Is 100 Miles Still THE Distance In Ultrarunning?

Chicks CornerBy definition, as soon as you run a race that is more than 26.2 miles, you become an ultrarunner. Yet, I think that anyone reading this would have a hard time giving much respect if someone ran ‘just’ 26.3 miles and then went around bragging that they’d run an ultra. So maybe, we should start with 50k? That is a good five miles over the marathon distance and yet it would still seem that many in our community wouldn’t give much credibility to a runner if they never raced more than 50k, however many times and with however much success.

In the past I feel that there has been a tendency for the ultrarunning community to only accept runners truly into ‘the club’ once they have completed their first 100 miler, and those who have not run the distance don’t feel fully welcomed until they have done so. Does this mean that 100 miles is still THE distance in ultrarunning? Stephanie Howe posted three podium finishes at ultras from 50k to 100k distances in 2013, including a course-record win, but even she said that she felt like she wasn’t a true ultrarunner until she ran her first 100 miler (Western States, 2014). Maybe this feeling was partly due to the fact that in 2013, despite three excellent ultra results, she didn’t even make top 10 in UltraRunning Magazine’s Ultra Runner of the Year voting, likely making her feel slightly unwelcomed by part of the community. Although gaining the respect of the ultrarunning community was not Stephanie’s primary motivation in her running a 100 miler, it was certainly one of them. To me that sounds a little crazy, but then I must admit that I felt somewhat the same before running Western States in 2011, and I also have to admit that I know of friends who have run a handful of ultras but I don’t really class them as true ultrarunners and when I think of why, it’s due to the fact that they haven’t run further than 50 miles, and running 50 miles just doesn’t compare to running 100 miles.

Max King echoes similar sentiments (like Stephanie, Max ran the 100-mile distance for the first time at Western States in 2014), and he feels that hardcore ultrarunners are the people who are perpetuating this feeling in the community. That is not to say that Max himself feels that 100 miles is THE distance in ultrarunning, and he would far prefer to really master one distance before moving up to a longer event. This to me makes sense, even despite my tendency to feel ultrarunners who have run 100 miles are different from those who have not, I have much bigger admiration for someone who really works on ‘racing’ a 50 miler as fast as they can (even if that is not fast), rather than someone who progresses quickly onto the next distance and runs a 100 miler but in a time far slower than their ability would indicate. For me, ultrarunning is just as much about the quality of racing as it is about the quantity.

It could seem that Sage Canaday has a similar sentiment and it was refreshing to hear that he wholeheartedly felt that if someone had run more than a marathon then they were in the ultra club, regardless of the length of that ultra. Sage did concede that his viewpoint was likely because he came from a marathon and shorter-distance racing background, but he also feels that as 50k and 50-mile races grow both in number and competitiveness then they gain more respect in our sport. Could this be part of the reason why I feel that in recent years there has been a slight swing away from 100 miles being THE distance in ultrarunning? Certainly I do feel that there has been a shift away from 100 milers being the be all and end all; take races such as Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, UROC 100k, and TNF EC 50 Mile all of which have gained a lot of interest, as well as large numbers of participants, and are seen as some of the key events of the U.S. ultrarunning calendar, yet not so long ago these races didn’t even exist. Surely with the move of more faster and shorter-distance runners into the ultra world (Alex Varner, Kasie Enman, Chris Vargo, and Magdalena Boulet to name a few) there will be even more excitement around 50k and 50-mile ultras, which might shift the bias away from 100 milers.

It was interesting to hear Sage say that he’d felt some pressure to step up to iconic races and these races just happened to be 100 miles long. Certainly if we look back, many of the older ultras still in existence which have a long history of strong competition are 100 milers–Western States, the Leadville 100, the Wasatch Front 100–and it is interesting to see that many faster ultrarunners choose Western States for their 100-mile debut. There are of course exceptions, as Dave Mackey pointed out–the JFK 50 Mile was around for a good 10 years before Western States came into existence. I for one ran Western States as my first 100, and yes, I wanted to run it in part to say I had run 100 miles, but just as much I wanted to run it because it is an iconic event and I wanted to run in the footsteps of ultrarunners from years gone by. Had it been 90 miles, I’m sure I’d have still wanted to run it, over and above running some new 100-mile race with no history to it. In this respect, it can appear on the surface that 100 miles is still THE ultra distance, but in fact it is certain iconic events that are still THE iconic races, and they just happen to be 100 miles long.

Of course whether 100 miles is THE distance in ultrarunning might depend on where you live. Ian Sharman commented that when he moved to the U.S. from the U.K. he definitely got the sense that 100 milers were ‘the main event,’ and that he has now come around to that thinking due to the level of commitment involved in training for one, compared to shorter ultras. Certainly European and worldwide races seem less fixated on the exact 100-mile distance and instead are often random distances from one town to another, or a circumnavigation around a mountain–however far that happens to be. I’ve had runners look at me oddly when I say that Comrades is 89k, but why make it 100k when the towns in which it starts and ends in are 89k apart? It’s a natural route rather than a contrived course to make up a nice, round number. The North American draw to the 100-mile distance is surely shown in the fact that Sinister 7 in Canada has run for many years as 147k event but last year upped their course to 160k, or a nice round 100 miles. I can only suppose that this will draw more ultrarunners who want to join the club, run one of the most respected distances in our sport, and earn that much-coveted finisher buckle.

Whether rightly or wrongly it would seem that there is a good percentage of ultrarunners who still believe that 100 miles is THE distance in our sport, but why is this? Is it simply because we want to keep our club somewhat exclusive and feel that we therefore need to set the entry requirements a little higher than a fast, road 50k? I think in part, it is this. Certainly, many of us embrace the fact that our sport is a little niche and quirky and not exactly mainstream; so we’re a little concerned if, in a sport that we embrace for its challenges and suffering, ultrarunning is being encroached on by road marathoners who seem to quite easily be able to tack on another five miles and call themselves an ultrarunner. Yes, we are a friendly community–but runners have to prove their true worth first! Indeed Stephanie is someone who, now she has run a 100 miler, does believe that 100 miles is THE distance. The reason, says Stephanie?

It’s a true test of the human ability to endure and persevere and that’s what I think ultrarunning is all about. It’s not about pace or running fast–it’s about pushing your body beyond its limits and not giving up. That’s very different from running a 50k or a 50 miler.

