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6 marathon lengths in 36 hours
December 27, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe


 
Love the Spartathalon!

Ultrarunning previously on MetaFilter:

Leadville
The Barkley Marathons
Ted Corbitt
posted by OmieWise at 9:56 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm seriously impressed by anyone who can run a marathon so an ultra-marathon leaves me breathless. Not as breathless as if I'd run it, but you get the idea. As the article points out, I think the physical preparation can only take you so far, at some point it has to be sheer bloody mindedness that carries you over the line.
posted by arcticseal at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been training for a half-marathon (and hopefully a Ragnar later in the year), and I just want to say that I completely understand why Pheidippides dropped dead after completing his run.
posted by schmod at 10:13 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the physical preparation can only take you so far, at some point it has to be sheer bloody mindedness that carries you over the line.

I actually think it's much more mental, for the training as well as for the running. I maintain that anyone can run an ultra. It just takes the will to do it, and that will is more important than the training, because you can run one on not very much training at all.
posted by OmieWise at 10:20 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]




I just want to say that I completely understand why Pheidippides dropped dead after completing his run.
If it had been me, then a suitable point to drop dead would have been in Sparta - right after I was told I had to immediately hoof it back to Athens.

( But - in fact he made it back and then fought in the battle of Marathon before dropping dead).
posted by rongorongo at 10:45 AM on December 27, 2012


schmod, Ragnar is awesome. I'm running next week in Key West, which will be my third Ragnar, and it's a great adventure and a hell of a party.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:56 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I dream of running an ultra, hopefully one of the Grand Slam 100s (Western States, Leadville, Vermont 100, and/or the Wasatch Front). As someone who is very goal-oriented, finishing something that most people think is crazy is very satisfying for me. Given that I also once thought it was crazy makes it even better.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:58 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I first heard this last week because I actually subscribe to the Economist podcast--that episode was just the audio of the video in the link--and it's weird to see the interviewee looks much less gaunt, much more "normal" than I expected.

As someone who's run about a dozen marathons and one Ragnar (and loved it!), I still think ultras sound like a terrible experience. The fact this guy wants to do a double Spartathlon sounds kind of repulsive to me in a way I can't explain.
posted by psoas at 11:02 AM on December 27, 2012


An Ultra is something I can't get my head wrapped around. But then there's this. (Official site)
posted by patrick54 at 12:02 PM on December 27, 2012


I love running. My left knee however is all like "human what are you doing? Human....staaap" and then I am all like "OK knee, you make a valid point, no need to get all ad hominem about it". We meet somewhere around long walks followed by some quality couch.
posted by srboisvert at 12:18 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marathons scare me. Putting in a fastest known time on like the Appalachian Trail seems interesting, though. To me, it's the idea that you always need to conserve enough energy for the next day. With a marathon - it's ~3:00 hrs and you're done. That seems like such a blink of an eye. Are there "last man standing" runs? That's the one I'd do well in.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:26 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


AND IN THE SPIRIT of one-upness, I give you the Nolans 14.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually think it's much more mental, for the training as well as for the running.

My partner does randonneuring (long-distance, self-supported, non-competitive cycling), regularly rides 200k or more, and is training for the 1400k London-Edinburgh-London ride next summer. He's told me that anyone can do what he does and that the challenge of it is mostly psychological, not physical. A lot of it is also figuring out the practicalities like what and how often to eat and drink (it's hard to eat and drink enough during a long randonnee), when to nap, what to wear, the right bike, etc. The physical training is important, but certainly not all that's needed.

There's also a certain mindset involved, an ability to stand your own company for many hours, and I find it interesting that randonneuring seems to be largely a sport of middle-aged men and, around here at least, sciencey types. The randonneurs we know are mathematicians, software geeks, and other scientists, with a few lawyers and entrepreneurs thrown in.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:59 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a counterpoint to the "this is crazy" view, here are a few articles about a local 24 hour race just a few weeks ago: before, after, results and more photos.

The two first articles are about Oline (70), who started running at 55, participated in her first 24 hour race at 65, and had her best marathon at age 62. (Her time was 4 minutes worse than this guy /snark). Her result this year was 145km in 24 hours, or 100km less than the fastest runner. Asked "some people would say that this more than a little bit of exercise?" she answered "Yes, but I don't run fast. My times are reachable by everyone. Some people run quickly here, but I don't do that".

