Time for Something New

I’ve run several ultra trail races in the past seven years. Not as many as some people, but enough to get a pretty good sense of what the typical race is like. I’ve run some of the oldest, most well established races on the circuit: e.g., Western States, Wasatch, Mountain Masochist, and American River. I’ve also run several very young races that are trying to establish themselves as “instant classics”: UROC, Run Rabbit Run, and The North Face Endurance Challenge. Beyond this I’ve run a dozen or more races that fit somewhere in between these classics and newbies.

Having run all these different races the one thing that jumps out at me when I compare them to each other is how much they are all alike. Virtually every ultra I’ve ever run has either been 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 kilometers, or 100 miles. They’ve pretty much all had aid stations no less often than every 10 miles (typically in the 4-7 mile range). Nearly every one of them has started between 5-7 am on Saturday morning. Every race has a few minor things which make it a bit different from others, but for the most part, you could roam around the country running a new race every week, and after several weeks you would likely start to feel like you were running the same races over and over.

There is, of course, a reason it’s like this. There are some key components which were born in the beginning of modern-day ultrarunning that have been passed along and emulated over the years. In almost all cases these components have become tradition because they make a lot of sense. Right? That’s what you would think would be the case, but when you look closer at some of these things it’s actually hard to find logical reasons (other than tradition) for the widespread similarities in all these races.

Is there any reason why it makes more sense to run 50 miles as opposed to 44, or 56, or any other distance that a desired route happens to be? In track or road running where you can typically compare times from race to race it makes a lot of sense to have various common distances. But in ultra distance trail running why does there also seem to be this kind of consistency in race distance? Due to the variation in terrain you can’t begin to compare one race to another, and, if anything, many race routes end up being compromised due to the “need” to make them one of the four common distances. Is it just that we like to be able to say that we ran a nice round number of miles? Does running 50 miles really sound more bad ass than running 55? Certainly, if you’re going to run 92 miles, it’d be nice to tack on 8 more and make it an even 100, but when it’s said and done, doesn’t it seem to make more sense to just run the 92 as opposed to running an out and back stretch on a road to make up the extra mileage (something that I’ve done more than once in 100-milers)?

Laurel Highlands Ultra

The 71-mile Laurel Highlands Ultra covers the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail’s entire length. No more, no less.
Photo: CatchTech Adventures

What about aid stations? Running 50 kilometers or more takes a ton of calories, water, and often a lot of emotional support – all of which we get a lot of from aid stations. C’mon though! If we can run 100 miles can’t we also run stretches of 15, 20, even 50 miles without aid? I get the point that running these distances are really, really hard so we need all the support we can get to help us do it successfully, but is this such a necessary thing that virtually every race in existence should have no fewer than one aid station per 10 miles? Does it really make it that much harder if we need to carry several extra gels in our pack, or stop a few times during the race and bend over and actually get our own water out of a stream? And does harder make it any less appealing? If that were the case why wouldn’t we just run a 5k instead of 100 miles? I also get the point that we are paying to do a race so that we can receive the kind of support that goes along with all of these races. When you think about what you are getting for your money at most of today’s races it’s actually a pretty good deal. This said though, why do they all need to be this way? Wouldn’t it make just as much sense to have many races with significantly fewer aid stations that could thus charge significantly less for entry? Again, not a very novel idea, but one that virtually no races seem to adopt.

Anyway, no need to ramble on any further on every single thing that races seem to do similar to other races. Obviously tradition and trend play a huge part in these patterns, and many new races adopt these patterns without even thinking of it. I, for one, though would love to see some change in this regard. I think the “typical” races are really great, and make a lot of sense, but they aren’t the only things that make sense. In the same way that I think more diversity among the participants in our sport would make the sport richer for everyone involved, so, too, would more diversity among the events in our sport. To anyone out there looking at starting a new event (and I assume there are more than a few reading this who fit into this category), do you really want to start another event that’s more or less the same as the 99% of races already out there?

I don’t raise these points to criticize anyone for creating new races that are modeled so closely after the vast majority of current races, but, instead, to hopefully plant a few seeds for something a little different in the future. I’m still at least a couple years away from putting on a race of my own (if ever), but you can bet if I ever do it won’t be shaped with the same cookie cutter as all the races I’ve run in the past.