This I wholeheartedly agree with, which makes me feel that it’s these values of perseverance and pushing the body to the limit that we respect in the ultra community, and that is why certainly many consider the 100 miler THE ultra distance. How this might change over time, as more and more shorter-distance runners enter the world of ultras, or as more top-end runners gain sponsorship and feel the need to race more during a year (which is clearly more feasible for races shorter than 100 miles), only time will tell.

[Author’s Note: Thank you to Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman, Max King, Ran Katzman, Sage Canaday, and Stephanie Howe for their contributions to this article.]

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you think 100 miles is THE distance in ultrarunning?
  • Have you felt pressure to race longer distances to feel like you belong in the ultra community?
  • How many times have you used the word ‘just’ in describing a run 50k or 50 miles in distance?
  • If you think 100 miles is not THE distance in ultrarunning, what instead would you call the defining passageway into our sport? That is, what does a runner have to do or be, in your opinion, to become an ultrarunner?

There are 61 comments

  1. Sbev02

    so is a 50k or 50 miler not pushing ones own abilities/limits? What if someone has never gone that far and has to,"suffer," to get there? Do you still exclude them from the club? It sucks to be left out.

    1. sharmanian

      Every distance can be extremely challenging. Personally I find 5k to be a very difficult distance that intimidates me more than most ultras since it's just a pure hard effort from the gun and can go wrong within the first few minutes. Nailing any race distance is very tough, but just finishing gets harder the longer the distance and tougher the terrain.

  2. @jomagam

    IMO the badassary jumps to a whole new level when you run through the night. And I'm not saying this because I have done it, I have not. The difficulty has more to do with time than distance, Hardrock vs some road 100-miler. And screw round numbers. Especially with trail races, you cannot compare one to another anyways, so I wouldn't go out of my way to make it an even 100.

  3. Joey

    I think maybe something to consider is the time it takes to complete a race. For 50k and 50 miles you're home for a late lunch or for dinner time. For 100 miles, you might see two sunrises. Which I guess goes to my next point, you have to dig deeper and more during 100 miles. You go through more walls and have to find something special inside you to keep going (double a 50 miler and triple a 50k). 100 miles breaks you down more to the core

  4. nextofkin

    There’s just too much walking in a 100 miler for me to find it as interesting as a 50k or 50 miler. Excluding the very elite, the majority of participants are moving too slowly for it to feel like a race.

    At least, it doesn’t seem like ultra-running, but rather ultra-hiking. 50 milers generally look more like athletes.

    Obviously, 150 or 200 miles would ‘test one’s limits’ even more than 100 miles so by this rationale, it would be preferred. However, it would be grindingly slow and boring in my opinion.

    For me, races get less appealing once the distance is such that the majority of participants can’t run the whole distance (not including aid stations, of course.).

    And as others have noted, the difficulty of the terrain determines how hardcore the race is much more than the mileage.

  5. RunningStupid

    Just like a 13.1 is a different type of event from a 26.2, the difference between a 50 and 100 is huge! The difference between 100 and 200 is even bigger… ;) Sure, you can push your body to the limit at any distance but the longer the race, the more involved the execution! It takes a totally different focus and preparation and drive to run a well executed 100 vs 50!!
    I think the big reason for 100's being "THE distance" is the fact that the people who have done them know how hard it is and how different it is from 50's! They're proud of their accomplishment and like to think of it as the bar for everyone to meet!!
    Me, I'm totally guilty of pushing the distance envelope when I could focus on getting better at shorter distances instead (and oddly enough, I'm starting to see 100's as shorter… Karl Meltzer may be right!!)! I've found that I LOVE really long distance and how my body comes alive late in the event!! It's an amazing experience!! I would love to see a distinction: Ultra (<100) and Long Ultra (>100)!!
    Of course, I really can't wait to see how you do at Leadville, Ellie but it's awesome to see you race well, no matter what distance!!!

    All Day!
    ~Ken

  6. enduraman

    In a hundred mile race there are actually two races. One for the runners and the other for the hikers with the latter probably in the greater majority. The ratio shifts as you move to shorter distances. And race directors should be aware about this distinction in terms of safety, cutoffs, support, training, and the fun factor. Majority of hundred mile finishers will most likely move at an average pace comparable to hikers, at most 4.2 mph. Hiking heightens the senses, allows the endorphins to do its magic, more time to socialize and so on. Maybe these are some of the reasons why it's so different from simply running the whole damn thing in shorter distances. All long distances will torture our bodies, tax our minds, question our faith, and even prod some to contemplate suicide. But hundred milers will magnify these sensations a thousandfold making a finish or even a DNF sweeter. Hence the cult behind the hundred miles. At least that's how I felt when I finished Santa Barabara 100 last year. It was close to a resurrection.
    -Andrew G.

  7. mikehinterberg

    I see it as a matter of personal aesthetics. For the "personal" part, I think we needn't worry or get overly considered about what others think about us and our efforts, nor should we get overly considered with others — except for sharing their own enthusiasm about whatever they've chosen to do. Also on the personal matter, it's important to note that there are differences in what people get out of ultramarathons, in a spectrum between a 'race' and an 'event' or challenge, all of which are valid.

    For the "aesthetics" part, shorter races have attractive aspects especially for racing, such as increased, close competition, and impressively even race splits. And, as an event, the simplicity of more people being able to finish close together and hang out afterward for beers.

    I think 100M gets attention because it has other attractive points, some of them mentioned above: it's a nice round (English) measurement; several races of that distance have a rich history; it takes a significant training commitment yet is reachable for most people who really want to give it a go, even with full-time jobs and family; it takes roughly a day (including a full night) or more for most people to complete on challenging terrain (while the front of the pack might be racing against sunset), yet doesn't *require* lying down and sleeping (and the provisions to do so); it fits within weekend for family travel; the logistical cost is relatively manageable and thus affordable; some races still can produce 'close' and exciting competitive finishes. (The latter points are pre-emptive arguments against *200M* becoming "the" next distance, although I'm glad to see them popping up as well).
    Mostly, I think 100M trail races have enough variability, especially due to things like terrain and weather, that the course itself becomes an actor: people dunking themselves in streams or running out of water, people losing a shoe on a mountain side, or ducking lightning, or getting caught in a snow squall, or scree skiing, or getting charged by a moose, etc. This makes for good stories — and we're naturally attracted to stories.

    So all the distances are good. No opinions on what other people are running — just glad to have these options.

