What is an ultramarathon?

Welcome back. I hope that my posts so far have been interesting to you- I’ve seen quite nice stats showing that my TUT race report was well received.

I’ve got valuable feedback from a couple of people that rather than following my blog on Facebook or Twitter they’d prefer to get a notification email when new content is posted. Therefore I’ve now added a field to enter your email address on¬†the blog. It’s simple- whenever I post something you will get an automated email message. I promise not to spam you too much on top of that ūüôā If you’re interested then please test this new mechanism and feed back to me if it’s not woking properly- I’m doing a fair bit of tinkering with the settings and it’s easy to break something…

That’s it on the admin side. Let me now elaborate on what actually is an ultramarathon. The most common and generally widely accepted definition states that an ultramarathon is a foot race longer than a marathon, i.e. 42.195 km.¬†Usually you can see ultramarathons on the following distances:

  • 50 km,
  • 50 miles (80 km),
  • 100 km,
  • 100 miles (160 km),
  • 200 km and more but these are not so common,
  • There are also races with a ‘non-round’ length such as UK’s Ridgeway Challenge (86 miles) or Polish Bieg Ultra Grania Tatr (BUGT- 71km/44-ish miles),
  • What can be considered a subcategory for each of the above are mountain races where the challenge lies not only in the long distance but also in varying altitude. For example French CCC offers 6.1 km elevetion¬†gain over 101 km race distance, or in case of BUGT in Poland 5 km elevation gain over 71 km.

We also have another category for 12-hour, 24-hour, or 48-hour races. There the runners need to cover as much ground as possible within the prescribed time. Usually this done in the form of 5-km/5-mile/10-km laps, so whoever covers the most laps within the race time wins. For instance, in 2012 24-hour World Championships Michael Morton (USA) won the title with  277.5 km!

Into the next category fall the stage or multi-day races such as Marathon Des Sables (Morocco), or Cape Wrath Ultra (UK). Such races are staged over a few days or over a week, when each day the competitors have a set distance to run. At the end of each stage all competitors finish in a camp where they are usually provided with sleeping area, all amenities, food and drink. Usually, because in some races the participants need to carry their food supplies, clothes and sleeping bag all the time! The challenge of such race comes from the fact that usually each stage is an ultramarathon on its own, so the competitor needs to be able to run 6 or 7 ultramarathons in a row, often in challenging conditions such as Nepalese high altitude (Everest Trail Race), Saharan heat (Marathon Des Sables), or Costarican heat & humidity (The Coastal Challenge).

Here’s the data when it comes to my ultra running experience- number of races I finished:

  • 14 races between¬†50-100 km (31-62 miles)
  • 18 races between¬†100-120 km (62-75 miles)
  • 1 86 mile race
  • 1 100 mile race
  • 0 n-hour or multi-day races

All of those 34 races I have run within the last 10 years, but the vast majority of them just recently (1 in 2017, 8 in 2016, 9 in 2015, 3 in 2014, 1-2 per year in all earlier years). I’ve significantly intensified my training since 2015 and hope to keep this trend up going forward.¬†One thing I would love to do in the time frame of next few years would be to run in a multi-day race, but I’m not ready yet for that- I’ll need to be in a much better shape than I have been lately. Moreover, most of the great multi-day races cost a little fortune to enter, but that’s a story for another time.

In the next episode I’ll recap my story of ¬†progression from no running to running 8-9 ultramarathons per year.

All the best, Marcin

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