There are 67 comments

  1. Dave

    Here in the UK I guess we're less hung-up on the distance thing: there are plenty of Ultras which have "odd" numbers of miles, usually because they're following an established trail like the Ridgeway, South Downs Way or similar (see here for some examples: http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/single-day-ultra….

    I think you're absolutely right about the artificiality of "standard" distances, especially, as you point out, as courses differ so much that cross-comparison is pretty much impossible.

  2. Andrew

    It does seem that US / European races have become slightly "sterilised" for want of a better word and at the risk of offending.

    As an example, here in South Africa, most of our trail marathons / ultras have zero aid tables and one has to be fully self sufficient over 42 – 110km. Obviously, water is available from streams etc along the route and there may be checkpoints / marshalls for emergency assistance but generally, you are on your own.

  3. Trailrutger

    Here in the Netherlands most ultra's are advertised as round number races.

    If you look deeper into the discription you will find that a 60k is often 60.7k.

    And last June i ran a race which was 52.2k.

    I think it is important to make a race that has a scenic route and not a round number of miles or kilometers.

    Also that 52.2 kilometer race had only 1 aid station but was passed through twice.

    Here in europe there are a lot of races that don't have round number of kilometers.

    There also are some self supported races.

    So perhaps you should consider coming to europe to race!

    Greetz from the Netherlands,

    Rutger

  4. tom

    interesting article. thanks! there is a couple of "odd" number-races here in Europe. I started my "ultrarunning" with the Veitsch Grenzstaffellauf, a 54k (in Austria), which was then "upgraded" to 56k depending on trail conditions. Gran Trail Valdigne (Italy) was announced as a 70k race; the actual lenght was then 84 (back in 2007). a year later it was 87 and now they made a 100k out of it in 2011 (withouth adding any road, but wounderful trail sections!). This years Tenerife Bluetrail (crossing Tenerife Island, Spain)was 93.15k and this years UTMB ~103 (due to bad weather and complete rerouting of the course; usually 158 – 171 k depending on changes of the course). The Wörthersee trail maniak (Austria) is "only" 57k, cause this is the distance it takes to circle the lake on wonderful trails. And the Pitztal Glacier trail maniak, which will be held the first time in 2013 will have a distance of 95k. However, there are some of the "normal" distances: e.g. Zugspitz Ultratrail (100k) and Chiemgauer 100 Meilen (100 miles). …for me the important thing is actually not if the distance is normal or odd, it is simply about the beauty of the course and the elevation gains and drops that make one ultra different to the other (although they might have the same distance to travel). well, and about the aidstation "spacing": this is pretty much a question of access and elevation change and not really distance at least in technical terrain. but i love the idea of more self-sufficiency… looking forward to the next ultra, be it normal or odd. maybe the 119k transgrancanaria (canary island, spain) early next year?.

  5. Sniffer

    +1 I really think this is a great point on both the race distances and the aid stations. Focusing more on the "quality" of the trail run than getting it to end on a certain number of miles would really appeal to a large number of runners.

  6. Derrick Spafford

    It's always been more of the adventure/expedition type of races that have really spoken to me. Northern/winter races like Iditarod Trail and Yukon Arctic Ultra are very appealing in this sense with minimal aid along the way. It seems like this is a characteristic of the race and what makes it so special. I haven't noticed as many summer races either going this route, but here's hoping that they do.

    Aside…With regards to your comment about reduced race aid potentially meaning reduced entry fees…I'm not sure that's always the case when it comes to insurance requirements and what is needed to gain event insurance from the providers end. Not sure though as I haven't checked into it.

