Don’t freak out, but one thing that has been intriguing me lately is the concept of ultra marathons. Do I want to run one? Well considering I haven’t run a full (regular) marathon in 5 years and actually consider myself a “Born-Again-Marathon-Virgin,” I probably won’t be signing up for an ultra anytime soon. (Let’s see if I can make it through NYC first, mmkay?) However, always willing to read about anything running or nutrition related, the concept of ultras and their necessary preparation is totally fascinating to me.
Plus, all sorts of books like this keep arriving on my doorstep:
The other member of my household may or may not be considering an ultra in 2012. An ultra marathoner’s “crew” is an integral part of the successful completion of an ultra marathon. Since the other member of my household’s “crew” would essentially consist of “me” – I have been doing my research on other ultra marathoner’s experiences, lessons learned, and best practices.
I recently stumbled upon UltraRunnerPodcast.com and am absolutely loving their podcasts and interviews. I recently listened to their interview with Sunny Blende (a sports nutritionist and ultra marathoner). Sunny was also quoted in Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, saying that ultra marathoning is, “an eating and drinking contest, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in.” (Here’s an excellent article written by Sunny from UltraRunning.com.) It’s no surprise that the nutrition and fueling aspect of ultra marathon training is absolutely crucial. While you can mmmaybe finish a marathon with improper planning and sole reliance on gel and Gatorade stands (blasphemy!) an ultra marathoner’s success is completely up to the preparation of them and their crew. Aid stations spread throughout a 50+ mile trail course in the middle of nowhere are few and far between. Literally. Smart preparation is a must; along with being sure your mathematical skills are intact! The ultra marathoner’s nutrition plan is a precise calculation of calories, electrolytes, sugars, and water consumed and expended on an hourly basis.
Here are some fun ultra marathon facts that I’ve compiled from my research that you may or may not know!
- An ultra marathon is any race distance over 26.2 miles.
- An ultra may be organized as a distance event (e.g. a 50-mile race) or a timed event (how many miles you can run in 24 hours?)
- Many ultra marathoners plan their long runs in terms of hours, rather than mileage. Like, “Today I’m planning a 3-hour run” instead of “I’m planning a 20-miler”.
- Walking is quite common (and often necessary!) during ultras. Many ultra marathoners recommend walking during uphills.
- There are several hundred ultras held throughout the U.S every year (Huh?? where ARE these events??)
- One of the most popular ultras in the U.S. is Western States, which is the world’s oldest 100-mile trail run, held in California. You must qualify to enter the lottery, and if you do get in (which only happens to 10% of applicants), your visa will be charged a whopping $370 (makes me feel a little better about NYC)
- Badwater, another famous ultra, is considered “The world’s toughest foot race” and consists of 135-miles from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA, of which must be completed in under 48 hours. Reported temperatures during Badwater are upwards of 130 degrees. Runners must to apply for entry, and only 90 runners are accepted. Crap I missed the application deadline.
I’m clearly in the beginning of my ultra research, but it is all so fascinating, not to mention quite motivating. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out UltraRunnerPodcast.com – even if you’re not considering running an ultra. Their interviews include tons of useful running-related nutrition and training advice.
Q: Ever consider an ultra marathon? Got any ultra facts to add to the list?