I had a mental war with myself & my feet felt like they were in lava with shredded glass. So far it’s helped raise close to $14k for WWP & got the whole community supporting it.
FB: Annual Wounded Warrior Project Fundraiser Run
Just started this morning at 8am! Just finished my second leg. Feels all mental at this point. But I know by the 6th interval, my legs are gonna hate me. But I’m getting after it! Thanks for all the tips guys