  7. Clint

    Although my experience running ultras in Europe is quite limited, the two I have run were of non-traditional distance: a 60k in Spain (Trail De Penalara 60k) and the 57k race (Worthersee Ultra Run) in Austria that Tom mentioned. Both races featured well-stocked aid stations but it seemed that they were placed a bit further apart. As Tom mentioned, I suspect this is due to terrain access but it does, nonetheless, change racing strategy (at least it did for me). For example, many of the races I've considered running are "semi-autonomous" and require that the runner carry a modest amount of gear (e.g. thermal blanket, whistle, map, headlamp, extra batteries) while running. For an American introduced to ultra running on American soil, having to schlep a bunch of gear around can be a bit disconcerting but I suspect for most Europeans this is not a big deal. My sense is that the ultrarunning-minded Europeans have spent so much of their lives wandering and hiking around in the mountains (often shouldering day packs with everything they'd need to survive for a couple of days) that having to be "semi-autonomous" for a race is a trivial matter since they'd probably be carrying most of the stuff anyway. With that said (and considering my limited experience), many of the ultras in Europe seem more "organic" in that the distance is the distance (even if it isn't a round number) and if the terrain precludes setting up an aid station every five miles, so be it (shouldn't be a big deal since you'll be carrying at least two liters of water and 1,000+ calories with you anyway).

  8. John Fegyveresi

    This is one of the many reasons I'm drawn to thru-hiking more so than trail races (despite loving both). There's something magical about getting up every morning and just going until you feel like stopping…without worrying about distance or time covered.

    Great article as always Geoff. And the Laurel Highlands trail is definitely a beauty too. Right in my "backyard".

  9. art

    I very much like the idea of race distance being a "natural distance" , one that fits the terraine/trail its run on.

    My nonrace FKT type runs are this way, why can't a race be this way.

    and Yes, a race with more widely spaced aid stations, or even a typical race with one or two very widely spaced stations, would add some character to the event.

  10. Stack

    so you might like this one? 77 miles… point to point over trail… somewhat self supported (you are allowed to drop aid along the way)… and 18,000+ of gain!

    http://foothillstrailultras.com/index.html

    I must say that i'm a little disappointed with the ending of the post though… was hoping you were going to use it as a lead into your 112 mile ultra in Juneau with only 4-5 aid stations (maybe to be renamed 'life bases') spaced out over the course.

  11. Ryan

    I like to populate my race calendar with a couple favorite, standard distance parties – sorry I mean races – but in between them most of my weekends are spent on "adventure" runs. They are all free and self-supported, like the Zion traverse I ran with my wife and friends this fall or the Grand Canyon R2R2R last spring or the Kings Peak Marathon I ran alone during the summer (I won). I think that is what ultrarunning is really all about: there wont be any big sponsors or prize money, but thats only the concern of a tiny fraction of runners anyway.

    I love to see new, unique races on the calendar, but if anyone out there is considering creating one… just make it a bandit run! All you need is a course map, clipboard and a stopwatch. Forget the permits, t-shirts, awards, catered aid stations, videographers and all the rest because we are well stocked on those races.

  12. Jamie

    Did you talk to Tony while thinking about this? Sounds like something he would agree with.

    I have found that shorter trail races are less mindful of sticking to a desired distance. I signed up for a 10.4 mile race (unfortunately postponed so I couldn't race it) a few weeks ago, and Leadville puts on the Heavy Half. Shorter still I've run some great "4 and a bit" mile races. But it seems that when the races get longer, the statement changes from "I ran a really cool race" to "I ran a (marathon, 50k, 50m, etc …). A strange phenomenon.

  13. Trail Clown

    I love this. But it'll never fly in America, where there has to be a McDonald's in every city and standardized test scores for every school district. That's why you see a "100 miler" popping up in every city. And how would anyone break Karl Meltzer's 100 mile wins record if we only ran 97.3 mile races in the future?

    1. KenZ

      I know you partially jest, but there's more than a little truth in this. There is, and has been for a while, the Plain 100. No aid over the two different 50 mile loops. And you know what? When talking to other ultra runners almost no one's looked at it (I only know two who've run it), and when they hear that it has no aid, they all say how hard that would be and don't give the race a second thought… since there are so many options out there that DO offer aid.

      So Trail Clown (*Who I am hoping wins a book and thus has to use his real name*) actually has a point. I don't see people flocking to the effectively unsupported current 100s, or even the clearly TOTALLY awesome scenic, reportedly very well run Fat Dog 100 which is actually 120 miles. One of the shortest starting lists out there, yet arguably the best scenery on this continent. But 120 miles… who wants to do that if the T-shirt only says Fat Dog 100???

