Longevity and Ultrarunning Careers

A look at Bill Finkbeiner and longevity in running careers.

By on September 13, 2013 | Comments

AJWs TaproomThe recent announcement of the Ultra-Trail World Tour generated active discussion here and elsewhere. As a true sign of the global reach of the sport, this tour promises to bring a new jolt of excitement to the events in the series. Additionally, the tour will provide a great opportunity for runners to travel the world, run in beautiful places, and race with some of the best ultrarunners in the world.

On the other hand, some criticized the series for the fact that it would require tour participants to run at least three races over the 100k distance in a calendar year. These critics suggested that this could result in competitors over-racing and possibly jeopardizing their ultrarunning careers in the process. On that point, I have no opinion and leave that to others to debate.

However, I will say that the ultrarunners I admire the most are the ones who’ve been around for years and decades. Those runners who, through smart training, periodic racing, or simply strong muscles and bones, keep at it for 10, 20, 30 years. We have seen since the early ’80s that some runners do incredible things for a couple of years and then flame out while others just keep going, and going, and going. As an ultraunner, I must say, that latter group inspires me.

And, I can think of no greater example of that fortitude, that longevity, than Bill Finkbeiner. Just last month, Finkbeiner finished his 30th consecutive Leadville 100. That means he has been running Leadville longer than Sage Canaday has been alive! That, my friends, is longevity. Furthermore, on top of the 30-year streak at Leadville, Bill has not missed a day of running since New Year’s Eve 1981!

I have had the opportunity to share the trail with Bill on several occasions. Most notably, in the Western States high country. Bill loves the high country and, when he runs Western States, he always starts out too fast because he simply loves it up there. Eventually, he drops back to the place where he typically finishes and always enjoys the day on the trail but his enthusiasm for running is infectious and his attitude is eminently positive. Which is, in my opinion, the main reason he has been able to this for so long. He simply has a positive, hard-working, never-gonna-quit attitude.

So, I am not all that worried about runners burning out in the UTWT or any other series for that matter. If they run for the right reasons and share in the spirit of this wonderful sport, they can run all the races they want. As long as the Bill Finkbeiners are there, and whoever can follow in his footsteps, all will be right with the world.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week is a great little IPA from the small town of Fuquay-Varina, NC. In that little town sits Aviator Brewing Company and their Hogwild IPA is a classic, North Carolina style IPA that is strong on hops on the front end and rich in flavor on the back end. The ABV is moderate as are the IBUs, so it’s actually sessionable (at least for me) at 6.7%.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Bill Finkbeiner and some of the other old-school gals and guys have set some serious longevity standards. Who else do you know of in our community who has been running ultras for longer than some of us have been alive? That is, who is your old-school ultrarunning idol?
  • And, what say you on the concept of longevity? What have you learned about your body to help extend your ultrarunning shelf life?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.