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?