Ultrarunners are an interesting breed of people, quite possibly because it simply takes a different mentality to run long and far. For proof, click through these photos to consider some of the unique traits of these top ultrarunners.
Ian Sharman: Marathons as training runs
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an ultramarathon is a foot race longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. For many runners, a marathon is a penultimate accomplishment. For ultrarunners, 26.2 miles is often considered a training run with aid stations. Ian Sharman, the record-breaking winner of the 2013 Ultrarunning Grand Slam, recently tweeted, “#SFMarathon in the morning. Just for fun as legs don't feel great but it's one of my favorite road races, esp the GG Bridge section.” He ran as part of his training for the Leadville 100 and crossed the line in 2:43—not bad for a training run! Photo: martinpaldan.com
Max King: Long brick workouts
Long brick workouts are the norm for Max King, who lives in the trail running hotbed of Bend, Ore. An important part of ultra training is spending time on your feet and getting used to running on tired legs. Back-to-back long runs can help replicate late race tiredness and muscle soreness. King’s favorite workout while training for the 2014 Western States Endurance run, in which he finished in 15:44:45 for fourth place, was a hilly, 20-mile run on trails one day followed by a fast road 20-miler the next. The idea was adapt his fatigued body to run fast on tired legs. “My goal was to really hammer it out and finish in 2 hours or less,” he said. Photo: Scott Markewitz
Diane Van Deren: Never give in, never quit
No matter how challenging a run, race or record attempt, Diane Van Deren won’t quit. Whether it's a 50-miler, 100-miler, a 300-mile race over the frozen tundra pulling her own gear or a 1,000-mile journey along the Mountain to Sea trail, she presses on by staying in the moment and focusing on what’s important—the task at hand. A former professional tennis player, she took up running to help stave off epileptic seizures, for which in 1997 she had a lobectomy. This surgery disrupted her ability to judge the passing of time, something which has helped her ultrarunning. She lets the little worries go and instead concentrates on staying mentally focused and not becoming emotional. Photo: Courtesy of The North Face
Marshall Ulrich: Who needs toenails?
As runners, we can all probably relate (some more than others) to toenail problems. From blisters, blood blisters, ingrown toenails, black toenails and missing toenails, those little nails can cause big problems. So Marshall Ulrich, a mountaineer (he’s climbed all Seven Summits), ultrarunner (he’s run across the U.S. and completed more than 100 100-milers), author and public speaker, decided to have his surgically removed. He had a vasectomy at the same time and said it was nothing compared to how much his toes hurt. Photo: Chris Kostman
Timmy Olson: Comfort is relative
Sometimes you just need to take a rest—and any old, questionable mattress will do. Timmy Olson had a rough patch at the 2014 Hardrock 100 and opted for some time off his feet during the race. Despite stomach issues and not feeling well, he refused to quit and finished in 30:18:43. Photo: Chris Rennaker
Darcy Piceu Africa: Success means suffering
Ultrarunning isn’t all rainbows and wildflowers. It involves suffering, and those who are successful accept the suffering and choose to press on. That's no easy feat when you realize your discomfort is self-inflicted. For her John Muir Trail FKT attempt this week, Darcy Piceu, who recently won the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run for the third year in a row, plans to run until she’s exhausted, sleep until she’s so cold she wakes up and then run again to get warm. Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor.com
Lisa Smith-Batchen: Hallucinations happen
Your body does strange things when it's tired. The sleep-deprivation and sheer physical exhaustion inherent in ultrarunning take tired to a brand new level. For many, this leads to hallucinations or “sleep monsters,” as some call them. During her recent Badwater 4 Goodwater Badwater Quad (a 584-mile journey back and forth from Death Valley to Whitney Portal twice with two accents of Mt. Whitney), nine-time Badwater 135 finisher Lisa Smith-Batchen admits to having some crazy hallucinations. From animated roadrunner birds to roadside food stands, a tired mind can conjure some crazy images.
Adam Campbell: Ultrarunners are a hardy bunch
Adam Campbell and his pacer were atop 14,058-foot Handies Peak, the highest point of the Hardrock 100, when thunder, lightning and rain struck. With no cover, they had to keep going but were soon knocked to the ground by a nearby lightning strike. Luckily, they escaped unhurt. Lightning is serious business, and so is hail, snow, heat, wild animals and flash floods. Those are all things ultrarunners must understand and deal with on a regular basis.