      Thus, this is all evidence that would convince me, if I wanted to host a new race, to NOT do anything other than a standard distance and standard aid.

      1. Trail Clown

        There is no quiet place in white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in the spring, or the rustle of insects’ wings. –Chief Seattle

        1. Phil Jeremy

          Hey TC you should run in France. I've run races with virtually no aid stations and when you do get to one, its water, coke or ginger cake!

          ….thats why I always carry all I need. ..just in case.

          1. Trail Clown

            Wish I could, wish I could. No money in these pockets to do that. Probably why I'm always up on my soapbox, that's what being poor will do to ya. Two small mouths to feed, but at least they see me always pushin' them in the running stroller, and at least when I ran the Andiamo 44.8 miler last year, I ran 5.3 miles to the start to make it an even 50.1 miles for the day! Hope noone gets too worked up over my ranting, I am actually harmless in person :)

  14. Callum Elder

    Here in Scotland our longest Ultra is 95 miles. Thats is the length of the West Highland Way trail that it is run on. No Longer. No shorter.

  15. Eric

    I agree with your point on contrived courses to reach one of the four "traditional" distances. There's something very powerful about finding a course that just makes sense, regardless of distance.

    On the other hand, I appreciate the more-frequent-than-strictly-necessary aid stations. Sure, we could get by on less aid, but racing is so appealing, in part, because it offers a safe way to push your limits. It's one of the ways racing differs from a long training run.

  16. Jim S.

    They should make it so that you can't start a race with food and you have to forage your way through the race. I mean COME ON if you can run 100 miles, surely you can find your own food along those 100 miles. Support at river crossings? Pfft. forge it yourself or hell, if you can run 100 miles, you can run up river a bit to find a crossing. Maps? Trailmarkers? Coursemarkings? no way. Oh wait, that kind of does exist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Mountain_Wild

  17. Doug (aka Snurfer)

    Great article Geoff! You must have read my mind as I was running a very fun course this past weekend. Because, despite fantastic organization and a great course, it had this really weird out/back aid station about a mile from the finish/half way point. This seemed really out of place and I personally felt it disrupted the rhythm and aesthetic of an otherwise amazing course. I've all the respect in the world for the organizers of this and other races, but I must agree, tweaking a course to be a specific distance often diminishes the experience.

  18. Jacques

    I like everthing about this article. When I started Ultra running, we had water bottles and bulky food items and non-tech clothing that wasn't as light and protective as today's stuff. While not compleatly necessary, aid stations close together sure lightened the load. Now I can easily carry everything I need for a 50k or beyond. Also I'm all for doing away with the round number thing. NEWS FLASH-many of our races are rounded up or down already. When I'm doing a 50 miler that's really 53, it would be nice to get credit for the extra 3 miles.

  19. Brett

    David Horton fixed this a long time ago with Horton Miles, nighttime starts, etc. :) What many folks call 'unique', 'creative', and 'innovative', others call cruel, incorrectly measured, and heartless. :)

  20. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

    I'm with Stack. Is this article a preface for your official announcement of the 2013 Tongass 112 in Juneau, Alaska? Rainforest running, mountain ridge traverses, 45,000 feet of climbing, glacier crossings, class-three scrambling, fog, bears, rain, snow? Please, oh please say it is. :-)

    1. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

      Also, I stand by my promise that if I'm not physically able to run this race (and let's be realistic, I'm going to need at least a couple more years of ultra experience to build that kind of tenacity), I will volunteer to set up an aid station at Camp 17, with water, electrolyte drink, and limited hot food and coffee. Any aid station that required hoisting a 60-pound backpack over 7 rugged mountain miles with more than 5,000 feet of climbing one way is an aid station worth staffing.

      1. Stack

        Thanks for the support Jill! :)

        I'll likely never get up to AK for it but i'll read the heck out of the race reports, blogs and other material before and after the fact!

        1. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

          I still think the "Tongass 100" idea is doable, and Geoff has done a lot of the leg work. The two big boondoggles are the Tongass National Forest permitting system (not even sure an official event could be held) and of course the weather. The best way to do it at first would probably be "fat ass" style. No course markings. Create a .gpx track and ask that runners carry GPS on top of maps and compass (because the latter become more tricky to use when thick fog rolls in.) Minimal aid. There will be at least two jaunts through town during the run, and there are lots of natural water sources throughout the course. Sixty-hour cutoff. Set a recommended start date but allow runners to stagger their start and run with the clock if the weather isn't conducive or schedules can't align. The endurance bikepacking community has followed this model for years with lots of success.

