Mountaineer and ultra runner Ben Clark shares photos from his single-day run across Zion National Park, also known as the Zion Traverse.
More than a marathon
You’ve probably been hearing more about them: occasional murmurs of very long distance races, men and women running six marathons across the Sahara, a 3,100 mile race in Queens, NY, in the middle of summer. Ultrarunning, or running more than a 26.2 mile marathon in a single shot, seems an unlikely pursuit — and it is. But it’s also growing.
An estimated 60,000 people finished an ultra in the U.S. in 2012, up from about 10,000 in 1990. That number is still small compared to the 487,000 people who completed a marathon in the U.S. in 2012, but it’s still an awful lot of people running exceptional distances. And now you’re thinking about toeing the line for an ultra. Good for you. We’ve got a handy guide to help you through, complete with advice from a few pros at the top of the sport.
There are basically two schools of thought when assembling a kit for an ultramarathon: comprehensive preparation and more weight, or as minimalist as possible. For first-time ultra-distance runners, the decision can be a little confounding. You want to be very prepared and very light. This setup for the Vermont 50 — a trail run — reflects a good balance of preparedness and weight, with a bias toward the former in the choice of a hydration pack.
Two marathons in the mountains
It was around around mile 23 of the Vermont 50 that I thought about the duck. I’d read in On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee that the common green-headed mallard stores as much as a third of its carcass weight in fat for fuel and insulation so it can fly continuously for hundreds of miles. As I sipped from the sports nutrition mix in my bottle, I thought of what could have been if only I had taken to heart the experience of migratory birds. I had eaten but one slice of apple pie after dinner the night before.