Ultra…the new marathon

With the ever increasing popularity of running, the number of people tackling both half and full marathons is on the rise. So it should come as no surprise that more and more of us are pushing the our boundaries beyond the marathon.

There is currently only one word to describe runs which are longer than 26.2 miles and that word is ‘Ultra’.

At first you may think that there is little different between an ultra and any other run other than the distance, but in truth ultras come in all different shapes and sizes, and are as different to each other as a 5k is to a marathon.

While some ultras like the Cotswold 100 are entirely ran on the road, most are ran largely ran over trails. Races like the Montane Lakeland 100 or Hardmoors 60 have personalities of their own, taken from the dramatic landscapes through which they pass and the characters the people that live there.

As with any new challenge, there are many new disciplines to master. Some of the longer races cover a hundred miles or more, which necessitate having to run through the night not once but twice, and if you think night navigation can be tough, try it after 36 hours without sleep.

Possibly the most important factor to consider is nutrition. Nutrition is can be make or break for an Ultra runner. Getting the right balance of salts, sugars, carbs, proteins and taking on just the right amount of water is crucial. Unlike a marathon with aid stations every few miles, in an ultra there can be a marathon between aid stations.

Ultra don’t just test you physically though, they test you mentally as well. The will power required to keep on pushing yourself mile after mile is immense, which is one of the many reasons that the drop out race for this kind of race is so high. Its not unusual for over fifty percent of those starting a race to drop out before the end.

Just how far you push your own boundaries is up to you, put more and more people and discovering that those boundaries are far far further than they ever could have imagined.

[Note - Some of the credit for this post goes to Phill Turton, Tony Allen and Adnan Khan, as this post sort of came out of a conversation had while running around Kielder Water on friday evening. In fact this post start off as an introduction to a piece on head tourch running

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