5 Steps to Becoming and Ultra Runner

By: Matt Mahoney

  1. Denial : It's easy to pretend that life ends at 26.2 miles. How often do you see articles on ultra marathons in the mainstream running publications? You've heard of great runners like Shorter, Barrios, Salazar, but do you know who won the Western States 100? What do you mean you never heard of the Western States 100?

  2. RIDICULE -- Anyone who would run 50 or 100 miles is missing a few screws. It's bad enough at sea level, but then they do it up and down Pike's Peak.* Then they have races like the Badwater 146 from Death Valley (-282 ft, 125 F) to Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft, below freezing). But even that isn't hard enough, so they add an out-and-back version. And what kind of lunatic would dream up the Sri Chinmoy race, 2700 laps around a one-mile loop with a 62 day time limit? If you have half a mind to run ultras, you're over-qualified.

  3. ANGER There's NO way in HELL you'll ever get me to run an ultra! After my last marathon, I hurt for weeks. I couldn't have run another mile if my life depended on it. In fact, that's what I said about marathons after my first 5K.

  4. JUSTIFICATION Big deal. They run so slow, anyone could run an ultra if they wanted to. Just look at V. Churro, the Tarahumara Indian from Mexico who won the Leadville 100 last year ( 94) in 20:04. That's over 12 minutes per mile. What a wimp! And he beat 300 other runners, half of whom missed the 30 hour cutoff. That's 18:00/mile. My grandmother could WALK faster than that. (Never mind that Leadville has 16,000 feet of climbing at 9200-12,600 ft. altitude).

  5. ACCEPTANCE Now that Salazar became the first American to win the Comrades Marathon (that's 12,000 runners going 54 miles), maybe we'll see a paragraph or two in Runner's World. Hmm... you say they have hamburgers and beer at the aid stations? Just how do you train for one of these?