David Goggins 4x4x48 challenge; Tips and My Account
So I did the David Goggins 4X4X48 challenge last week, and I thought I would help any would-be challengers with my thoughts on the experience. If you don’t know what the 4X4X48 challenge is I explain it in detail in the blog post below. But in a nutshell, you have to run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. Sounds pretty ok actually, but it can be a little more challenging than people realise!
I did it with 3 friends last week here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2 of us are pretty fit, and 1 hadn’t run in a while, so my experience and blog post should help anyone across a whole spectrum of abilities. Let’s have a look in more depth:
What is the David Goggins 4X4X48 challenge?
First of all, what is the 4X4X48 challenge? David Goggins (legend of a guy, if you don’t kno whim, check him out here. There are literally only a handful of people in this world who I look up to and admire, and Goggins is out in 1st place. Hero.
Anyway, Goggins invented the concept of the 4X4X48 ‘race’ to help people get involved in more hard-core events. I’ll explain more on ‘the WHY’ below. So with the 4X4X48 it’s simple. Run 4 miles (6.44km) every 4 hours for 48 hours. How does that work practically? A little like this, using my personal experience last week:
- Wednesday 12.00 (MIDDAY): Run 4 miles, 6.44km. This normally takes a runner between 30 mins to an hour depending on your level. If you walk it, it could take 1.5 hours. 1/12 RUNS!
- Wednesday 16.00 (4pm): Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Wednesday 20.00 (8pm): Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 00.00 (MIDNIGHT): Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 04.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 08.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 12.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 16.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Thursday 20.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Friday 00.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Friday 04.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km
- Friday 08.00: Run 4 miles, 6.44km. 12/12 RUNS COMPLETE!
This is the schedule I used. But you can of course choose any time to start or finish. Just stick to the ‘every 4 hours’ from the starting time and you’re all set. I choose a midday start so I would finish in the morning around 9am. That worked for my personal schedule.
What’s the total distance run in the 4X4X48 challenge? 50 MILES?!
You run 4 miles 12 times. So the total distance is 48 miles, or 77.25km over the 2 days. Combined with walking around, going about your other tasks in the day you end up covering 50 miles/80km during the 2 days. Remember a marathon is 26 miles, so it’s just shy of 2 marathons over 2 days.
When do you sleep?!
That’s the whole challenge! Yes, you have to set your alarm for every 4 hours. So that means throughout 2 nights in a row you don’t get to sleep so much. If you’re quite fit, figure on 40 minutes or so for the run. Then 20 minutes for shower/cool down, maybe another 15-30 minutes to prepare food, do whatever else you need to do. Then you want to wake up maybe 20/30 minutes before your next run to get electrolytes, salt tablets, nutrition, gear sorted. All being well, for example, your night runs will be like this:
4AM RUN to 8AM RUN:
- Alarm for 4Am run set for 3.30am. Prepare your food, drinks, warm-up etc.
- Run from 04.00 to 04.45 (for example).
- 04.45-5.15/5.30 shower, cool down, eat, (try to) get to sleep.
- Alarm for 8AM run set for 7.30am
- TOTAL SLEEP BETWEEN RUNS: About 2 hours or so.
- If you get 2 hours between your midnight run and 4a, run, and another 2hours sleep between 4am run and 8am run then that’s 4 hours total. Just about enough to survive. Then repeat for the 2nd night.
Why you should do the David Goggins 4X4X48 challenge
The first question lots of people ask is WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THE 4X4X48 CHALLENGE?! And the answer, much like anything difficult in life, is that if you have to ask then it’s probably not for you.
But let me try to answer it:
1: DON’T BE A SPECTATOR ALL YOUR LIFE
This is HUGE. In a time where people just consume content. Tiktok, IG, Twitter, Facebook. 5 seconds of consumption. On to the next one. We follow athletes, we overdose on aspirational content. One day that could be us. One day. But it never comes. We just consume more. The 4X4X48 challenge can put an end to that. Don’t be a spectator. DO IT YOURSELF. This is a tough challenge, but not TOO tough. You can do it. Anyone can. Even if you’re out of shape now, within a month or 2 of training you could walk it, for sure. So why not do it? If not now, then when?
2: YOU HAVE TO KNOW PAIN TO KNOW PLEASURE
The more struggles you overcome, the more you appreciate just where you are in life. You’ll never know the pure joy of a cold glass of water, of a roof over your head, an embrace of a loved one until you’ve suffered through an endurance event. Admittedly, the 4X4X48 isn’t quite as extreme as other challenges, but it’ll give you a taste of the reality that ‘you have to know pain to know pleasure’. Seek discomfort. You’re better in the long run for it.