          I don't mean to use this forum to call Geoff out but I hope he's still thinking about it. Mainly because I personally would be more excited about this prospect than any U.S. event currently on the calendar. And while FKT and backpacking trips are great, organized ultra events are a lot of fun.

          Just a thought …

          http://akrunning.blogspot.com/2009/10/tongass-100

    1. Aaron Sorensen

      26.2 if that distance won't budge how do we expect anything else to? Lets go run a 28.5 miler, not.

      I've done Plain and Barley and they have been my 2 favorite runs.

      Then I like doing FKT's and no one looks into doing FKT's.

  21. Tim

    How about a measurement (similar to slope of a golf course) which would calculate relative difficulty of any specific race,using a combination of the finishing time, elevation change, aide station spacing, along with terrain conditions and the length of the race?

    Then apply this measurement to determine how any individual effort “stacks up” against personal or normalized metrics. Of course, all this standardization would have to be sanctioned by a large global governing committee which would then anoint a champion, given that “champion” had the proper credentials. How’s that for removing the romance?

    Personally, every trail day is different even if the distance (or race) is the same. Thanks for the post, nice work Geoff

    1. KenZ

      Tim, have you ever checked out http://www.realendurance.com/, then in upper left hand corner "relative race finish times." You can then personalize for yourself, and it tells you relatively how fast you'd be for your own fastest, medium, and slow performance on any course. It's not perfect, but a very impressive use of data analysis based off of ultrasignup historical data. Worth spending time there. I also like how the 100k Barkley "fun run" rates just behind Hardrock.

  22. Spencer

    I ran the Bridger Ridge Run this year. Probably one of the best races I have ever ran. It is approximately 19 miles. It is appealing because it goes along a mountain ridge, point to point. I think there was one course marking. It was fun as hell, and I hope I get the opportunity to run it again next year.

  23. Greg Veltkamp

    Geoff – Resurrection Pass Ultras is looking for a new RD! Why not come up and as RD, take out that first and last section on Palmer Cr. road! I'd be more than happy to run 38 and 76! Also taking on the White Mountains 100 in March – 4 checkpoints over the distance! Care to share you sled design?

  24. Jason

    Well, I have to think that for unsupported (or limited support) runs of odd distances you've got unlimited FKT's. I would like to see races move away from the feeling of being obliged to offer the 'accepted' distances. My first ultra was a tough 50k with over 8000' of climb. Actual distance 35ish miles. Why not just call it a 35 mile race? I guess part of the reason we see predictable aid station intervals is that it allows less experienced runners the opportunity to compete. Lets face it, theres a difference between the safety margin of a front of the packer and a back of the pack runner. Either way, it would certainly be great to see more variety out there.

  25. the "other&quot

    I read the comments here and let me be the first to say this one is CRAP. Sorry Geoff, I love you man and we share the same name, but the only person to blame for picking certain races that are "like every other one" is you. There are plenty of races and adventures to be had… find those that challenge and create excitement for you. I am looking forward to you picking some awesome races and conquering them. (I know that you will.)

    Happy Trails!

  26. Guy C.

    Here's another race that mixes things up a bit:

    The IZTA 4000

    Only 25k, but 4,000 meters (13,000+feet) of elevation change, 2 aid stations (=4 because of up/down nature of course) with water, gatorade and banana quarters. 8,800 feet to 15,225 and back down. And the price is right at 250 pesos (around 20 bucks).

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/IZTA-4000-2012/253

    If you find yourself in Mexico City, I'll be driving to the race on December 2.

  27. Gator

    First ever ultra I ran was a 6 hr run on a 4 mile course. If you crossed the S/F line with even a second left before the 6 hrs was up you had a choice: keep going for one more lap or stop right there. I ended up with 40 miles in 5:46. So, a race with a set time (there are also 3 and 12 hr options), but you set the distance in a sense. It was great!

