Ultramarathon
Ultramarathoners compete at the Sahara Race 2011 (4 Deserts).
Highest governing bodyWorld Athletics, International Association of Ultrarunners, and the Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners
Presence
World Championships1987–present

An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is a footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26 mi 385 yd). Various distances, surfaces, and formats are raced competitively, from the shortest common ultramarathon of 31 miles (50 km) and up to 3100 miles.[1] World Championships are held by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) for 50 km, 100 km, 24 hours, and ultra trail running. The Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners (GOMU) holds World Championships for 48 hours and 6 days.[2] World Records are ratified and recognized by World Athletics (50 km and 100 km), the IAU (50 km up to 6 days), and by GOMU (48 hours up to 5000 km).[3][4][5]

Around 100 miles (160 km) is typically the longest course distance raced in under 24 hours, but there are also longer multiday races commonly held as 48 hours, 200 miles (320 km), or more, sometimes raced in stages with breaks for sleep.

The oldest and largest ultramarathons are on road, including the Comrades Marathon (over 10,000 finishers annually) and Two Oceans Marathon (over 6,000 finishers annually).[6] The world's longest certified Footrace is the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race. Many ultras have historical significance, including the Spartathlon, based on the 246 km run of Greek messenger Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta during the Battle of Marathon in a day and a half to seek aid against the Persians.[7][8][9]

Runners waiting for the start of the 2023 Comrades Marathon

There is also overlap with the sports of trail running and mountain running. Some 100 miles (160 km) races are among the oldest and most prestigious events, especially in North America.[10] The oldest and also the largest trail race is the SainteLyon 78km in France (over 5,000 finishers annually).[11]

Overview

There are two main types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance or route, and those that last for a predetermined period (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.07 mi), 50 miles (80.47 km), 100 kilometres (62.14 mi), 100 miles (160.93 km), and continue up to the longest certified race distance of 3100 miles.[1] Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3, 6, and 10 days (known as Multiday races). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile (1.6 km) or less.[12]

The format of ultramarathons and the courses vary, ranging from single loops (some as short as a 400-metre (1,300 ft) track),[13] to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons have significant obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Usually, there are aid stations, whether every lap of a track, small road or trail loop courses, or extending up to perhaps 20 to 35 kilometres (12 to 22 mi), where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.

There are some self-supported ultramarathon stage races in which each competitor has to carry all their supplies including food to survive the length of the race, typically a week long. The Marathon des Sables 6-day stage race in Morocco and the Grand to Grand Ultra in the US are examples.[14][15]

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 kilometres (31 mi), 100 kilometres (62 mi), 24 hours, and ultra trail running, which are also recognized by World Athletics. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of the country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations.

50-kilometer and 100-kilometer races are recognized as World Records by World Athletics, the world governing body of track and field.[16] The International Association of Ultrarunners recognizes IAU World Records for 50-kilometers, 100-kilometers, 6 hours, 12 hours, 100 miles, 24 hours, 48 hours, and 6 days.[17] The Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners (GOMU) recognizes Multiday race World Records for standard and non-standard distances and times between 48 hours and 5000 km.[18]

There are ultramarathon Racewalking events that are usually 50 km, although 100 km and 100-mile (160 km) "Centurion" races are also organized. Furthermore, the non-competitive International Marching League event Nijmegen Four Days March has a regulation distance of 4 × 50 km over four days for those aged 19 to 49.[19]

In 2021, concerns were raised about planning and medical care available for ultramarathons in China, after dozens of racers died from hypothermia and at least one from a heart attack while competing in an ultramarathon in the Yellow River Stone Forest. The government later announced a ban on "extreme" competitions.[20]

In August 2023, a partnership between Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) and Ironman Triathlon was announced and the new formation of the UTMB World Series, an ultra-distance circuit that culminates with UTMB held in August. Concerns have been raised about rising entry fees, homogenization of racing experiences, and bulldozing of smaller events.[21][22]

IAU World Record performances

Until 2014, the IAU maintained lists of the world best performances on different surfaces (road, track, and indoor). Starting in 2015, the distinction between the surfaces was removed and the records were combined into a single category.[23] Some governing bodies continue to keep separate ultramarathon track and road records for their jurisdictions.[24]

Starting in January 2022, the IAU began to recognize and ratify performances as IAU World Records. World Athletics also began to ratify the 50k distance as a World Record for both mixed and women, respectively, along with 100k.[25]

Record performances that have not yet been ratified are as follows:

The IAU World Records as of April 2024 are as follows.[30]

