What is an Ultra-marathon? – Part 2

Having taken a deep breath and filled our lungs, it is time to start running again and return to our blog on what is an ultra-marathon. Already we have learned that these races can be of almost any length at all but there are only two basic types of events.

The Basic Events:

  • Fixed Distance – The race takes place over a fixed distance, this can be almost anything, but all runners have to compete over the same distance.
  • Fixed Time – As you may guess, this type of ultra-marathon is run over a set time limit, this normally in the world of ultra-marathons will be a set number of days.

Journey Running

Another really popular aspect of the sport is what is termed Journey Running. Think of Forrest Gump and you will get the idea. These athletes are lone trekkers who take to the road by themselves and cover vast distances, quite often these runners are also called transcontinental runners. Examples of such treks would be from New York to Los Angeles, or in Britain it could be Land’s End to John O’Groats.


Megarunners are also another sub-group of ultra-marathon athletes, they are named as such for the amount of ultra-marathons they compete in. Very often they are not the fastest, or have the greatest number of wins, these guys just love running long distances and enter as many races as they can. Long distance running is their drug of choice and some of these competitors have covered literally thousands of miles in their lifetimes. Take for example a runner called Norman Frank, this American has competed in over 550 distance races, and the Canadian athlete Wally Herman who has run in every US state, every Canadian province and seventy different countries.

Six Days a Week!

The world of ultra-marathons decided to make a rather unconventional time period a regular set limit in long distance running. During the 19th Century the powers that be decided that long distance running was fine any day of the week but not Sundays. Probably with religious thinking behind this, races started on the stroke of midnight on Sunday night and concluded on the chimes of twelve on Saturday. During the six day eventing, athletes would have several check-in points to prove they were still competing and not gone home for a couple of nights sleep.


Ultra-marathons might sound a new thing because you have never heard of them before, but this form of racing has been around even before the marathon was conceived. It is true that it has only recently been officially recognized by the IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation) in 1991. It was the 100 kilometer event that was recognized as the longest official running event after the marathon, and each year there is a world challenge event competed over one hundred kilometers. The event is hosted by the new association the International Association of Ultra-runners. Now it is time to unlace our running shoes and take a break from our long sojourn into ultra-running.