The question of to race or not to race has already been answered if: 1. you are reading this blog 2. the second tab on your browser is UltraSignup.com. Now the question is to endure or not to endure? There are many types of ultra marathon challenges you can choose from. If it is your first, then you are lucky in the fact that this book of your life is a "choose your own adventure", and it starts now.
If you have ran an ultra before: Continue to Paragraph 2
If you have never ran an ultra or can barely spell it: Continue to Paragraph 1
**If you have ran an ultra before you might want to skip to the next section because you didn't read the "choose your own adventure" books as a kid. 😎** If you have not ran an ultra yet then don't worry, this post is going to benefit you the most. Ultras usually start at 50 kilometers and go up from there and have cutoff times in a similar manner to marathons and half marathons. The normal or usual progression for a someone wanting to get into ultra running is to train for a 50k which is very similar to training for a marathon. The only modification in your training is to adapt to the terrain, weather effects, and nutrition.
So you trained for a 50k or any other ultra distance but is that really your limit? How do you know how far you are capable of going? Maybe you are capable of running a 50 miler or 100k. This is where my favorite type of race comes into play. Timed endurance races are usually looped courses and are in the formats of 6, 12, 24, and 48 hours. You can run as little or as long as you want. The point is to accumulate as many miles as possible in the time limit.
I love timed endurance races mostly because it is the ultimate gauge of how far you can push yourself. First off it's a mind fuk. Its hard to pace yourself when you don't have a finish line that you are trying to reach. Second, you can rest as long as you want and usually set up your own little aid station with the stuff that you think you need/want. This also can screw you because you can get really distracted while at your fortress of solitude. The third reason, also my favorite, is that you get to interact will all the runners, aid station volunteers, and race directors a lot more than any other type of race. You keep coming through the start/finish line over and over again. Everyone has their areas set up next to each other and are usually sharing their food, beer, grills, etc. You can even have your own cheering section or beering section that camps out. Have them change your socks, put ice down your pants, hand you a cold one, and then slap that tail and tell you to get moving. These races are more of a community event. The final reason, and most relevant to this blog, is you have to opportunity to see how far you can push yourself in that specific time period. So if you are training for a 50k because that is the logical step into the ultra community but you completed over 50 miles in a 12 hour endurance race, why waste your time? Most 50 milers have a cutoff around 12 hours.
I love to just run at my own pace and enjoy being outside. So the type of race I sign up for is very important to me and only me. This is something to think about when picking your next race. Why are you looking at a particular race? Is it the challenge of the distance, the challenge of the terrain, maybe it is the theme of the race (Habanero, Badwater, Georgia Death Race) that draws you to the race? For me the community atmosphere and the enjoyment of running is my priority and that is what pulls me to timed endurance races.
So next time you are browsing UltraSignup.com take a peak at a timed endurance race. Give it a try and see how far you can push yourself or how drunk you can get and still complete a loop. Whatever tickles your pickle.
-Time is one thing that we can never get back. So how can you make the most of it if there is a limit on the distance you can travel? Ultra Flunkie
If you would like to learn more about running ultramarathons or have questions about coaching, please view my coaching page at www.ultraflunkierunningco.com
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