  28. Tony

    The OSJ Ontake 100km ultra trail race here in Japan starts at midnight, so you get the dubious pleasure of running 100km through the mountains, down a night's sleep before you even start ;)

    Great article Geoff, as always. I enjoy the way you think and question the status quo… I sincerely hope you can bounce back soon and return to racing. All the best from Tokyo. Tony

  29. trailplodder

    "Does harder make it any less appealing?" Judging by the author's UTMB 2011 race report (http://akrunning.blogspot.fi/2011/08/utmb-dnf-what-went-wrong.html), the answer seems to be yes! He complained about gear requirements, failed to finish in challenging weather, and never came back.

    As commented above, there are plenty of wonderful new races all around the world. I wish Mr Roes would consider non-standard 100-milers like UTMB again, now that he really seems to be looking for something new.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hello and happy editorial greetings. This is a kind reminder for everyone to play nice not only with iRunFar's authors but also with each other. The content of the comments here is fair game, but there are far kinder approaches that could be taken to talking about the same things. Let's keep it cordial and at least equal to how we'd chat each other up on the trails. Thank you.

  30. Jim Skaggs

    There was a 100 mile race in Montana a few years ago that had a 24 miles section of no aid followed by a 16 mile section of no aid. Definitely made you think about your logistics. I ran out of water about 5 miles shy of one aid station and had to get some from a suspect trickle infested by mosquitos, not to mention the bear scat every 1/4 mile on the trail. It was fun, even though I dnf'd.

  31. Jon Allen

    There's definitely "non-standard" races out there, though they are the exception rather than the rule. In the past year or so, I've done the Laurel Valley 35 mile (run in South Carolina in August with 0 aid stations or support) and the Uwharrie 40 mile. There's also the Mt Mitchell Challenge (40-ish miles), and the Horton/Clark races (Hellgate starts at midnight, Grindstone starts in the evening). I'd also say that even many standard distance races are off by more than a few miles, either long or short.

    Except for 100 milers, I don't really care what distance a race is or if it's a standard distance. If it has a good reputation and pretty scenery, I'll be there.

    Good post.

  32. adam

    just wondering what one might carry when you have to go long distances without aid stations? I know the std. stuff like layers, light,SPOT, food and water.

    What about real survival gear, fire starter&fuel, sil nylon tarp, knife?

    What do you take on real adventure runs in wet!, cold and harsh environments where rescue will take 24+ hours if something goes wrong?

    1. art

      this partly depends on whether this is an "offical" event or a self planned wilderness effort.

      It also depends on what you mean by "long distance between aid stations".

      I think the most important thing you can bring is a wise, conservative attitude.

      don't own a spot, never used one, but they're getting more poular.

  33. Nigel

    I think its more for safety why they have aid stations every 8 to 10kms. Nice article Jeff your becoming such a good writer. I would love to come to your ultra camp one day, it would be a dream come true for me. I'm a low lander and just don't have enough money to go at this point in my life. Hopefuly one day soon.

    Thanks,

    Nigel

  34. George

    Strongly agree, but would like to further add to your observations. I'm seeing a trend, as you have, in North American Ultra Running. One that didn't attract me to the challenge but can easily suck you in and in my case, misguide me from my original intentions of becoming an ultrarunner. I attack ultra's with the minimalist approach, shoes, shorts, water, and nature. Of course you need your energy and food so some gels are a must. The Ultra community, at least in So. California has become that of die hard craft beer drinkers that run for comradery and finish line parties. Most of these people's intentions seem to be to get through the race without DNF'ng. And if they do DNF it'll be some long drawn out story that makes themselve look like a self proclaimed hero for running with PF or IT band issues. I sit back in shock. A challenge created to push yourself harder than you ever have and dig deeper than you thought possible for your own personal gratification is slowly becoming personified as a boozing, chili and oreo eating end zone stroke fest. Where everyone's ego's are growing faster than 5K mud runs(with the exception of the elite runners), and the main reason they started running ultras is being quickly forgotten. I see a lot of outsiders finding close friendships and relationships, which is a good thing, but remember; you being an outsider is probably what drew you to ultras and gave you ultimate satisfaction in the first place. Don't lose that. Advice, look to the elites as motivation. Imagine the sacrafices they have made to come to the transcendent level of self gratification they have attained and how amazing that must feel. Have a goal to work towards as they do. Don't rely so much on relationships and aid stations on the trail as this will only distract you from the true meaning behind ultra running. Running far and free, far and free from modern day constraints and responsibilities. The trails are raw and pure as so our desire to run be. Not self glorifying or reliant upon how well stocked an aid station is. Our limits should be tested within ourselves through isolation and solitude on the trails, not by aid stations giving us false energy to limp through another 4 miles until we get another boost to go 4 more. I love ultrarunning and the ultra community. Run free and pure.

