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Ultra marathon races are getting ridiculously long

03 Sep, 2019 • by Admin

So-called “ultra-marathon runners” contest races from 35 miles (56km) to 100 miles (160km)—and occasionally further—in a single stage.

The marathon race has long been considered the ultimate test of human endurance. But the last few decades have seen growing numbers of runners regularly tackling distances exceeding the traditional marathon.

Not long ago, a runner planning to race 50 miles in one go would have been branded a maniac. But today more and more runners are making the leap to ultra running.

An ultra is certainly a serious undertaking, but it’s achievable if you follow some clear guidelines, and have a solid training plan and plenty of determination. Instead, it is now commonly believed that the human body is more than capable of taking on ultra-distance running, and so the popularity of such events has grown substantially in recent years.

Ultra-marathon events are no longer reserved for elite endurance athletes, they now attract runners of a wide range of abilities. Here are a few essential things you need to know about ultra-running if you are thinking about going the distance.

What Is ultra-marathon?

Ultra-marathon is the long distance running sport that has taken shape around ultramarathons or ultra-distance races. An ultra distance race is typically a race of any distance beyond 26.2 miles.

The most common races begin at 50K, or 31.069 miles, and can span up to 100 miles long. Ultra races can take place on roads, trails or tracks, and due to their recent popularity, more than 70,000 athletes compete in ultra races each year.

Several decades ago, ultra races were limited to just a few. Today, the ultrarunner has her choice of hundreds of races in varying terrain and locations. Serious competitors might select a race through the Alps in Switzerland, the jungles of Madagascar, or even across the ice of Antarctica.

Get really really ready

Each race will have necessary information available on its website, so study in detail the course maps, mandatory equipment lists, and previous race photos and videos to get a sense and feeling for it. Facebook groups are another way to connect with previous racers and ask questions about the course and the challenges you may not know about.

The more you can learn about your ultra, the more mentally prepared you will be when you think you’re getting close to your breaking point. Also, see if you must be medically cleared before taking the starting line; many ultras require a medical certificate verifying that you are in good health to run.

You can run really slowly

In ultra-marathons the tortoise beats the hare. The key to covering 40 miles without collapsing in a heap is taking your time. As no one in your office knows what a good time is for a 40-miler, clock-watching and PBs are largely forgotten. Though people race hard at the front, most just relax, enjoy the views, socialise, and eat a lot of cake. It's amazing what your body can do given half a chance.

You can even use trekking poles

It's a bit controversial and some races don't allow them, but poles can help your posture and muscle preservation. Every race also has a mandatory kit list, usually including a map, compass, phone, first aid, spare clothes, food and drink, so while you may feel a bit like you're back in Boy Scouts, it's heaven for kit collectors.

You'll make lots of friends

Being on the ultra circuit can be a bit like travelling the world solo. You're out there all alone, having a brilliant time, but it's a shame not to share the best bits with someone. Making new friends is inevitable and you'll be swapping life stories before you know it. Just try to befriend runners with good navigation skills.

And while it may seem like a solitary pursuit, long distance running actually makes you feel very social. You have to concentrate on the terrain underfoot so much that you spent more time in the moment than usual, which has the effect of making you happier and more talkative.

Being out in the wilderness alone

The point of these ultra-marathons is not so much the physical challenge, but the challenge of being out in the wilderness alone. Unlike marathon races where you almost always have runners beside you, in front of you, and behind you, ultra-marathon races are so long that runners eventually spread out and often end up running alone.

It’s good to get comfortable running for long periods of time without anyone else around. If you’ve already run a few marathons, then you’re certainly fit enough to run an ultra. A more important question to ask yourself is if you have enough mental strength.

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