Men

Event Record Athlete Date Place
50 km 2:38:43  CJ Albertson (USA) 8 October 2022 United States San Francisco, US
50 miles 4:48:21  Charles R. Lawrence (USA) 11 November 2023 United States Vienna, US
100 km 6:05:35  Aleksandr Sorokin (LTU) 14 May 2023 Lithuania Vilnius, Lithuania
100 miles 10:51:39  Aleksandr Sorokin (LTU) 7 January 2022 Israel Tel Aviv, Israel
6 hours 98.496 km  Aleksandr Sorokin (LTU) 23 April 2022 United Kingdom Bedford, UK
12 hours 177.410 km  Aleksandr Sorokin (LTU) 7 January 2022 Israel Tel Aviv, Israel
24 hours 319.614 km  Aleksandr Sorokin (LTU) 17 September 2022 Italy Verona, Italy
48 hours 473.495 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 3–5 May 1996 France Surgères, France
6 days 1036.800 km  Yiannis Kouros (AUS)[a] 20–26 November 2005 Australia Colac, Australia
  1. ^ Kouros had Australian citizenship for part of his running career. Nationalities here are as given in the IAU records table.

Women

Event Record Athlete Date Place
50 km 2:59:54  Desiree Linden (USA) 13 April 2021 United States Dorena, Oregon, United States
50 miles 5:40:18  Ann Trason (USA) 23 February 1991 United States Houston, US
100 km 6:33:11  Tomoe Abe (JPN) 25 June 2000 Japan Yubetsu-Saroma-Tokoro, Japan
100 miles 12:42:40  Camille Herron (USA) 11 November 2017 United States Vienna, IL, US
6 hours 85.492 km  Nele Alder-Baerens (GER) 11 March 2017 Germany Münster, Germany
12 hours 153.600 km  Satu Lipiäinen (FIN) 20 May 2023 Finland Kokkola, Finland
24 hours 270.116 km  Camille Herron (USA) 26–27 October 2019 France Albi, France
48 hours 435.336 km  Camille Herron (USA) 24-26 March 2023 Australia Hackett, Australia
6 days 883.631 km  Sandra Barwick (NZL) 18–24 November 1990 Australia Campbelltown, Australia

Until 2021, the IAU also kept records for 1000 km and 1000 miles. The final records were:[35]

Men

Event Record Athlete Date Place
1000 km 5d 16:17:00  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 26 November–2 December 1984 Australia Colac, Australia
1000 miles 10d 10:30:36  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 20–30 May 1988 United States New York City, US

Women

Event Record Athlete Date Place
1000 km 7d 16:08:37  Paula Mairer (AUT) 29 September-6 October 2002 United States New York City, US
1000 miles 12d 14:38:40  Sandra Barwick (NZL) 16–28 October 1991 United States New York City, US

Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoner World Record performances

The Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners (GOMU) was founded in October 2021 to recognize Multiday race World Records that are not recognized by the International Association of Ultrarunners.

GOMU recognizes the IAU-ratified World Records for 48 hours and 6 days. They recognized standard times/distances for 48 hours, 72 hours, 6 days, 10 days, 500 miles, 1000 miles, 2000 miles, 3000 miles, 3100 miles, 500 km, 1000 km, 2000 km, 3000 km, 4000 km, and 5000 km. They also recognize records for a number of non-standard formats (4 days to 49 days, 200 miles to 2900 miles, and 300 km to 4900 km).[5]

IAU World Championships

There are four IAU World Championships: the IAU 100 km World Championships, IAU 50 km World Championships, IAU 24 Hour World Championship, and the IAU Trail World Championships.[36]

GOMU World Championships

GOMU World Championships are held for 48 hours and 6 days to encourage multi-day athletes from around the world to come together, compete on a level playing field, and aspire for world, national, age-group, and personal records.[18]

Record holders

The following is a selected list of world or international-record-holding, or world-championship-winning, ultramarathon runners.

Ultramarathons by regions

Ultra Marathons are run around the world with more than 600,000 people completing them every year.[114]

Africa

Several ultra-distance events are held in Africa.

Asia

Ultrarunning has become popular in Asia, and countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea have hosted IAU World Championships.

Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are hosts to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally, a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi).[138]

Australia

In Australia, the Westfield Ultra Marathon was an annual race between Sydney and Melbourne contested between 1983 and 1991. Greek runner Yiannis Kouros won the event five times during that period. Australia is also the home of one of the oldest six-day races in the world, the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race, held in Colac, Victoria. The race is held on a 400-meter circuit at the Memorial Square in the centre of Colac and has seen many close races since its inception in 1984. The 20th Cliff Young Australian six-day race was held between 20 and 26 November 2005. During that event, Kouros beat his existing world record six-day track mark and set a new mark of 1,036.851 kilometres (644.269 mi). The Coast to Kosciuszko inaugurated in 2004, is a 246-kilometre (153 mi) marathon from the coast to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.

