Ultra Training Has Stolen My Heart

This is me (Cilantro) running my first race ever.  It was slightly shorter than a 100k.
This is me (Cilantro) running my first race ever. It was slightly shorter than a 100k.

This isn’t going to be a sappy post about how ultramarathon training is testing my limits and shows me that my body is capable of so much more than I thought it was, although it definitely has done both.  No, instead this post is about why ultramarathons are the best kind of races for a runner like me.

Read: slow, kind of lazy, and injury-prone.

A couple weeks ago after completing a 24 miler, I switched to the 100k instead of the 50k for my next race, the END-SURE Ultra on March 29.  I mean, it was only $25 more to do the 100k, and I really wanted the finisher prize.

I’m kidding. I don’t even think there is a finisher prize.  But it wasn’t only because of the mere 25 bucks, it was also because I’m crazy (you’re thinking this, I’m sure).  But the training plans for a 50-miler and a 100k are the same; by March 29, I will be antsy to get some racing in after four pretty-solid months of training, so I decided to go for it.

And now I’ve got less than three weeks until my first 100k, and while I should be scared out of my mind (I am), I am mostly excited.  Scared beyond belief and panic will come, but right now I’m just stoked.  And happy I have two legs that will carry me on my crazy journey.  And glad I have two months with no morning commitments so I can train at will.  And grateful that my gym hasn’t kicked me off my 4-hour treadmill training runs yet.

I have good and bad runs, but overall, I love ultramarathon training, ultramarathoners and ultramarathons!  Here is why:

1.  Long Slow Distance (LSD) for always:  My marathon training plans require intense speed training, temp runs, and some marathon-pace long runs.  My ultra training requires 15-30 minutes max speed work every week.  And it’s optional.  Speed training is hard and sometimes leads to injury.  Give me a long run any day of the week!  Oh wait, that’s what ultramarathon training does?  Love it.

2.  Cool people:  I’ve met amazing people at marathons and some of the coolest people I know run marathons., but I’ve also met my fair share of major jerks at marathons.  You know them: the ones decked out in brand new tech gear who jostle to the front of the starting line, groan about a “slow” 8 minute mile pace and make snarky comments about people who walk in a marathon.  Those people don’t exist in the ultra world (or they are far and few between).  Instead, they are for real awesome people who are supportive, willing to give you tips, pass around you on the trails and are mostly Democrats.  I really like Democrats.  And ultrarunners.  Oh, and unless they are the very best, most ultrarunners walk a little in every race.  That’s my kind of runner.

3. Trails: Although I’m stuck on the treadmill until the arctic North Dakota weather thaws, ultramarathons often take place in the most beautiful places in the world. And when April hits, you better believe I’ll be logging all of my miles in the great trails that surround Grand Forks.  Roads are for cars, people.

Running the trails at Turtle River State Park
Running the trails at Turtle River State Park

4.  Bragging rights:  I’m not going to lie to you here, I like to tell people that I ran a lot.  Silly?  Sure.  But it’s got to feel good to know (and tell people, if they ask) that you ran more in a day than they probably drove.  And that cocky marathoner (referred to above)?  Even he might be impressed…

Until you tell him that you walked…. *groan*  What a jerk.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I am not going to be participating in any marathons.  In fact, I love the marathon.  The distance is perfect and I’ve still got a BQ hiding in me somewhere (I’m sure of it).  But when it comes right down to it, ultramarathon training is where it’s at!

What is your favorite distance to race?  Is it different than your favorite distance to train for?  

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. I love Democrats too! Interesting question about your favorite race being different than favorite training distance. That applies to me, sort of. I’ve loved the two marathons I’ve done, but didn’t love the training. Shorter, faster training runs get my pumped up, but when I know it’s a long run, let the dread begin.

  2. I think my favorite distance to race is the half marathon. I am not a speedy runner, and I prefer to run below or at my lactate threshold. Running anything shorter, like a 10K, is really intimidating!

  3. This post!!! Yes!!! I always tell my really good friends that ultras (ok, I’ve only done 50ks) are easier than marathons. I just brag to everyone else without telling them my secret feeling that they’re easy. Why easy? I throw the time goal pressure out the window because terrain and weather make every race totally different. I love that I can’t really compare and so less urge to PR. I love the freedom to walk or stop for a pbj at the aid stations. I love the stories people tell during the race about ridiculously epic runs. I love ultras because it’s just me, some fellow crazy runner types, and an epic adventure.

    Of course the bragging rights and democrats don’t hurt either.