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races, Training

Ultra Distance Racing Is On the Rise

USMC Marathon

Image via Wikipedia

By Alix Shutello

Runners who manage to finish marathons sometimes to on to finish a multitude of marathons and decide to step things up a bit. That very next step past that 26.2 mile mark puts you into the ultra distance category (at least in running).  Why do more and more of us take the plunge? It could be for a multitude of reasons:

1. We humans are always looking for the next best challenge.
2. The ultra-distance race is becoming the new marathon.
3. Popular marathons fill up so fast it’s getting annoying to register for them.

But it’s more than just the next big challenge that pushes us. Dean Karnazes said to me in an email:

“I think ultramarathoers are captivated by the abilities of the human body, mind and spirit. In breaking down physical and mental barriers, they remove limitations from other elements of their lives and ultimately live a deeper and richer existence.

Why do I do it? I run hundred mile and greater footraces because … I am captivated with seeing how far the human body can go.  To test and expand the limits of human endurance has always fascinated and enthralled me. I believe the modern world might have things a bit confused. I think we have become so comfortable, we’re miserable. Personally, I never feel more alive than when I am in extreme pain and discomfort; when I’m pushing my mind and body to the absolute extreme. This is where I feel most whole and in touch with the universe.”

—Dean Karnazes 


David Schurr from California documented his time as a pacer for his friend, John, who competed in the Wasatch 100 mile ultra race in Utah last fall.  Both survived running through the night, a large breakfast which brought on wicked cramps, and oxygen-depleted decision-making which caused them to run bare naked in the mountains and practically freeze to death. David’s story is Finishing the Grand Slam: Pacing at Wasatch.

Chris Roman, an ultra runner from Jacksonville, Florida wrote a detailed rerport about his adventures running 340 miles through Brazil in January 2011. I talked with Chris on Sunday, February 6 about ultra running, the community, the competition, and his opinion on meeting Dean when he was completing his 50 marathons in 50 days event and what it was like to be the only person to finish the inaugural Erie Canal 363 run last September.  Read my story, Ultra Running: 7.5  days, 340 miles.

Athletes out there are doing amazing things. What have you been up to? Write me at editor@runnersillustrated.com. I am always looking to do great stories on all runners, race directors, companies with great products and more.

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