Glossary For Going 100 Miles

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run is one of the four races that make up the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. Photo: Mario Fraioli | Competitor.com

Are you familiar with the ultrarunner’s lingo?

Every sport has its own language. Believe it or not, there was once a time when you didn’t know a split from a fartlek or a tempo workout. Knowledge is power, and this is your chance to brush up on the words and phrases of long distance running so you aren’t lost or offended when your new ultrarunning friend asks you to be their mule.

Check points/aid stations
Specific points along the route where racers must check in with race organizers so they can keep track of everyone along the course. These points often offer food and hydration and a place to connect with crew or collect drop bags.

Crew
Not only is it a herculean effort to run an ultra, the logistics of food, gear and racer support are a science all their own. Even for racers who choose not to run with a pacer, they usually opt for a crew to provide nourishment, gear changes and encouragement along the way. Crews are generally limited to offering aid to their runners at specific points along the course.

Cutoff times
Much like in large road races, there are cutoff times along an ultra course. If you don’t make it to or out of an aid station by a certain time, you will not be allowed to finish the race.

Drop bags
Race organizers will transport racer bags to predetermined checkpoints along the course. Bags may contain whatever the racer thinks he will need, with some possibilities being warm layers, fresh clothes, headlamps for running in the dark, dry shoes and socks for after a water crossing and food.

RELATED: Ultrarunners Are A Quirky Bunch

Grand Slam of Ultrarunning
The Grand Slam consists of finishing the four oldest 100-mile races in the country, the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, in one season—which means, based upon race dates, from the end of June to the beginning of September.

Hypothermia
This is when body temperature drops dangerously low. Among other ways, it can result from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, being wet and cold or being caught in bad weather without the proper gear (e.g. hunkering down to wait out a high elevation hail storm while wearing skimpy running clothes).

Muling
When a pacer carries food, water, gear or other supplies for their racer. The practice is not allowed in some races. In others, runners can ask their pacer to carry just about anything but them.

Outside aid
Support in the form of food, hydration or some other assistance that is offered at someplace other than an aid station or by your crew within a certain distance of an aid station. Some events do not allow outside aid.

Pacer
A pacer is someone who runs portions of an ultra with you. Rules vary from race to race as to whether or not pacers are allowed. Generally, they join about halfway through a race. Their job is to help keep their racer safe, provide encouragement and take blackmail pictures of racers when they throw up. Not all racers choose to run with a pacer.

RELATED: Trail Racing Vs. Road Racing

Service requirements
It is not uncommon for a volunteer component to be tied to a racer’s entry into an ultra. The requirements may include trail work, course marking or volunteering at another event.

Sleep monsters
As racers exert themselves for 20 hours, 30 hours and beyond, they reach new levels of all-encompassing exhaustion. A lack of sleep, taxed muscles and depleted energy stores can lead to on-the-go hallucinations, talking animals and walking trees and, well, the appearance of sleep monsters.

Total vert
This number that includes the combined amount of vertical climbing and descending in a race—a bigger number usually makes for better stories …

Get our best running content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE Competitor Running newsletter

  • > I want it all!

Recent Stories

Videos

Photos