Ultrarunning’s Hangout Culture

AJWs TaproomLast weekend at the Promise Land 50K outside Lynchburg, Virginia I spent just under six hours running the race and just over six hours hanging out after the race. It was a grey drizzly day and our group was content to hang out under our tent drinking beer, eating food, and just wiling away the spring afternoon.

It reminded me once again of why I love ultrarunning so much.

Over the years I have talked to many runners who’ve come over to ultras from road running or triathlons and invariably the conversation comes around to comparing cultures. And, while road running and triathlons have their strengths, most converts I’ve talked to talk about the unique hang out culture of ultrarunning as one of its signature strengths. In fact, some suggest that the single greatest thing about ultrarunning is not the training or the racing but the hanging out, and the culture and sense of community that that engenders.

Certainly, the spring races here in Virginia are great hang out races in which the running culture is celebrated and camaraderie is encouraged, but having raced around the country over the past 20 years, I have come to know that there certain events that have taken the post-race culture to a new level and, have in and of themselves, become an art form.

Here, then, are my top-3 post race hang out cultures:

  1. Hardrock 100 – The fact that this race takes so long to complete is enough to make it an entrant on this list. Since there are typically 26 hours between the first finisher and the last finisher, there is literally more than a day to hang out and take in the scene. At this race there is always a fair amount of drama and excitement coursing through the Silverton High School gym as reports come in from runners still on the course and already finished runners lick their wounds. Then, it culminates joyfully with Dale Garland presiding over “graduation” aka the awards ceremony.
  1. Lake Sonoma 50 – RD Tropical John Medinger has raised ultrarunning hang out culture to a whole new level with this outstanding spring classic. With an excellent pre-race dinner, an off-the-hook post-race after party with unlimited Racer 5 IPA, and, then, a Sunday after the race wine tasting, this has become one of the can’t miss race weekends of the year. And, it all takes place in Sonoma County, California in April, what’s not to like?
  1. Western States 100 – Nobody will be surprised that this is my #1. Sure, it doesn’t have the all-day allure of Hardrock or the three-day party vibe of Lake Sonoma, but the Placer High School track on the 4th Saturday and Sunday of June is truly the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And, hanging out there through the night and day during Western States weekend has become one of the great joys of my life. There are few, if any, places of which I know where the true essence of human existence is laid bare.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Knee Deep Brewing Citra Extra Pale AleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn, California. Known for their over the top IPAs, I recently had their Citra Extra Pale Ale. A new twist on a classic American Pale Ale, Citra would be the perfect post-race hangout beer, if they just allowed it at the track.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What do you enjoy most about post-ultra hanging out?
  • At which races do you most enjoying hanging out at the finish?

There are 6 comments

  1. Gary Robbins

    Could not agree more with this observation. This is just one of the reasons that James Varner’s Raindshadow Running events have such a strong following in the PNW. As a RD myself I strive to accomplish this at my own SQ50 and as I’m currently designing a new 50k in Whislter, BC to debut in September, my number one item in course design is where we can host a start/finish that will allow for the greatest ease/desire to hang out and enjoy a beer, while trading tales and cheering on all the other finishers.

    1. Rob Tucker

      I’ve heard GREAT things about your race Gary… can’t wait to come North and experience the environment and the courses on BOTH days! Squamish 50/50 2017!

  2. Brad D

    I agree whole heartedly. I am an RD for a small 8 mile trail race in December in Iowa, talk about cold conditions, and my #1 item after the logistics of planning the race itself was to have a cool place for all of the runners to hang out after the event. We have grown the event over the last 4 years to around 300 people and I think most of them come out to the bar after even though they have to get in their car to drive there. We hang out, talk running/racing, have a few beers and end up hanging out for nearly 3 hours for an event that take most 75-90 minutes to complete.

  3. Shawn Vose

    spot on. I have written about this as well although not quite as eloquently as you. My wife and I ran our first 50k last year having never run anything more than a half marathon before. My wife was doing sprint triathlons I used too many moons ago ride my road bike with the roadies. The culture we encountered on our first 50k has led us to running four subsequent 50k’s, Three of which have already taken place this year! We love the people. It is what we talk about and cherish. Sure we love the suffering on the trail. Being in the woods gives us the inner peace we both yearn for; however, when we are struggling and in our dark places and someone trucks on by with no effort and says “hey look to other strong people, way to go, keep moving” that is something that makes our hearts happy because it speaks to the humanity and kindness that has been lost in our self absorbed society. I am sure there are some competitive folks out there, I am sure there are some douchey ultra folks, but I think they keep it to themselves. I love hanging out at the end of the race and cheering on the other folks coming across the line. You get to relish in their accomplishments as if they are your own again and again. You also get to meet like minded folks and have some really great talks. Fun talks.

  4. Rachel Bell Kelley

    Looking forward to hanging out in CO for your #3 pick #seeyouathardrock hope to hang out with you there!

Post Your Thoughts