    1. Andy

      I totally agree with Mike. I don't think we should underestimate the power of two factors which, IMHO, drive the 100 mile holy grail: (1) the rich history of the event, captured in legendary style by Gordy's inaugural run at WS; and (2) the English (human?) obsession with round numbers, 100 in particular. We're pretty well fixated on centuries, centenarians, and the nice feel of a "benny" in your pocket. Add to that the nice, round, 24-hr target and you've got a recipe for human obsession!

      Recognizing all that, I would still say that my first and only 100 in 2013 stands as a crowning achievement and source of great pride, after many 50ks, 50 milers and even one 100k. Hell, why would I have another day-and-night suffer-fest on the calendar for this summer?!

  8. northacrosseurope

    It’s not WHAT you do but the WAY that you do it… that's what gets my respect.

    Personally, I’m in awe of runners who overcome obstacles, and who push their own boundaries, and who give 110 percent, irrespective of the distance…

    I like what I’ve seen of the ultra-running community, but I find discussions like this slightly disappointing. Talk about ‘the club’, and ‘this distance is better than that distance’ seem like chatter from a school playground to me. (Apologies if I cause offense – it definitely isn't intended.)

    But I thought running was more about personal self-discovery than about being what others thought one should be?

  9. @frumioj

    People who have run multi-day races probably think that those are the "defining" ultra distances. And some people don't care whether they are even called "ultra" runners at all. Point being that everyone is different, and that's what makes life so interesting. It would be a shame if some arbitrary group of people decides that the thing they have done is the "defining" thing. Of course, everyone else could just ignore them and go for a run of a length we define for ourselves :)

  10. mjbodeau

    I know I did my first (to date) ultra as a 50k within a 24h timed race, and though I technically consider myself an ultrarunner, I sometimes sort of feel impostor-ish because it wasn't more, wasn't on a trail, etc. But it was the right race for me (and it IS an ultra distance!). I'm a road marathoner who's not a trail runner and for many reasons probably shouldn't be out on a trail for 24+ hours which is what it would take for me. But part of the reason I wanted to become an ultrarunner is because it was such a welcoming community of cool people who'd accept you whatever your distance, race type, pace or goals. I truly hope that's not changing. I know I felt incredibly welcomed and supported at my race – the people were everything I'd read about and hoped for and even more! I may stick to road/track/timed races (probably up to 100k) but that doesn't mean I don't think the other races are great events or might wish to do them (Badwater! ok, that's road). I hope the ultrarunners who can do more/harder/faster than me remember it's a big tent. Everyone may not be able to (or want to) take on the same challenges – ability, health, finances/resources, obligations, interest will cause people to make the choices that work for them…which is great as we're all much more interesting when we're just ourselves (and then there's room in races).

  11. Max

    I feel that 100 miles is the shortest "common" distance where the suffering involved in finishing, or even winning a race, is of a breed unlike the shorter distances.
    To me 100k/50m races are about executing an athletic performance: running fast in a calculated manner to cover the distance. 100 miles is about surviving a lonely night without nothing but doubts for company, because the plan has long since gone all wrong.
    When I toed the line at a 100 mile race I asked myself not how fast I hope to run, but whether I can finish. And to me this unknown, a length that nearly guarantees that something will go terribly wrong, is what makes ultra running uniquely different to "regular" running.

  12. SeanMeissner

    I ran Sinister 7 in 2013, the last year it was 148k (that extra kilometer counts!). I LOVED that it wasn't contrived to make the distance a nice, round 100 miles. I'm sure I'll go back and run it again, but not because it is now a 100 miler, but rather mostly because of the excellent race organization. Well, and the fact that it's in Canada, so by default, everyone at the race is super-friendly (even the non-Canadians)!

    As for saying that 50k is the low-limit to count as an ultra, I have two words for that: Quad Dipsea.

    I really dislike the (rare) holier-than-thou vibe I get from some ultrarunners who say that "real" ultrarunning doesn't start until 50 miles, and that even then, you're not really in the club until you finish a 100 miler. I agree with Ian that just finishing gets harder the longer the distance and tougher the terrain, but that doesn't mean the 3-times-a-year 50k runner isn't an ultrarunner.

    If you've finished an ultra, you're an ultrarunner. Be proud of it. And welcome to the club!

  13. Ben_Nephew

    I agree with Sean, and I think this conversation underscores the hypocritical nature of the "welcoming" ultrarunner community. Based on the discussion so far, I wonder how rare the elitist opinion that one distance is superior is? Strangely, it is not simply about getting to a distance that is deemed very difficult to finish, as multi-day events get virtually no respect.

    I find it sad that runners at the top of our sport would not consider others to be ultrarunners unless they have run a 100. I can't imagine Meb thinking that people are not runners unless they have run a marathon. I've had the opportunity to run with all sorts of amazing runners, from Bill Rodgers to Alan Webb, and I'm pretty sure they all considered me a runner, no matter what distance I ran and how slow I was. I can also say that my much faster, shorter distance friends appreciate my ultra race performances as much as I appreciate, and am jealous of, their ability to run much faster than I can these days.

    One of the most amusing examples of the common lack of respect for all distances in ultrarunning was when Josh Cox ran a 2:43 50k.

    The most unfortunate aspect of the popularity of 100's is not the lack of respect for other distances, though. It is the fact that many people are running 100's even though it is not their distance. I've seen plenty of folks do this at the Boston marathon; there tends to be a bit of peer pressure to run that race. What happens when people try to run a marathon and are either unprepared or not suited to run that event is they may bonk, get some sort of minor injury, or have a lengthy recovery after a rough race. When this happens to friends in a 100, they may vomit repeatedly, urinate what looks like coffee, suffer kidney damage, and too often end up in the hospital and/or suffer an incredibly long recovery that affects not only their running but their daily lives as well.

    Just like all runners are not meant to have the physique of Shalane Flanagan or run 100 meters in under 11 seconds, not all runners should be running 100 miles. This does not make 100 miles or 6 day races superior.

    I have equal respect for a 2:43 50k and a 11:47 100 miler, they are both insane, and even that Bolt guy, he is quite impressive as well, even if he isn't an ultrarunner. Growing up, I was always a distance runners, but I was a huge fan of Michael Johnson.

    Defining one distance as superior also indicates a lack of appreciation for relative effort of all members of the ultra community. For many, running a 50 mile may take as long as it does for me to run 100 miles. Is their effort less of an accomplishment? I would bet the person running the 50 would be further beyond their limits and closer to giving up than me running a 100.