3: FILL THE COOKIE JAR
This one is straight from David Goggins himself. To paraphrase, every time you do something tough and come out the other side, you put a cookie in a mental cookie jar. They’re hard-earned, but they stay there forever. Next time you face something tough, and you doubt yourself, you simply open that mental cookie jar and take a bite out of one of those cookies. Instant power, belief and energy. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it now too. The fuller that cookie jar gets, the bigger and better your achievements, and future goals will be.
4: LEARN TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Setting a goal, emotionally committing to and then seeing it through to the end it is the life hack to end all life hacks. Success breeds success. By signing up to a challenge like this, and then overcoming it, you’re teaching yourself that you can and will achieve your goals. Goal setting and the subsequent achievement is addictive. Create the loop. Be the best version of yourself.
5: A STEPPING STONE TO REAL CHALLENGES
The 4x4X48 is great. 50 miles over 2 days is no joke. But it’s not Mount Everest either. That’s the beauty of it. It’s the PERFECT level of difficult to face your demons, and beat them back. And once you’ve come through this nasty little run, the world is your oyster. What’s next? A marathon? Sure. An ultra-marathon? Why not. Even Everest?! Let’s do it, I’m heading there in 6 months to tackle it too!
David Goggins 4X4X48 challenge TIPS AND ADVICE
So having finished the 4X4X48, what would my tips be to you guys to make sure you have a successful challenge? Let’s have a look:
You don’t have to be a scientist to get your nutrition right, don’t worry. But you should definitely have a few things ready. I’d make sure to have these stocked:
- Salt Tablets (take 1 before each run, and 1 after). So you need 25 of them.
- Electrolytes (basically drink them constantly with your water throughout the 48 hours). 20 or so sachets should cover you.
- Pain killers. If you’re not used to the stop-start nature of endurance events, you’ll need pain killers for the last couple of runs.
- Energy gels: At the minimum, take 1 before each night run. They’re a cheat mode!
- Food: You’ll burn approximately 6,000 additional calories during the 48 hours. Plus your normal burning of calories by simply living. That means you’ll burn around 10,000 calories. You should aim to eat after every day-time run. It’s easier if you have it already in your house, stocked. Plenty of carbs, plenty of protein. And some sugary stuff to give you a lift. Have an idea for 8 meals already in mind.
The beauty of running is that you can do it with almost nothing. You don’t need to be rich, you just need to be motivated. So with the 4X4X48. it’s the same. What you do need though:
- Running sneakers. Ultra cushioned is best (Hoka, Nike zoom etc), but any sneakers are fine. Don’t overthink.
- Multiple shorts and t-shirts. Ideally you only want to do laundry once, so that means you need 6 sets of T-Shirts and shorts, then rewash and dry and go again for the 2nd set of 6.
- Vaseline/Tape. Your nipples, groin, inside leg may start to chafe and rub. Your toes may even blister or bleed if you’re new to adventure. Tape and Vaseline can help this.
- Charged earphones for each run, if you need them.
- A head-torch for the night runs.
The whole ethos about this challenge isn’t about nutrition, or gear. It’s about challenging yourself. So you need to get your mindset right. Here’s how:
- Set a time to do this. Do that today. Next weekend? A month from now? Choose it, and own it.
- There will be times that you hate it. And hate yourself for signing up for it. And hate either David Goggins, or me, for introducing you to it. Silence the inner bitch. You knew you were going to suffer. You signed up to suffer. And now you’re suffering. It’s a blessing. This is what you’re here for.
- The night runs are the worst. You feel underslept, groggy, it’s dark, it may be windy and raining. You’re here to challenge yourself. The worse the conditions, the better the challenge. Tell yourself this time and time again.
- It sounds simple but don’t quit. Don’t give yourself an excuse to quit. Clear your schedule. Tell your loved ones. You’re committed. You’re going to feel niggles, your body is going to tell you that it hurts, and you might be injured. “Better quit now, your calf muscle is tight“. Ignore that noise. If you quit at the first hurdle, you’re never going to achieve you want in life. Get it done. Walk if you have to. It’s only 4 miles each time. You can do it. Limp, struggle, crawl. If you commit to, finish it.
- “Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done“
- If possible, do it with friends. Suffering together softens the blow.
- Do it at and around your home. You’re already out of your mental comfort zone, no need to go out of your physical one too, unless necessary.
- Scope out a 4 mile ‘route’ in the days leading up to the challenge, and repeat the same route 12 times. Don’t waste energy stressing about distances during the challenge.
- DON’T USE NEW SNEAKERS ON RACE DAY!
