Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ultrarunning...What's in a Name?

I wanted to create a running site that's easy to remember and yet reflects me. Someone already beat me to the name "Slorunner". Since I've just recently ran a 50K, I thought, why not sloultrarunner?  SLO which stands for my adopted city (I will always be an Oakland gal-from West side) and also, SLO is a pun for my slothlike speed. That said, let's clear up some of the technicality behind the word.

What's an ultra?  Short for ultramarathon, an ultra is technically any distance beyond 26.2 miles. It begins from 50K to infinity.  But for the ultra community, they really don't consider you a bonafide ultra runner unless you've completed a 50 miler, 100K or 100M.  Why even the elite ultra runners from the likes of the great David Horton thinks you have to at least do one 50 miler before you can call yourself an ultra runner. So where do I stand?  I have two 50Ks under my belt.  Until I can train, sign-up or complete my first 50 miler, then I am a pseudo ultra runner. I am not a poser, far from it. But I think I am close and I'll get there in due time. 

In an ultra, you have to run your own race and it is usually non-competitive which lends to its friendly sort of casual atmosphere. There are plenty of time to chat and get to know other runners especially during walk breaks or during the lonely night runs that is inevitable for 2 day long events (24-30-36 hour cut-offs).  In a marathon, there is a hardly any time to get to know other runners.  It's almost implicit that you sprint to the finish and you subject yourself to beeping watches to view your splits so that you can beat your time. In an ultra, time is not so much a factor. There is plenty of room for the ultrarunner to overcome personal challenges, whether it be race conditions, the rough course itself, mental fatigue, etc.  It's about personal exploration.  There is plenty of room for any particular runner to meet his/her goal. What's more? In a marathon, walking is almost a no-no or frowned upon (not me, I walk anyway).  In an ultra, if you want to finish, you had better taken walk breaks, early and often.  Those who run all through an ultra are for certain beaten by those who incorporated walk breaks in their race.  The best ultra runners power walk all the steep hills and runs the flats and downhills. That's how they survive.

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