    How is defining a "true" ultrarunner as someone who has done a 100 different than defining "true" marriage as one that involves different genders?

    1. sharmanian

      I don't think Ellie was suggesting that only 100-mile finishers are 'real' ultra runners, whatever that may mean. Just that for some people the 100 mile distance is set on a pedestal. I certainly got that impression when I moved to the US and I agree there's something special about the challenges of 100 milers.

      But it's like comparing road races to trail races – neither is 'better' than the other, just different…and I wouldn't want to give up either, personally.

      1. Ben_Nephew

        Hi Ian,

        There wasn't much interpretation involved in my reference to Ellie's comments in the article:

        "Although gaining the respect of the ultrarunning community was not Stephanie’s primary motivation in her running a 100 miler, it was certainly one of them. To me that sounds a little crazy, but then I must admit that I felt somewhat the same before running Western States in 2011, and I also have to admit that I know of friends who have run a handful of ultras but I don’t really class them as true ultrarunners and when I think of why, it’s due to the fact that they haven’t run further than 50 miles, and running 50 miles just doesn’t compare to running 100 miles."

        When combined with the comments in the last two paragraphs about an exclusive club, setting high entry requirements, and runners having to prove their worth, ultrarunning begins to sound like a college fraternity that involves hazing more than a universally welcoming community.

        Attitudes similar to this (when standardized) are justified in situations like choosing teams for championship events. If you are choosing a 24hr team, you want to select folks who have demonstrated excellence at 24 hrs, not just 12 hr races. Similarly, as I am sure you can appreciate, running a fast, non-technical 50 miler is not the best predictor for excellence at a technical 50 miler with twice the vertical gain. I don't think this type of process and attitude should be applied to the sport as a whole.

  14. @frumioj

    To be fair, I think Ellie did not mean to get into the usual argument of what counts as an ultra, but was meant to ask whether 100 miles was still seen as the defining distance for a whole sport – whether running 100 miles *is* the sport of ultra these days.

    And if you believe the Ultrarunner list of 2014 best ultrarunners, I think you'd have to say that at least in the saleable, sponsorable perception of ultra, 100 miles absolutely is the defining distance.

    Beyond that, there is almost no recognition of outstanding athletes at all (who knows Joe Fejes, for example, despite his amazing and consistent over several years multi-day running?) Or Dave Johnson, who smashed the Iditarod record last year with what many (including me) regard as an unbelievable performance? Or Pavel Paloncey, who has killed the UK Spine Race two years in a row with amazing multi-day performances?

    Take it down to 50k or 50 miles, and there always seems to be a feeling that even the elite runners who do those races are really just training for 100 miles, or, for some people, they are not even really running ultras – it's just closer to that dull group of people (I'm joking!) who only run 1/2 and full marathons…

    That being said, Ellie got her 2014 Ultrarunner "best runner" based on the 89k Comrades, and the 100k World Championships… two non-100 mile races. And anyone who thinks that Comrades wouldn't be very demanding should watch the video of Ellie passing the Russian twins – it is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen… especially when you read about how Ellie was feeling not long before she made that pass.

    Or just watch that video of the woman racing the Austin marathon recently… winning it and then collapses not far from the finish. Crawls over the line. Totally compelling and gutsy.

    For some people, they really don't know if they can even finish a 5k, until they do. Let's not be so elitist that we deny anyone the right to feel like they belong with us, whatever distance we run.

  15. littlegreenlynx

    This post works on a set of assumptions; A. All races are made equal B. All runners are made equal C. All people are desperate to tag themselves.
    In 2014 I lined up for various distances from 1500m to 50K (I have signed up for three long distance events in 2015, and yet I am reticent to throw my hat into the ring for the 1500m again!). I don't consider myself to be anything other than a runner, and if I eventually run 100 miles I would still be just a runner, and I am so proud to be part of the running community, and I would rather have the support of all my fellow club mates, whatever distances they elect to run than a pat on the back from a clique (an odd definition of welcoming!) who think one isn't good enough unless they reach a certain distance, no matter how accomplished they are (or aren't) at other distances.
    As to the question of all races being made equal; is a 100 miler in clement weather with regular checkpoints, on a marked course over rolling dirt trails, with pacers and support crew as tough as say an unsupported Bob Graham round of (a mere!) 66 miles with 27,000ft of climb in Winter on what is a self navigated route? And if there is any doubt as to how hard that is, only 29 people have managed the feat in 28 years (think it's only because no 'elites' have tried it? Wrong, Scott Jurek managed a summer BG last year in just shy of the 24 permissible hours, over 10 hours off the record). Am I suggesting one achievement is better than the other because it is harder? No, but I am trying to illustrate that saying a person has only earned a right to (IF they so wish) call themselves an ultra runner based on an arbitrary distance is to belittle brilliant achievements. One wouldn't want to be told they weren't a 'true runner' if they couldn't run a 4 min mile so why get into calling only those who have run 100 miles 'true ultra runners'?
    Let's not be guilty of denigrating great achievements in ALL running disciplines by drawing lines, remember, not everyone seeks the same holy grail.

  16. @WeiDe2014

    When i first heard about Ultras, i was hooked. I had ITB issues on and off for two years, and all i wanted to achieve in running was to ever finish a 50km event so that i could at least feel like an ultra for myself. I read so many inspiring books and blogs, i just wanted to be part of that somehow. My wife then gave me 5 sessions at a chiropractiotioner as a present and i never had ITB issues again. I have progressed, and every new distance inspired me again. I was really afraid of that 100 mile distance. It is 100km plus 61km, unreal! I have never struggled so much for so long as last year in Vermont. I since ran one more at RR100 and was able to come in under 20 hours. For me it is the ultimate distance and i am really happy about finishing both events. For me it means i progressed. It is not for everyone though, and i follow all the Ultras on live irunfar coverage. It is just something i watnted to do for me. Everyone should have their goals and passion in life. For my mom its just being able to jog for 30 minutes after years of back pain, and i am happy for her and proud that she has a go at it.