The 4X4X48 challenge; My Personal Experience
I won’t bore you guys too much with the details as many of you know me, but I’ve taken on my fair share of challenges over the last 3 of 4 years. If you want a recap on some of the stuff since I finished my journey to every country, here we go:
I’m now in training for my Mount Everest expedition with Furtenbach Adventures in April 2023, so I had been in decent shape leading up to the Goggins challenge. That changed when I got a slap lesion tear in my shoulder 2 months ago, which i think means the tendon is detached from the bone (eeek), meaning I had a full6 or 7 weeks of COMPLETE rest. No exercise at all. That didn’t heal it for the record. So I started training and now just work around it, tough but Everest is coming.
So, I wanted to get right back into the depths of training. What better way than to get in the deep end and do something like this. I have suffered a lot on multi day expeditions, ultra marathons etc before, so I figured even if i’m not super fit at the moment, I know if the going gets tough, I’ll be able to blast through the self-doubt.
I asked a couple of friends on a whatsapp group Chat and 2 of them, Jamie and Charlie, said yes. Next wednesday boys? Sure. You can crash at mine for the 2 nights? Cool. Done.
And so wednesday came. I had been busy with life admin, so had done a grand total of zero food and nutrition preparation. I did have a drawer full of salt tablets, electrolytes and energy gels from a recent 50km run I did, so I figured that plus food delivery would be all good. And so it was.
I started at midday, with the thought that I’ll get a couple of easy day-time runs in now. Nice temperature. no stress. Then I’ll only have 10 more sets left. Also, then at the end of the 48 hours, the last run will be at 8am. That gives me a whole day to recover. Sounds perfect.
Charlie and Jamie came around to mine and we started. The 1st 2 runs we did slowly, chatting, barely breaking a sweat. I’ve just built a house in Chiang Mai, so the boys used the new swimming pool to cool off after each run. Also, we had World Cup football to watch each evening too, so the first day was super enjoyable.
FIRST NIGHT RUNS
I lay my head on the pillow around 11pm, alarm set for 11.30pm. A bit groggy, we did our first night run together. It wasn’t so bad. Kinda cool actually. Shower, bit of refueling, and then try to sleep for the 4am run. When the alarm went at 3.30, that wasn’t so lovely! This time, I thought “time to speed up, and try to get a cheeky extra 30 minutes sleep when I’m back” so I left the boys to chat and ran off on my own at a slightly faster speed.
Back to nap, and up again at 7.30am for our first run of Day 2. The sun rises in Thailand around 6am, so the first run of Day 2 was joyous. Our circadian rhythm has kicked in. Happy to be awake, and alive, and doing something fun. I ran this morning faster again, although not exactly ‘fast’. No earphones, trying to appreciate the experience.
I actually slept then after the 8am run. Slept from 9.30am to 11.30am, then did the 12 run. Solo, no earphones, sun shining. It was lovely. And the rest of the day was wonderful to be honest.
Anthony, another friend came around. And the 4 of us ate, chatted, caught up, joked around all afternoon. 4pm run, 8pm run. All good. A great day. World cup in the evening. We only had 3/12 runs left.
I had heard the last 3 runs are the toughest, physically and mentally. My last 3 runs were middnight, 4am and 8am. So midnight and 4am were the last night runs, and then 8am to see it through. I didn’t love waking up for the midnight run, and even less for the 4am run. I was feeling a little sleep deprived, and for the first time my muscles hurt a little. I was thankful for the energy gels for each of those runs, and I cracked and used earphones for the 2 night runs.
I know Jamie and Charlies times slowed down a bit for these last 3 runs, and they were hobbling a bit, so be aware it’s at this stage it starts to feel like a physical challenge, especially if you haven’t got experience suffering through this kind of stuff. But as long as you can take one more step, you can keep going. Walk if you have to.
Anyway, after the 4am run, I had one left. Alarm set for 7.30am. I had wanted to run a 29min 4 miles for the 12th run. But my muscles weren’t loving it, so as soon as I began running, I knew that wasn’t going to happen! I finished in about 34 minutes, and waited fro the boys. Hugs alround and job done.
We all had a coffee and they headed home. I whacked on some laundry, met my mum for brunch in Chiang Mai, and then got back to my laptop. I had planned to work during the challenge but that went out the window on Day 1. So time to catch up. We did it!
My final thoughts on the 4X4X48 David Goggins Challenge
I enjoyed it! Personally, I thought from a physical standpoint it was maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. BUT please remember I’ve done a lot of this stuff in the last few years. The lack of sleep though made it more annoying, than difficult. Then again, that’s a challenge in itself!
If you’ve never run through the night, this is a brilliant first step. And if you’ve never run a marathon, this is a brilliant first step. If you’ve never cracked 50km+, this is a brilliant first step. All-in-all, if you’re an experienced endurance athlete, this is a lovely little fun adventure to join the crowds and keep in shape. And if you’re new to suffering, then this is tailor-made for you.
Go dark, see what you’re made of. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Enjoy!