The 2024 Hardrock 100 is history! Check out our in-depth results article for the full race story, as well as our interviews with champions Courtney Dauwalter and Ludovic Pommeret.

Running and Aging: The Virtues of Fixed Time Events

For those tired of chasing cutoffs during normal ultras, there are fixed-time events to consider.

By on June 14, 2024 | Comments

AJW's Taproom[Author’s Note: This article is part of an occasional series on the unique opportunities and challenges of growing older as a runner.]

Of the many challenges facing aging ultrarunners, one of the most frequently discussed is making race cutoffs. For those of us who have been in the sport for a long time, it can be a difficult reality to come to grips with. In our younger years, those aid station cutoffs seemed so far away, but they tend to close in as the years go by, and some of us end up leaving the sport frustrated and disappointed as a result.

Enter the wonderful world of fixed-time events! These races don’t have cutoffs, and they don’t even have DNFs. Participants simply arrive at the starting line and run, walk, rest, and repeat for as long as the clock is running. A quick scan of “UltraRunning Magazine’s” race calendar indicates that there are currently more than 75 fixed-time events in North America ranging from three hours to 10 days, with many time increments in between.

AJW at 2024 Hotfoot Hamster

AJW clearly enjoying his 500-meter laps at the 2024 Hotfoot Hamster. Photo courtesy of Andy Jones-Wilkins.

Down here in Arizona where I live, I was fortunate enough to participate in a fixed-time event earlier this month. Staged at Nardini Manor, a turn-of-the-century mansion with a certified 500-meter track encircling it, Hotfoot Hamster is a 24-hour event, which also has six- and 12-hour options, held every June outside of Buckeye, Arizona.

Participants of the 24-hour event start running at 7 a.m. on Saturday and stop at 7 a.m. on Sunday. The six- and 12-hour runners have their choice of starting times depending on whether they want to run during the day or night, so there are between 40 and 80 runners on the course at any given time.

Hotfoot Hamster runners in front of Nardini Manor

Hotfoot Hamster runners in front of the Nardini Manor. Photo: Aravaipa Running

The race venue features a huge party-style tent for shade, which is normally a wedding venue, as well as an expansive grass lawn with huge trees providing shade where runners can eat, rest, camp, and socialize. Most folks arrive about 30 minutes before their respective starting times and set up tents, chairs, coolers, and everything else they’re going to use throughout the event.

This year’s race felt a lot like a homecoming weekend at college, as many people knew each other as regulars on the fixed-time running scene and were excited to spend the day and night running together. Throughout the day, runners would stop to rest in the shade, chat with friends, and eat between laps. Every three hours, the race changes direction, and race organizers present the runners with treats like popsicles, smoothies, and ice cream cones. It is a wonderfully low-key and celebratory event.

Running through sprinkler at Hotfoot Hamster

Fix-time races area great low-key alternative to other types of ultra events. Photo: Aravaipa Running

For older athletes becoming frustrated with chasing or missing cutoffs, events like Hotfoot Hamster provide all the community and camaraderie of the big-time trail events without any of the anxiety or pressure that comes with chasing cutoffs. The lack of pressure lends an air of levity to the proceedings, allowing athletes of all ages, shapes, and sizes to challenge themselves against the clock. And, given the fact that so many experienced ultrarunners find their way to these types of events, the wisdom and experience on display at fixed-time races is second to none!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Stiegl logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Stiegl brewery in Salzburg, Austria. While some might not consider the Stiegl Grapefruit Radler a beer, it is nonetheless a delicious summer treat. Blending a classic crisp pilsner with sparkling grapefruit soda, this 2.5% ABV beer “cocktail” is the perfect drink to fight off the June heat in the desert. Widely available in the United States, this is a great beer to bring to your next summer cookout.

Call for Comments

  • Have cutoffs dissuaded you from signing up for an ultra before?
  • Have you tried out a fixed-time event? What did you think?
Runners at the Hotfoot Hamster

The 500-meter gravel track of the Hotfoot Hamster. Photo: Aravaipa Running

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.