Starting out in ultra running

Starting out in ultra running

If you fancy spending a few hours on your feet, ultra running could be for you. Dave Walsh looks at the history behind long distance running, what makes a typical ultra runner and gives an overview of ultra races.

History

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, footmen were employed as servants who ran ahead the master's carriage, to ensure the safety of the coach on very poor roads, then to attend to him when he was visiting his posh mates. The masters would wager on the prowess of their servants at fairly regularly organised long distance races between their footmen.


Early 'doping' methods involved concoctions including brandy, port and strychnine!

In the later nineteenth century there were a number of events held at indoor venues in London as spectator events. Gambling, and the inevitable cheating, was part of the scene. Early 'doping' methods involved concoctions including brandy, port and strychnine!

Modern Ultra Runners  

Running in Chamonix © Sarah Stirling
Running in ChamonixUltra running is about long distances so it is necessary for ultra runners to have endurance - both physical and mental - in order to cope with the varied demands. Although a small light frame might be considered ideal for such long distance journeys people of various heights and sizes get involved, from five foot nil to six foot six, beanpoles to muscular types.

As the distances extend, so do the comparative capabilities of women runners - leading international class women can certainly hold their own against the men. Ultra runners then can be all shapes and sizes - and women are catching up with men - so long as you don't mind putting in a few miles ultra running could be for you! But what's the racing scene like?

Ultra Races  

Like the competitors, ultras come in all shapes and sizes. Track races - both indoor and out, loop/lap road routes, point-to point runs and time limit events such as 6 hours, 12 hrs and 24 hrs. Ultras may be run on road, trail or cross-country courses.

Each year teams representing the UK take part in Ultra championships, and boast an enviable list of performances

At international level there are two standard distances, 100kms (a little over 62 miles) and 24 hours, over which there are championships. Each year teams representing the UK take part in these championships, and boast an enviable list of performances.

Western Europe, Russia and the former Russian republics, Japan, North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are perhaps the most significant world areas, but there is interest from many other countries.

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