Australia has seen a steep growth in ultrarunning events and participants in recent years. Many new races have come into inception, covering a range of ultramarathon distances from 50 km right through to multi-day events. The cornerstone of Australian Ultra events is such races as Ultra-Trail Australia 100, The Great North Walk Ultras, Surf Coast Century, Bogong to Hotham, Alpine Challenge, GC50 Run Festival, and the Cradle Mountain Run.[139][140] The Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA) has a comprehensive list and links of events and their respective results.[141]

New Zealand New Zealand's first ultramarathon, called the Kepler Challenge, was held on a 60 kilometres (37 mi) trail through Fiordland National Park. It has been running since 1988 and is one of the country's most popular races. New Zealand's Northburn 100 ultra mountain run is the first 100-mile (160 km) race through the Northburn Station. The Te Houtaewa Challenge has a 62 km race on a ninety-mile beach, in Northland. The runners have to contend with rising tides and soft beach sand and the March race dates often mean the race is run in the cyclone season. In 2014 the ultramarathon was postponed because of Cyclone Lucy. The Tarawera Ultramarathon is currently one of the most competitive ultras in New Zealand and part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.[142]

In December 2013 in Auckland, Kim Allan ran 500 km in 86 hours, 11 minutes, and 9 seconds, breaking the 486 kilometres (302 mi) women's record.[143]

In April 2013, a Feilding man, Perry Newburn, set a new New Zealand record by running 483 kilometres (300 mi) without sleep at Feilding's Manfeild Park.[144]

Ultramarathon running in New Zealand has a national body: the New Zealand Ultrarunners Association.

Oceania New Caledonia Trail Festival[145] has several annual ultramarathon including the Ultra Trail New Caledonia 136 km / 6 000m D+ and the Endurance Shop Trail race 70 km / 3 000m D+ on Pentecost long Week end. The Trail des Cagous is another 60 km ultramarathon held in April.

Papua New Guinea has the Kokoda Challenge Race, an annual 96 km endurance race held in late August that runs the length of the historic Kokoda Track.[146]

Papua New Guinea also has the Great Kokoda Race, a multi-stage 96 km (3-day) race held in early July where competitors run or walk the length of the Kokoda Track.[147]

Europe

In Europe, ultrarunning can trace its origins to early documentation of ultrarunners from Icelandic sagas[citation needed], or ancient Greece from where the idea of the Marathon, and the Spartathlon comes. The history of ultrarunners and walkers in the UK from the Victorian Era has also been documented. The IAU hosts annual European Championships for the 50 km, 100 km and 24 hours. The European Ultramarathon Cup is an annual cup event covering some of the biggest ultramarathon races in Europe.[148] Also worth mentioning is the ultramarathon CajaMar Tenerife Bluetrail, the highest race in Spain and second in Europe,[149] with the participation of several countries and great international repercussions. Besides trail ultramarathons, Europe features large road ultramarathons such as Spartathlon and the Millau 100K, which have gathered thousands of runners for the past 50 years.

There are over 300 ultramarathons held in Europe each year,[150][citation needed]. This includes the Harz Run in the Harz Mountains, the Irish Connemarathon, the British Spine Race and Welsh Dragon's Back Race which covers 315 km with 15,500m of height gain.[151]

The UTMB, through France, Italy, and Switzerland has been considered the world's most competitive trail ultra.[152] The other races in the UTMB festival, including the CCC, TDS, and OCC, are also significant events in the ultrarunning calendar.[153]

In 2021 the Megarace was held. The race was 1001 km and was planned to be held on trails through Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria. Due to Covid, 2021, the course was modified to only go through Germany.[154]

Antarctica

Due to logistics and environmental concerns, there are only a handful of ultramarathons held in Antarctica, and travel costs can mean entrance fees as high as $14,000.[155] Ultramarathons in Antarctica include The Last Desert, part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon – a marathon and 100-kilometer race.

North America

The oldest existing ultramarathon in North America is the JFK 50 Mile,[156] which began in 1963 as a push by President John F. Kennedy to bring the country back to physical fitness.[157]

There are several 100-mile ultramarathons held annually in North America. The Western States Endurance Run is the oldest 100-mile trail run in North America. The race began in 1977, founded by Wendell Robie, of Auburn California.[158][156]

The largest ultramarathon in North America is the Marine Corp 50km. The largest 100-mile trail run is the Javelina Jundred.[159]

Some of flattest, or North American ultramarathons with the least elevation take place in Florida like the Long Haul 100 and the Skunk Ape 100 Mile Endurance Run.