  35. Mike Bailey

    Great topic Geoff, and others. I am on staff with Brandon Wilson's 100 mile race in North Carolina called the Graveyard 100. While the course is a flat paved road that follows the length of the Outer Banks, it is held in the first week of March, and provides very infrequent aid. The aid stations are located anywhere from 18 to 24 miles apart meaning you are required to carry all your food and gear. While the race does allow the use of a crew, uncrewed runners are very much on their own most of the day. The logistics of running in the OBX in March can be harrowing, as winds off the ocean can be a steady 30 mph all day, and temps can dip into the 20's and 30's at night. Imagine that constant wind chill factor. The course also traverses the entire length of the Outer Bank's main road, route 12. There are a couple spurs, but not really there to add distance, so much as to place the aid station at one of the famous lighthouses. The course is somwehere between 100.7 and 102 miles, but it's all fairly irrelevant to the objective of finishing a long tough race. For folks wanting to step outside of the challenge of running a trail race with aid every 3-10 miles, you should consider stepping up to this race. The 100 miler for the 2013 event is sold out, but there may be space in the 100k. Or, some volunteer and crew to see what it is all about. Mike Morton will be there in hopes to throw down one of the fastest 100 milers on US turf. Let's just hope those 20-30 mph winds are at his back.

    -Mike Bailey

  36. Matt

    Timing is everything. The deputy of discourse showed-up well after the biggest foul play. Trailplodder's haymaker is reminiscent of that anti-American flyer that made its way post UTMB 2011, only this time singling-out Geoff who isn't actually on top of the world at this point. Very indecent. I call foul on the comment and the comment police policy.

    Bottoms up.

  37. Tony Mollica

    I run mostly by myself. Therefor I am willing to pay to have other people to run with and to have aid stations so I don't have to carry so much. It's also nice to be around people who don't see what I am doing as crazy, and don't say "I get tired driving that far."

  38. Dmitry

    Create your own race…as ultra-running for most of us not about winning/competition but experiencing nature. it will be by definition unsupported and the distance would be odd. pick the trail your want to do (say Cordillera Real traverse in Bolivia), plan and go solo/with friends with aim to complete it with minimum supplies and in the shortest time. I do such trips regularly as addition to the organised events. And in case of the US you could run there regulation will never allow to run an organized event (could you imagine organized race through JMT?)

  39. Dmitry

    Interesting route, elevation profile does not look terrible bad – however with steep climbs. Is the route on the good trails or cross-country?

  40. Dmitry

    As of unusual organized races – there was C2M in Ojai, CA. Night start (staggered), entertainment en route …however with well (sometimes too well) stocked aid stations. Unfortunately this race is no longer here. There are some long unsupported single stage races in Argentina like http://tierraviva.com.ar but it is not pure running/hiking – bike and kayak involved (otherwise I would go there as the area they run it is very beautiful).

  41. sheffieldnick

    Most ultras here in the UK are quite different from those in the USA. Generally no pacers allowed, no assistance/food/water/kit from spectators or friends, some require navigation with map/compass/GPS, and aid stations are often more basic – sometimes only water & biscuits, or cups of tea. The 105 mile 'Lakeland 100' has some fantastic 'American-style' aid stations, but you only get a single drop bag at 60 miles, there are absolutely no course markings, and there's a big list of mandatory kit you have to carry with you.

  42. Swampy

    I start a new event once a month. Me and my buddies drive up to a primitive camping spot near the AT, set up camp and run all weekend. The aid station is usually a truck stocked with plenty of junk food and PBR. I forgot who won last weekend…

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