  17. alicegk

    I thought really hard about whether I should comment or just forget about it – but after talking to many of my ultra running friends this morning I think I will, just because many people feel the same way.
    This is by far my least favorite article on i run far, I am genuinely shocked how many people dismiss anything under 100 miles as not real ultra running. I am so happy I have my own running community where most people have demanding jobs, family and community obligations and don't focus their own as well as their loved ones' lives around doing several hundred mile races year after year. Running a hundred mile race never mind several requires considerable time off commitment, $, time away from other things in life. In fact it can be incredibly selfish and self serving and not fair to others. Running a strong mountain 50 mile race is as much of an effort and accomplishment if not more than running a 2 mile loop hundred mile race with 36 hour cutoff. As far as the magic of running at night that one hundred affords, well if you are an elite ultra runner it most likely would apply, and if you are not, doing a night run where you get to greet sun rise doesn't require running a hundred miles.
    I actually feel it's alarming how many people are obsessed with buckle collecting and centering their whole lives and their family lives around running several 100 mile races a year. To me, that's not normal.
    Until I read this article it would have never occurred to me to think of myself as not an ultra runner because I don't run a hundred mile race every year; or my friends who've never run any 100 mile races. I will just stay in my happily oblivious running community and still enjoy 50m and 100k races while living a well rounded life and being there for my other commitments. If that makes me not a real ultra runner in i run far world, that's fine. Happy trails!

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      Ultrarunner Alice,
      In my reading of Ellie's article, I don't think there's any suggestion that she or those at iRunFar feel the 100-mile distance is definitive of ultrarunning or the superior distance. In fact, I think it tries to look at whether there was a perception in some circles that the 100-mile distance had additional cachet/ prestige/ ultimate goal-type status, why that might be, and if and why that might be changing. It's a discussion piece… and one brought to you by a person who made her mark in ultrarunning last year without running a 100 miler.

      Every year, iRunFar attends and reports on numerous ultramarathons. It's worth noting that far more of them are not 100-mile races and, at least last year, that mix went further toward non-100-mile races. :-)

      I'd also agree that at the very pointy end of the field, there's an increasing importance on sub-100-mile races. Someone like Sage has made quite the name for himself without ever having started a 100 miler. Max King did the same for years before running his first 100 miler last June. Newer ultrarunners like Magdalena Boulet or Zach Miller have firmly established themselves as top ultrarunners without having run a 100. Meanwhile, 50-mile races like Lake Sonoma, Transvulcania, and the TNF 50 have incredible depth, ever strengthening fields, and a good deal of prestige.

      Personally, I've found I really enjoy having an iconic race on my calendar. It gives me a lighthouse to guide my training. Prior to ultrarunning, that once turned out to be the Boston Marathon. After running ultras for a few years (I specifically put off running a 100 miler), the first race I really focused on was the Western States 100, in part because it was huge new challenge, but mostly because of the reverence those around me placed on it as an historic institution. My subsequent goal races tended to be 100 milers, but, as Ellie notes, it was for their long history or iconic status rather than because 100 miles was IT. That put Wasatch, Leadville, and UTMB (didn't finish), along with Western States on my calendar in various years from 2004 and 2013. Some years I didn't run a 100 miler, and I've never attempted more than two in a year. Late last year, I signed up for two iconic 100 milers–Western States and Hardrock–in 2015… but with very long odds at getting, I entered the Comrades Marathon (89km) as I very much wanted to guaranty a lighthouse race on my calendar after not having one last year. Had I not gotten into either 100, I would have put my heart and sole in Comrades and made it the focus of my year. I could see myself doing the same with JFK 50 mile one year. (Truth be told, the random adventure runs I go in training for my focus race or the ones enabled by the fitness I gain in training for that race are often what I enjoy most in my running. In a way, racing facilitates the running I enjoy most… but that's off topic.)

      Thinking about not having a focus race last year, reminded me of the highlight of my running year in 2014… running the final 12 miles of the Laurel Highlands 50k with my sister. It was her first ultra finish. She is now, unquestionably, an ultrarunner. :-D

  18. andymxyz

    Bryon,

    You say:

    "In my reading of Ellie's article, I don't think there's any suggestion that she or those at iRunFar feel the 100-mile distance is definitive of ultrarunning or the superior distance."

    So, how do you interpret this statement?

    "… I also have to admit that I know of friends who have run a handful of ultras but I don’t really class them as true ultrarunners and when I think of why, it’s due to the fact that they haven’t run further than 50 miles, and running 50 miles just doesn’t compare to running 100 miles."

    I'm particularly focused here on the words "I don't really class them as true ultrarunners."

    Of course, I don't ascribe this attitude to irunfar generally; it's just a statement of how the author feels.

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      I guess it's probably because (1) of the behind-the-scenes context in which Ellie pitched the story as a question of whether the "hold," possibly perceived prominence of the distance, or however one wants to neutrally phrase that and (2) from having long interacted with Ellie and knowing that she doesn't definite her own ultrarunning based on 100 milers. While her statement that you single out is decidedly strong, I see it as questioning self-reflection on how she might find her own thoughts wandering in both directions, as she also includes statements favoring the counter statement like this "This to me makes sense, even despite my tendency to feel ultrarunners who have run 100 miles are different from those who have not, I have much bigger admiration for someone who really works on ‘racing’ a 50 miler as fast as they can (even if that is not fast), rather than someone who progresses quickly onto the next distance and runs a 100 miler but in a time far slower than their ability would indicate. For me, ultrarunning is just as much about the quality of racing as it is about the quantity." Don't we often find ourselves in agreement with facets of both sides of an issue when we spend time seriously reflecting on it? :-) Perhaps it was this desire or predisposition to identify in part with both sides that drew Ellie to want to write this piece… only she can say.

      1. @eLLiejG

        Thanks Bryon, you seem to have understood my viewpoint much more clearly that I feel many readers have. I need to work on my writing skills as seems many readers have (a) not understood my thoughts and (b) not understood that I hoped to get a respectful discussion taking place in which there is not necessarily a 'yes' or 'no' answer but simply a fun topic to mull over.

  19. dougdanielpt

    Interesting topic. The 100 does pose its unique challenges. Often people reach a little deeper and farther to help one another overcome, and there is no question that the distance really takes people to a new level intrapersonally.

    On the other front, the extrinsic pressure of being a "real ultrarunner" seems a bit trivial. I agree that there is beauty in mastery and being honest with oneself. If a person truly enjoys running 26.3 mile races or 50ks or 50 milers, then that is what they should do.. No need to call it anything..

    Good topic

  20. JHoltTrail100s

    Having run four 100 milers and dozens of 50's and 50k's (never kept track), my conclusion is that none of that really means much. Like someone pointed out above, it's the other things (family, friends, love, etc…) in life that really count. My all-time favorite run is a daily 5 miler in the woods with my dog. Those runs feed my soul in a way that no ultra run ever does…we're all just runners. That's it. Run what makes you feel good. There's no pressure and there's no finish line.

