For most people, the idea of completing a marathon is a crazy concept. Running 26.2 miles for several hours without a break sounds like a punishing ordeal that you wouldn’t inflict on your worst enemy. And all that pain for a flimsy disk of metal at the end of it. But anyone who has completed a marathon will know the intense feeling of pride and achievement that comes when you cross the finish line. You’ve spent months training your body and your mind to make it through the race, planning your nutrition, sleep schedule, and stretching routine to the last detail. And when it finally pays off, you feel incredible.
For most runners, a marathon is the ultimate goal. It’s something they wish they could one day pluck up the courage and motivation to do it, and once they manage it, that’s it. There’s nowhere left to go. Sure they can do harder marathons or switch it up with a triathlon, but it’s only a slight difference. What else is there?
The answer to that is ultramarathons. An ultramarathon is a running event that is anything longer than a marathon. The shorter ones will usually be 30 miles or 50 kilometers, but there are also distances of 100 miles or more. In fact, the longest ultramarathon in the world is a colossal 3100-miles.
You might be wondering why on earth anyone would want to run such a long way? Surely it’s going to put your through unbearable discomfort and put havoc on your joints? You’d have to be a pretty crazy individual to sign up for one of these races. But these objections completely miss the point of what an ultramarathon is all about. Yes, the distance is longer than a marathon, but in many ways, it is considerably easier, safer, and more enjoyable.
If you’re still not convinced, here are three reasons you should consider running an ultramarathon:
1. They are beautiful
When you run a road marathon, there’s not a lot to look at. It might be a nice city, but chances are you’ll be staring at concrete and tarmac for the next few hours. Ultramarathons, however, almost always take place on trails. Throughout your race, you will be running through remote wilderness full of gorgeous mountain landscapes, beechwood forests, and coastal cliffs. There are races held in the Amazon jungle, the Sahara Desert, and even the North Pole. Having something beautiful to look at can do wonders for your motivation and will help you get through it.
2. It is safer
You might think running 50 miles puts you at far greater risk of injury, but the opposite is true. Because ultramarathons are generally run on off-road trails, your muscles and joints aren’t being subjected to the same repetitive pounding they would get from a road marathon. You can’t maintain a fast speed throughout the race, so you’re forced to move a lot more slowly over a sustained period. You’ll be running on all kinds of different terrain from forest tracks to steep mountain paths and muddy fields, meaning that every single step is different. Therefore, you’ll be working a lot more different muscles, rather than making the same movement over and over again for 26.2 miles. And the best bit: you will hurt a lot less the next day.
It’s for this reason that a lot of older runners tend to progress to ultramarathons. You’d expect such a punishing distance to attract young, foolish people with little risk of injury, but 20% of ultra finishers are 50 and over. So if you’re an older runner, don’t rule it out. As long as you take it slow, pack your Flexiseq, and stay motivated, there’s nothing stopping you from reaching the finish line.
3. You can eat everything
Legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason once described ultramarathons as “an eating and drinking competition with a little bit of running thrown in.” Once you run your first one, you will see why. You need to eat an enormous quantity of food to sustain your energy levels throughout such a long race, and it’s common to see mid-race aid stations filled with all kinds of delicious treats including pizza, hot soup, burritos and beer. It’s one of the few times in life when you can eat anything you like and not feel bad about it.
In conclusion, every runner should give an ultramarathon a go at least once in their life. There are so many options to choose from all over the world. They vary enormously in terms of length and difficulty, so you are guaranteed to find one that meets your needs.