Is your bucket-list about to get serious?

Ultrarunning comes of age.

Addie Women's Champ

Addie Green on her way to first place at Badwater Cape Fear.

“It wasn’t long after doing my first few marathons that I began to wonder what it was like to go beyond.  Glutton for punishment?… Maybe.”  Addie Green, Treasure Coast Ultrarunner began to look beyond the traditional Marathon’s 26.2 miles in 2013, just before interest in ultrarunning began to boom.

An “Ultra” as it is usually called is any running race longer than a Marathon.  Typically the distances for these extreme endurance tests range from 50 kilometers up to 200 miles or they are timed races from 6 hours to 6 days!  Who does this, and why?

“The culture of Ultrarunners is what it used to be in Marathon runners in the 70’s and 80’s.”  Says Mike Melton, old-school Ultrarunner, and owner of MCM Timing, the company that runs or handles the timing for many Ultramarathons worldwide.  “It’s the new bucket list item for people looking for an extreme accomplishment.”   And, these days more and more people are adding the Ultramarathon to their bucket-list.

Mike M. make pre race announcements at Skydive Ultra.

Mike Melton making last minute announcements at Skydive 100.

When he ran the Ancient Oaks 100 for the first time in 2004 there were only about 20 people running.  In recent years Melton, who is now the race director for that race which loops through the Enchanted Forest Preserve in Titusville, FL every December, says that he has to cap athletes at 60 but that he gets nearly 200 applicants.

“I started Ultra’s 10 years ago and was stunned to find out they had already been going on for 20 to 30 years.” Says Will Glover, Ultramarathon coach and veteran of epic races like the 135 mile Death Valley race “Badwater” and “Leadville 100” the Colorado Rockies extreme trail race that takes competitors to elevations over 12,000 feet.  “I remember lining up with 10 or 20 people on a 100-mile race and asking where the start line was, ‘how about right here’ was the response.  Now, depending on the race there may be banners, loudspeakers and sometimes music.”

Glover at Leadville Trail 100

Will Glover at Leadville Trail 100.

And this trend seems to be ubiquitous.  In 2004 Ancient Oaks was the only 100-mile race in Florida.  Now, there are about 30 Ultramarathons in the state.  A search on Ultrarunning Magazine lists 646 Ultramarathons worldwide.

So, what makes a reasonable person, who is training for, and running marathons target the seemingly impossible Ultra?  “I had peaked at the marathon distance.”  Says Mike Peragine, winner of three 100-mile races and two-time champion of Skydive 100.  “…having run Boston, having run sub 3 hours, I had hit my ceiling.  I would spend years training to shave off seconds, maybe a few minutes?  All to run the same distance, in the same cities, it just wasn’t appealing.  But ultra-marathons, 100-milers?  So many new challenges await…”

It’s not just the distance that appeals to Ultrarunners.  “Can you run trails, beaches, mountains, elevation, 50 miles, 100 miles, over 100 miles, for 24 hours, 48 hours, 6 days?  Since I have transitioned to ultra running I have barely scratched the surface on what is available in terms of racing and challenging myself.” Continued Peragine.

The ups and downs of Ultra Running

Mike Peragine on his way to First Place at Skydive 100.

Maybe it’s just the natural progression of endurance running.  Running as a sport has boomed through the 1990’s and 2000’s.  According to Running USA there was 4.5 million individual Running Event Finishes in 1990, by 2013 that number swelled to over 19 million.

“As the Marathon was a bucket list item back then…” Says Melton, talking about the 70’s and 80’s era of Marathon Running “Well, for those seeking extreme challenges “the Ultra is the new Bucket List.”

Want to ramp up your Bucket List?  Get ready to get serious.  “Everything about training changes… for me at least…”  Green suggests.  “What used to take a few hours on a weekend morning now takes the entire weekend.”  She says about her training. And she should know, Green has four top two overall finishes in races over 50K in the last two and a half years, including Women’s Champion at “Badwater Cape Fear 50K” and “Skydive 100” where she currently holds the course record.  Peragine says the biggest difference in his move to Ultrarunning is adding more cross training like lifting, spinning, rowing,  powerwalking, tire pulling, etc.  “Also more mental training. Running small loops, repeatedly to get ready for looped courses.  Running overnight to get used to running sleep-deprived.”

As with any endurance training, a smart plan and a will to accomplish your goal will be paramount.  “You must trust the training process and believe you can!” Advises Glover.  “It’s okay to be afraid, that means you’re living and pushing your boundaries.  By no means is it easy, no one has ever said otherwise, but it’s worth it.”

Ultra Marathon Post Finish

Post Race check-up…


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