The first mountain trail ultramarathon held in the United States was the 1911 Mount Baker Race (50K), in Bellingham, Washington. Runners raced by car or train to the trailheads, ran up and down Mount Baker 10,000 feet, and then returned to the city.[160]

An early ultramarathon was held in Mexico in 1926, and at the time was part of the Central American Games. Tomas Zafiro and Leoncio San Miguel, both Tarahumara Indians, ran 100 km from Pachuca to Mexico City in 9 hours and 37 minutes. At the time, the Mexican government petitioned to include a 100 km race in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.[161]

In 1928, sports agent C. C. Pyle organized the first of two editions of the 3,455-mile-long Bunion Derby (the first went along U.S. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago before heading toward New York; the 1929 Derby reversed the route). Neither the race nor the accompanying vaudeville show was a financial success.[162]

In the 1980s, Gary "Lazarus Lake" Cantrell and Karl "Raw Dog" Henn conceived the Barkley Marathons, an annual trail race held in March or April in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. The course is approximately 20 miles long with approximately 11,000 feet of vertical climb, and runners have 60 hours to complete five laps. The run is notorious not only for its difficulty but also for its secretive nature; entrants must undergo a selection process and entry dates and requirements are not announced, meaning entrants rely on word-of-mouth for details on how to enter. The first Barkley Marathons took place in 1986, and as of 2022, only fifteen runners have ever completed the 100-mile course.

Since 1997, runners have been competing in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is billed as the longest official footrace in the world. They run 100 laps a day for up to 50 days around a single block in Queens, NY, for a total distance of 3,100 miles (5,000 km).[163] The current recordholder is Ashprihanal Pekka Aalto, at 40 days 09:06:21 for a daily average of 76.776 miles (123.559 km) in 2015.

The Fastest known time (FKT) keeps track of supported and unsupported speed records for running, cycling, or hiking routes. Some notable North American routes include the Trans America Run, Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Grand Canyon Crossings.

In April 2006, the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame was established by the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA). Candidates for the Hall of Fame are chosen from the 'modern era' of American ultras, beginning with the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held in 1958. The Inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt, a former US Olympian, winner of the aforementioned race in 3:04:13, and co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America, and Sandra Kiddy, who began her ultra career at age 42 with a world record at 50 kilometers, 3:36:56, and who went on to set a number of US and world ultra records.[164]

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is described as the coldest and toughest ultra in the world, requiring racers to start from Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon, a distance of 430 miles (692 km) in 13 days under the territory's extremely cold conditions in February.[165][166]

South America

There are a small number of ultramarathons in South America, but participation in the sport is increasing. The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is a single-stage race of 135 miles (217 km) with a 60-hour cutoff, held in Brazil. This is a Badwater "sister race".[167] Several ultramarathons are held in Chile and with both local and international participation.[168] Ultramarathons held in Chile include:

View from the Atacama Crossing 2011.

Argentina There are several ultramarathon races in Argentina.

La Mision has been going on for almost 15 years. There are different editions, one in Villa La Angostura in Patagonia with 3 distances. 110 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 4500m, 160 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 8000m and 200 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 9000m. There is other edition of the race (Short & Half) in Villa San Javier, Cordoba with 2 distances, 35k and 70k.

In April 2019 for the 1st time UTMB took place in Ushuaia (Ushuaia by UTMB) A very tough race facing the wild Patagonia weather with 4 different distances, 35k, 50k, 70k and 130k. The race brings together in one competition all the landscapes and geographies of the southern Andes (forests, rocky terrains, mountains, hills, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, among others) The race has a technical, non-stop format and is ruled by the principle of semi-autonomy.

Cerro Champaqui in Cordoba is the landscape of different races. Champa Ultra Race with 5 different distances, 8k / 18k / 26k / 42k, and 62k. Also the UTACCH – Ultra Amanecer Comechingón with 7 different distances, 16k, 26k, 42k, and 4 ultras of 55k, 70k, 110k, and 100 miles.

Ushuaia, at "the end of the world" also hosts Ultra Maratón Glaciar Martial with 3 different distances, 10k, 25k, and 50k.

International Trail Running Association

Many ultramarathon organizers are members of the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), an organization that promotes values, diversity, health, and safety during races, as well as working to further the development of trail running and helps to coordinate between the national and international bodies with an interest in the sport. ITRA also evaluates the difficulty of specific ultramarathon routes according to a number of criteria, such as the distance, the cumulative elevation gain, and the number of loops and stages. ITRA maintains a calendar of ultra Trail running events.

Nutritional Demands of Ultra-Marathons

Ultra-marathon running requires meticulous attention to nutrition for both training and racing. In training, daily caloric needs are influenced by factors like body weight, training duration, and terrain, with carbohydrates comprising around 60% of the macronutrient distribution.[174] Proper hydration is crucial. In racing, energy intake, carbohydrate availability, protein intake, and strategies to offset dehydration are essential. GI distress can be minimized by avoiding concentrated carbs and saturated fats, with probiotics and prebiotics offering potential relief. Runners should be cautious with supplements and medications, avoiding NSAIDs, and carefully managing caffeine intake. Tailoring nutrition to individual factors is key for ultra-marathon success.

See also

References

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