What Makes Ultras Different

Going into my 3rd year of running, I have only mustered up the courage to do 2 ultramarathons so far. Even on just the 1st time I participated in one, I could clearly see that ultramarathons was’t anything like your usual race events.

THE RACE ROUTE
Since an ultramarathon involves a longer distance with lesser runners, these race events usually take place out of town even sometimes from one city to another or even through cities. Roads will not be closed for the race so, don’t expect to see any of those orange cones or marshals along the way making space for you to safely run on. Instead, you will be running on the usual busy roads alongside the incoming traffic of moving vehicles.

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THE CROWD
With a small number of participants ranging from a two digit figure (sometimes even less for those really long distance ultramarathons) to around a few hundreds, it’s probably the reason why everyone simply seems to know each other. It’s like a small running community made up of various teams with some solo runners, ready to support each other.

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THE ULTRAMARATHONER
From the way I see it, ultramarathoners are the most relaxed runners I know. There’s not a hint of stress on their faces at all before the race begins. Finish times don’t matter as long as they finish before cut-off. Only a handful would actually strive for PR (Personal Records) or a podium spot.

THE SUPPORT
Unlike marathons or the shorter distance races, a support vehicle is usually allowed or sometimes even required, unless it’s a trail marathon. This means, you can have a support vehicle with your own support team stopping at certain points to take care of your needs— anything from refill of hydration, food, a good change of clothes if needed, a good massage and of course, words of encouragement to push you further, but certainly not a free lift. Usually, a member of the support team crosses the road to where the runner is to give his/her needs.

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Then there are some who opt not to have a support and be “self-support” bringing all the essentials and relying on the races’ official hydration stations or the stores along the way. “Support is for the supot!” as one ultramarathoner friend tells me.

RUNNING AN ULTRA
More than the training that you do to actually run one, running an ultra is also a mental challenge. It takes a lot of will and determination to go beyond the regular distance (especially when some race organizers add an additional few kilometers to the said distance or what they refer to as a “Bonus”).

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There’ll be times when you’ll be running in dimly lit areas on your own. This usually happens when you’ve come to the stage of the race when the gap in between runners has already been stretched out because of their own pace. (Believe me, it makes it scarier as a girl and if you have this habit of running alone.) Mind games take place.
Attending to the call of nature is also an issue for the girls where gasoline station seems like an oasis on the desert for us.

ULTRA ETIQUETTE
In my recent blog about a marathon I ran when I wasn’t sure it was to okay  overtake someone a few meters away from the finish line, I mentioned about Bald Runners blog that talked about it.

“This is the practice of overtaking or passing a runner in the last few meters before the Finish Line in an Ultra Running Event. Personally, it is my understanding that an Ultra Running Event is NOT a Sprinting Event. Having said this, Sprinting on your last 10 or 20 meters before the Finish Line is a BIG “No-No” to me, more so, if you intend to pass a runner ahead of you before finally crossing the Finish Line.”

If you’ve already done a marathon and want to try something else, run an ultra.
If you’re tired of speed, tired of being conscious of your pace, of your finish time and want a more relaxed race, run an ultra.
If you want to be surrounded by runners who don’t care about your finish time, run an ultra.
The feeling of crossing the finish line after all the the hours of exhaustion more than how long it took you to get there is one I guarantee you will never forget.