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There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km) and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is an official IAAF world record event.
Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1000 miles or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single or multiple loops (some as short as a 400-meter track), to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, have severe course obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations every 20 to 35 km apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.
Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3 and 6 days and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile or less.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 km, 100 km, 24 hours and ultra trail running. These events are sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World records for distances, times and ages are tracked by the IAU.
Ultramarathons are run around the world and more than 70,000 people complete ultramarathons every year.
Several ultra distance events are held in Africa.
Ultrarunning has become popular in Asia recently, and countries such as Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have hosted IAU World Championships in the last few years. Korea's first ultramarathon was held in 2000. India's first ultra marathon was held in 2007, in Bangalore. Since 2010, Indian Himalayas have hosted LA ULTRA – The High, crossing Khardung La, the world's highest motorable mountain pass. The Gobi March, first held in 2003, in northwest China was China's first ultramarathon. A night race called the Sundown Marathon has been held in Singapore annually since 2008, over a double marathon distance (84 km) up to 2010 and 100 km since then. Nepal hosts several ultramarathon races, including the Annapurna 100, the Kanchenjunga Ultra Marathon Trail Running Race and the Everest Ultra. Northern Mongolia hosts an annual 100 km summer race, Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset. Malaysia has had its own ultra trail marathon called the TMBT (The Most Beautiful Thing) in Sabah at Mount Kinabalu since 2011. The Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji is a 161 km (100 mile) race around or an 84 km race partially around Mount Fuji, Japan. Indonesia's first ultramarathon race, Mount Rinjani Ultra (52K), was held on August 2013 and Indonesia's first 100K & 160K ultramarathon race, Bromo Tengger Semeru 100 Ultra, was held on November 2013.
In the Cebu, Philippines, Ultramarathons has gained quite a number of followers. An All Women Ultra Marathon race covering a distance of 50 kilometers is held annually on the weekend of International Women's Day since 2012.
Trans Japan Alps Race (TJAR) – Toyama, Japan. 415km, crossing Japan Alps mountains within 7 days. Starting at Sea of Japan, finishing at Pacific Ocean. Held every two years since 2002.
Australia and New Zealand are host to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2200 km.
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 epic battles 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 1036.851 km. 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.
New Zealand's first ultramarathon was held on a 100 km track. The Kepler Challenge, 60 km through Fiordland National Park, 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.
In November 2012, Kim Allan planned to run and/or walk 500 km nonstop, without sleep, on the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile track at the Auckland Domain. Her aim was to beat ultrarunner Pam Reed's record of 300 miles. According to her Facebook page, she only managed 385.8 km. She eventually passed the 500 kilometre mark at 86 hours, 11 minutes and 9 seconds, breaking the 486km women's record.
In April 2013, Feilding man Perry Newburn set a new New Zealand record by running 483 km without sleep at Feilding's Manfield Park.
Ultrarunning is popular in Europe, and the sport can trace its origins here with early documentation of ultrarunners came from Icelandic sagas, or even the antique 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. There are over 300 ultramarathons held in Europe each year. Some of the largest events include:
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. Ultramarathons in Antarctica include: The Last Desert, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon – a marathon and 100-kilometer race.
There are several hundred ultramarathons held annually in North America. One of the most popular is the Western States Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974, when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh's horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in 23 hours and 47 minutes.'
One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held 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; however, nothing came of these efforts.
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.
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).
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 kicked off her ultra career at age 42 with a world record at 50 kilometers, 3:36:56, and who went on to set a string of US and world ultra records.
There are few ultramarathons in South America, but the sport is getting more popular every day. 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".  Several ultramarathons are held in Chile and the activity is becoming more popular among Chileans. Ultramarathons held in Chile include:
There are six stages in seven days, with almost four marathons run in the first four days, then a 74 km stretch,then a rest day and a final stage of 11 km. It is part of the 4 Deserts Series, which, as the name suggests, is a desert race series. The Atacama Crossing take place in terrain that is rarely flat underfoot, with a harsh climate and an altitude that averages 2500 m (8000 ft). The race uses the town of San Pedro de Atacama as its host town, and in 2012 the race began at its highest point of over 3,000m in the Arcoiris Valley.
The event, organized by NIGSA, aims to promote the conservation of Chilean Patagonia and contribute to the sustainable development of the region. For each runner, a tree will be planted in the Torres del Paine National Park through the “Corre y Reforesta” (Run and Reforest) campaign run by the organization “Reforestemos Patagonia” (Let’s Reforest Patagonia)which aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving these areas and contribute to the reforestation of native trees in Chilean Patagonia.
This is only a partial list of events. For a full list, see Ultramarathon Running's Calendar and local countries' ultrarunning websites.
Prior IAU World Championships were held in the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Korea.
|100 km (road)||6:13:33||Takahiro Sunada||Japan||21 June 1998||Tokoro, Japan|||
|100 km (road)||6:33:11||Tomoe Abe||Japan||25 June 2000||Yubetsu, Japan|||
|50000 m (track)||2:48:06||Jeff Norman||United Kingdom||7 June 1980||Timperley, United Kingdom|||
|50 km (road)||2:43:38||Thompson Magawana||South Africa||12 April 1988||Claremont, South Africa|||
|50000 m (track)||3:18:52||Carol Hunter-Rowe||United Kingdom||3 March 1996||Barry, Wales United Kingdom|||
|50 km (road)||3:08:39||Frith Van Der Merwe||South Africa||25 March 1989||Claremont, South Africa|||
In 2009, Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run was released. Written from both anthropological and scientific angles, this book is a story of an entire people of ultramarathoners. While other books had previously been written specifically about ultramarathons, McDougall made conclusions about humanity's roots in long distance running that were just controversial enough to excite the masses who had never heard of the sport. It quickly became a national bestseller and a Forbes and Washington Post book of the year, helping spread the idea of ultramarathons.
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Archives ultamarathon : http://www.ultramarathon.fr/