  21. davesw

    I am committed to running my first 50K this fall. Training, reading about ultrarunning, thinking about it, has become a large and fulfilling part of my life. When I finish that 50K, I will be an ultrarunner. After reading this article carefully several times, I understand that I will not be a "true ultrarunner" in Ellie's opinion. That works for me. In my opinion, Ellie displayed her "true worth" in writing her article.

    1. @eLLiejG

      As per my previous comments, I will work harder if I write again in future to convey my thoughts in a manner that they are not misinterpreted as I think you have misunderstood me entirely, along with many other readers. But I still feel it is not appropriate, even if you disagree with someones supposed opinion, that you infer that they are worthless.

      1. davesw

        Ellie,

        You said, “But I still feel it is not appropriate, even if you disagree with someones supposed opinion, that you infer that they are worthless.“ I agree wholeheartedly, and that was my point. Do you realize I was quoting your words (true worth)?

        “Whether rightly or wrongly it would seem that there is a good percentage of ultrarunners who still believe that 100 miles is THE distance in our sport, but why is this? Is it simply because we want to keep our club somewhat exclusive and feel that we therefore need to set the entry requirements a little higher than a fast, road 50k? I think in part, it is this. Certainly, many of us embrace the fact that our sport is a little niche and quirky and not exactly mainstream; so we’re a little concerned if, in a sport that we embrace for its challenges and suffering, ultrarunning is being encroached on by road marathoners who seem to quite easily be able to tack on another five miles and call themselves an ultrarunner. Yes, we are a friendly community–but runners have to prove their true worth first!”

        Are you not excluding those who have not run 100 miles from worth? Is this not inappropriate? This sentiment was not conveyed in a single phrase or sentence in your article but was repeated several times. The elitism and push to exclude others in the article is inappropriate.

        I have met many warm, welcoming and encouraging people in long distance running. Your article is a stark contrast to those fine people.

        1. @eLLiejG

          @davesw, I am not inclined to get further into this conversation as I can't seem to clearly express to you my thoughts and how I feel that 100 miles is NOT the ultimate distance, but I do feel that a good portion of the N.American ultra community do still regard 100 miles as THE distance (tho I started this article to discuss this point as I know I may not be right in this opinion which is why I thought I would be interesting to hear the thoughts of others).

  22. @eLLiejG

    I have not commented so far on this article, preferring to leave readers to discuss the topic amongst themselves in the comments section. In reading some of the comments now I can only conclude that I need to improve my writing skills as it seems that a large number of readers have misinterpreted my thoughts entirely. I had hoped to get an interesting respectful discussion going but instead it seems that some people prefer to simply agree with one side or the other, with no real respect for differing opinions or willingness to discuss and mull over thoughts. iRunFar do an excellent job on allowing 99% of comments to be published and I whole heartedly agree with that policy, although what I find interesting in reading the comments is the lack of willingness for readers to discuss and respect someone for having differing opinions and instead feeling that their own stand point is always the correct standpoint, I guess this is to be expected as iRunFar gains a wider readership and people feel their comments are less personal, but I still find this disappointing. I do not expect, or want, all readers to agree with a writers opinion but I had expected that an article would be read fully rather than single statements taken out of context and comments made based on incomplete reading of a piece. Anyway, off to improve my writing skills so if I write again in future, my thoughts are conveyed in a way that readers correctly understand what thoughts I am trying to convey …

    1. EmersonTA

      Your article was fine. The comments oftentimes say less about your writing than about the commenter's state of mind. Take "alicegk." She uses words like "shocked" and "alarmed" to describe her emotions when she thinks of the 100 mile running issue. Then she goes on to insult those with many 100 mile buckles — accusing them of being "selfish", "self-serving," and basically not having a "real" life (in a world defined by Alice). It appears to me as though Alice needs to chill, go for a run, and be less judgmental. Everyone has their own unique way of leading a life. So, don't change your writing. Rather, understand that people get crazed over just about anything they can :)

    2. @SageCanaday

      Ellie, the writing is fine. It's fostered a lot of discussion and people have shared a lot of diverse perspectives/opinions. That's a good thing!

      Also realize that those of us that comment usually are in the minority. By saying that I mean, for every 100 (or heck 1000+ views) from readers, probably only one person comments – and usually those of us that comment are probably the most opinionated! So we all have personal bias (that's going to be a constant variable)…but that's also what makes the MUT running community so diverse!

      To me it's all just running…I consider myself a "MUT Runner" because it encompasses shorter ("sub-ultra" if you will) trail and mountain races…which is also what I like to do as well as road half marathons and track races even. To say one event/distance is "better" than the other or "hurts more" than the other would be a fallacy (IMO).

      I think it's good to stir the pot sometimes and question the status quo…[whatever that is…]

    3. northacrosseurope

      Ellie, please don't let feedback that might seem negative stop you from writing! Writing as a process is easily an equal to races (of any distance!) when it comes to self exploration and knowledge, and I'd hate to think of anyone quitting when so many benefits lie ahead.

      Whether people understood your motives for writing the article or not, or agree with your conflicting thoughts or not, you've still sparked a worthwhile discussion. You've set other people thinking, and no doubt the ensuing brouhaha has left you questioning yourself even more deeply too! None of that is a bad thing.

      So write again, keep asking questions, and don't let the possibility of negative comments alter what you have to say. I'd far rather read thoughts that are honest and I don't agree with, than dishonest thoughts that I do. And I bet I'm not the only one…

    4. dougdanielpt

      I liked the article. It spurred discussion and made people think about how they feel on the topic. I think that actually makes it successful writing!!

  23. @Konapower

    Hmmmm. I find the effects of this article very interesting. As a good friend of Miss Ellie G I know that she is the least judgemental running superstar who has ever laced up a pair of running shoes. (Okay, yes she is the only running superstar I really know well, but if I knew all the others I still think this would be true :) She likes runners (all people and all shoes, but especially Salomon these days) and all types of running (although pool running has tested her amiability at times). I've had the privilege of running short distances, long distances, trails, roads, tracks and snowpacks and pools with her. I draw the line at treadmills, but she even calls that running! She loves it all and she loves that others love it too. Mr. Meissner's comments are indicative of the Ellie mindset: "You run? Great! Welcome to the "running" club." I can hear Ellie then say, "Now let's get out there and get running. I'll try to keep up with you if you try to keep up with me. But if I can't or you can't because of who knows what then, hey, let's agree to be friendly and meet back at Java Joes for coffee." Great piece of writing Ellie G. Like you say and demonstrate over and over again – all running is good. We are all runners. Cheers.

  24. littlegreenlynx

    Opinions will always be divided where people's passions are aroused, and – with the exception of some rather callous comments – these should never be taken to heart, this is what great debate is about :) !! Surely you must have anticipated when you conceived of offering up 100 miles as a paradigm for what made an ultrarunner, it would be a contentious topic which had the power to polarise opinion, even if not in the way it appears to have?

  25. Meghan Hicks

    All,

    When I read Ellie’s article, I see three main, clearly articulated themes:

    1. Ultrarunning has a tradition of embracing 100 milers as a capstone experience within our sport, ultrarunning still embraces this concept to some extent, and that there are signs within our modern community that this trend is changing.

    2. Ellie shares logic for both sides of the equation on why running 100 miles is meaningful and why running shorter ultra distances is meaningful, too. As part of this, Ellie indicates that she’s intellectually torn by the concept of putting the running of 100 miles on a pedestal. For example, she says she thinks it’s a little “crazy” that Stephanie Howe would be partly motivated to run Western States so that she could run the 100-mile distance, but that she felt similarly when she ran her first 100 miler as well. She also says, in reaction to Max King’s opinion that, while she feels there is something “different” about ultrarunners who have run 100 miles versus those who haven’t, she has “bigger admiration” for someone who races the heck out of 50 miles than someone who finishes 100 miles at a slower speed than what represents their potential.

    3. The opinions of several top ultrarunners in the modern sport are shared, and, as a whole, their opinions weight toward 100 miles as NOT being THE distance in ultrarunning. Stephanie Howe likes that running 100 miles allows ultrarunners to push their limits more readily than shorter ultra distances, while Max King and Sage Canaday highly value the running of shorter ultra distances.

    As an editor, I predicted that this article would spark conversation. I thought we would have a conversation about modern and past ultra trends, and where we would like to see the trends go. I thought there was a possibility that a debate would emerge from this conversation as well, one in which we debated what we want the ultra community to embrace as its capstone distance(s)/experience(s) now and in the future, or if we need a capstone distance at all. I realize that this sort of conversation would not be of interest to some of iRunFar’s readers, like those who embrace the freedoms and lack of defining principles that largely make up our sport. However, I thought there would be a goodly number of readers who would find this conversation meaningful. To a moderate extent, this conversation is happening here in the comments.

    What has also happened here in the comments, however, is that some readers have plied Ellie’s thoughts on one side of her discussion of this concept or the other out of their full context. As stand-alone thoughts, no longer in the context wherein Ellie shares her own differing feelings or those of other runners in the next sentence or paragraph, they take on a different meaning. Readers have then used Ellie’s out-of-context thoughts to argue for Ellie’s intellectual mistreatment of certain parts of our community. I find this unfortunate, because not only do I think that Ellie’s thoughts are misconstrued by these readers, but because some of the conversation here has taken a somewhat unfortunate, defensive turn.

    As an editor, I am curious as to why this is. Did Ellie not convey her argument as completely as I thought she did? Is it because the question of why we are all ultrarunners is so personal, and because Ellie’s article dances along the edge of that? Is it because early commenters misread Ellie’s article, made a comment to this effect, and their opinions here in the comments then influenced how later readers understood and commented upon her article? Is it something else? I am genuinely interested in hearing readers’ thoughts here.

    I can say with 100% certainty—and I’m now mostly reiterating what Bryon Powell said earlier here in the comments—that there was no intent by Ellie or iRunFar to ostracize any ultrarunner demographic or to place more value one type of ultrarunning than another. I have only seen Ellie behave in ways that are inclusive of everyone, and iRunFar wholeheartedly embraces the open, accepting-of-all spirit that we see in and love about ultrarunning.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. northacrosseurope

      Meghan, In my opinion as a reader and trail runner, and after careful re-reading, the article would seem to be ENTIRELY focused on placing more value on one particular distance over other distances, even if it's done as a question, even if counter arguments are also given, and even if this was 100% not your intention.

      Although Ellie clearly has conflicting thoughts about the issue it does seem that she feels 100 miles is superior to other distances… to me, that's just the way it comes across.

      Perhaps this is why so many commenters share disappointment in the story, because so many runners don't feel the same way?

      1. @eLLiejG

        Once again, I have obviously not done a good job in conveying my thoughts clearly. I do NOT believe that 100 miles is THE ultimate distance, but I do believe that a considerable portion of the ultra community (in North America at least) do (but I appreciate I may be wrong in thinking this which is why I wrote the piece). I am leaving this conversation now as I don't feel that a meaningful conversation is now ensuing, but do appreciate you being one of the more reasoned contributors to the conversation.

    2. davesw

      Meghan,

      The article was clearly written and informative. It highlighted a controversy that I did not know existed, since I am new to ultra distances. Ellie broke the issue down to view several aspects and presented contrasting thoughts as well as “guest” input from other top ultrarunners, which made it much more interesting.

      What engendered my negative response (and perhaps others) was Ellie's repeated statements of what was clearly her own opinion in the article that attempt to exclude the title of ultrarunner from those who have not completed a 100 miler.

      Bryon tried to walk back one of Ellie's more exclusive comments by suggesting behind-the-scenes context and a long acquaintance/understanding with Ellie. Bryon's better context and his history with Ellie outside the article are totally valid and surely puts her words into a truer framework, but please understand, we only have the article to look at. This snippet from Bryon's comment, “running the final 12 miles of the Laurel Highlands 50k with my sister. It was her first ultra finish. She is now, unquestionably, an ultrarunner. :-D “ was heartwarming, welcoming, and seemed to be a perspective opposite to Ellie's opinions in the article.

      Presenting ideas in writing is always challenging, and context is critical. I read Ellie's opinions as inserts into the flow in a well-presented debate in the article. Read that way, but without the ability to read verbal or visual cues, and without knowing Ellie, she seemed to be clearly stating that if you have not completed a 100 miler, you are not an ultrarunner in her estimation. Don't get me wrong, Ellie is certainly entitled to her opinions, and she is an elite runner after all.

      How can Ellie (or better, any column or blog writer) deal with the imperfections of the written word when addressing a sensitive subject? Some options:

      One, the writer can respond by expanding on an unclear or misinterpreted statement, giving it fuller context and filling in details or rationale. This is where discussions can get really good.

      Two, the writer can change position based on input or comments. It is supposed to be a conversation, no?

      Three, the writer can deny that they meant anything questionable without addressing any comments directly or clarifying any misunderstanding.

    3. Ben_Nephew

      Hi Meghan,

      It seems that many of us read the article a few times before responding, and while Ellie presented varying opinions, the overall impression was clear to several runners that 100's are the superior event. I think what prompted many comments was the overall context, not just one comment taken out of context.

      When I first read it, I was surprised that you or Bryon didn't suggest that some of the statements be toned down a bit. Perhaps one problem is that you and Bryon do know Ellie well, which makes it difficult to evaluate the writing from the perspective of someone who doesn't. My impression is that the article was not misread.

      This discussion reminds me of why members of NIH grant committees that know applicants have to recuse themselves from the evaluation of that particular grant. If you know someone well, you automatically fill in blanks and interpret things in the most positive light.

      I don't think anyone made a direct connection between the comments that were concerning and irunfar as a whole, but those thoughts did come to mind at times when reading the article.

      1. EmersonTA

        "Toned down"? Is the world now so PC that someone cannot have an opinion on a benign topic without someone else trying to censure it? Are Bryan and Meghan to edit every piece submitted because it may "offend" someone? To be sure, there will be times when censorship is necessary, as when there is offensive speech (e.g. racist or sexist speech). But, come on dude, trying to censure a benign, if not interesting, article regarding the way folks define "ultra runner" is absurd.

        1. Ben_Nephew

          If you read the responses of Ellie Bryon and Meghan, it is clear they are not happy with how the article was interpreted and perceived I was responding to Meghan's request for feedback on the reasons for the apparent disconnect between their objective of the article and the actual resulting discussion. If you read my comments, it is clear I have no issues with strong opinions. I would have left the article as it is now. Editing an article to better meet your objectives is not equivalent to censorship. Ellie is the author, and she herself stated the she did not do a good job of conveying her thoughts clearly. While this is clearly a generally benign topic and I have no issues with the discussion (I think it was needed), it is not benign if it discourages Ellie from further contributions and/or makes Bryon and Meghan more tentative about publishing similar articles.

  26. @Baristing

    It seems to me like we have a legitimate discussion about an issue on which people disagree. It's been reasonable and civil, so far as I can tell. Disagreement isn't the same as negativity, and criticism isn't the same as bashing the writer. I really don't see what the problem is here.

  27. AV1611_Ben

    All I know is this. I wanted to complete a 100 mile race ever since I heard that such beasts exist. At the time, I was still struggling to complete 5k per day on my training runs. And when I heard that you get to EARN a belt buckle to wear (instead of being one of these wanna-be cowboys with a gigantic WWF style buckle that they bought at the local boots and jeans store), well, I wanted to EARN my belt buckle. :-)

    Completed 2014 Umstead 100. First attempt at 100 miles. First finish. I wear my belt buckle 6 days a week. Who cares that I caused permanent and irreversible nerve damage to my left quadracep – I got my buckle!

    For me, belt buckles are the essence of UltraRunning. See, we all have slightly different perspectives. :-)

  28. @kmundt22

    I thought this was a great reflective piece on the conflict that often arises between what we might believe vs. The biases that creep into our thinking that may conflict with that belief. The great part about examinations like this is sometimes you learn that one idea doesn't have to win over the other – they can both coexist.__As for being an ultrarunner? For me it's not about a distance per se. Rather it's about having that switch flipped that knows you are not limited by a specific number. You know that you can just go.

  29. mikehinterberg

    Wow, just checked in to see new comments.
    I 'got' what Ellie was saying. There's a heavy connotation of the 100M distance getting the most attention in ultramarathoning, and she asked, 'Why?' She even went out of her way to solicit different opinions, gave her own opinions and thoughts, a bit of history, some suggestions for-and-against that bias, and talked about where things might head in the future.

    That's it. (IMHO).

    When commenting, I try to make a mental summary of the article first, in order to process the entire meaning and tone. This can delay that (often strong!) impulse to respond emotionally to a small part of the article, out of context; and/or the temptation of relying instead on summaries by other posters, which can get distorted more quickly than a game of "telephone."

    1. mikehinterberg

      As for 100M 'feeling' like the distance, there are several reasons listed thoughtfully in the comments (history, the duration, running at night) as to why there's an allure.
      As to whether there's *too much* bias towards that distance, Ellie gave her own examples as to why that might also be true (stellar performances at shorter distances, new and high-profile races, the arbitrariness of 100M). For my own examples, also somewhat self-deprecating:
      There are popular books about the 100M distance. While people have various opinions (including my own mixed opinion), Dean Karnazes's book was my first introduction into the *idea* that there are 100M races. The description of running WS was fascinating to me, from the armchair, yet still not something I thought about being possible personally for several years. In the meantime, just running a half-marathon, and then a marathon, and then 50M…each one of those was a new and exciting personal benchmark of doing something I never thought was possible.
      With established and historic 100M races, it was a personally attractive 'endpoint' of a new distance goal. Now there's "Born to Run," and other books and videos, and they stir emotions and desire for some people because of the perceived challenge and adventure. (With new 200M races popping up, eventually we'll have new stories and histories for that distance). This is all to explain why there is a degree of attention to that distance.
      But it's also worth noting that the marathon distance — for it's history and stories — gets more attention than 50k's, 50M, and 100M.

      But now I meet newer and eager runners, who dismissively say they've 'only' run a half-marathon or 50M or what have you, making an implicit comparison to 100M…Don't! I remember saying/thinking the same thing, and now I realize that was hogwash. If people are genuine and humble and worth having a conversation with in the first place, than they're not judging you on distance (or speed). Whatever you, or we, have done that exceeded our expectations, *that's* what the excitement is about. It's about the fun we had, and that sparkle in the eye when thinking about it.

      So there are great performances at various distances. There are great stories and histories. There's an allure to longer distances, but it's not always fully deserved. There's some judgment at times, and other times a concern about judgment that doesn't truly exist. There are people in the middle and back of the pack with more compelling stories of overcoming adversity than some in the front.
      Yes, this can all be true at the same time! We can analyze things without a need to make it about polar opposites.
      Happy running!

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