A race like this is not that extreme if you stop thinking of it as blood, pain, sweat and competition. Think of it as keeping a speed of 6km hour (3.7 miles/hour) while walking and running with your friends.

At least for myself I go "Oh, I could imagine doing that in a couple of years.."
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 1:02 PM on December 27, 2012


Are there "last man standing" runs? That's the one I'd do well in.
I don't think that's really what you'd want, especially in maintaining your sanity afterwards.

*Puts on sunglasses and smiles grimly* Not in the long run. YEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is odd how ultra-marathon events break down into different categories: the Spartathalon, despite its great distance, is really about speed (it sounds like most competitors get retired out of the race not by fatigue but by failing to reach gates within a time limit). That is quite different from the extreme distance events such as Rosie Swale Pope's 32,000km run around the world or Eddie Izzard's 43 consecutive marathons.

With the growing popularity of these categories it seems ironic that persistence hunting - which was perhaps the activity where the ability to run such distances gave humans the ability to survive tough times - has now almost died out. Perhaps that is due a renaissance too. Here is an example.
posted by rongorongo at 1:52 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]




Yeah, if you calculate out the pace, its clear that physicality isn't the biggest hurdle. 153 miles to be covered in 36 hours? That comes out to a 14:07 minute mile pace, which is laughable - walkable, even. (I haven't looked at how the course sets its cut-off points, they probably aren't equally spaced out like this, but still).

Of course, the length of time does make it a difficult challenge, but in a different way than I think most people imagine. These competitors are going at it with a slow gait (just watch videos of the race), for obvious reasons. It's night and day compared to the insane gaits you see at 5K/8K student cross country races.
posted by SollosQ at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2012


Years ago I read an article about the folks who run long distances through Death Valley. It mentioned that they run along the white stripe on the side of the road because it's cooler than the black pavement.

Running on the pavement causes the soles of their shoes to melt.

That's a level of commitment most people aren't willing to have.
posted by tommasz at 2:54 PM on December 27, 2012


Way previously on Metafilter: The Badwater Ultramarathon
posted by euphorb at 3:32 PM on December 27, 2012


I love running. I love running distance. I love running distance carrying heavy things up hill in the rain through mud. I love purple spots in my eyes and drawing on all of my willpower to take. one. more. step.

And I can see where the thinking could lead me to questioning whether I still need toenails and is mitochondrial destruction really such a bad thing anyway? and I realize there's hardcore driven and there's absolute balls out awesome crazy...

Whereupon I table the question indefinitely by going home and having a big glass of chocolate milk and Matt's cookies.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:02 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine hit her one year remission survival date from cancer and decided to run 41 miles, one mile for every year of her life. I thought it was one of the craziest things I'd heard of, so I decided to run part of it with her. An awesome Badwater ultramarathoner woman in her 60s who hadn't met my friend until that morning ran with us, and she brought her knowledge (and strange protein drinks) to keep us all moving.

It was amazing. It wasn't for speed, it wasn't a race, it was for her. A lot of people made personal distance best that day (myself included) simply because we couldn't bear to stop running alongside her.
posted by canine epigram at 11:32 PM on December 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I actually think it's much more mental, for the training as well as for the running.

My partner does randonneuring (long-distance, self-supported, non-competitive cycling), regularly rides 200k or more, and is training for the 1400k London-Edinburgh-London ride next summer. He's told me that anyone can do what he does and that the challenge of it is mostly psychological, not physical.
yup. What I've always advised new endurance cyclists is that after the first 200k, much of what you need to focus on is mental.

previous MeFi post about Jure Robic and the interplay of physical and mental endurance
posted by bl1nk at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2012


Yiannis Kouros, who won this race four times, is a freak even by the high standards of ultra-runners. He's the only person to run the course in under 22 hours, and he did that all four times. It's only in the last few years that someone not named "Yiannis Kouros" managed to run it in under 23 hours. His smallest margin of victory was in 1990, when he won by 2 1/2 hours.

He has an equally impressive record at other distances.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:19 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting link, bl1nk, thank you. And your comment was also excellent. As you wrote, calories are so, so crucial to your state of mind in a long event, and state of mind is crucial to being able to finish. As my partner always says, if you're thinking you're exhausted and can't go on, eat before you decide to quit. A solid meal and some coffee usually turn things around completely.

And, as localroger pointed out, this idea of a little self-deception being helpful, is important. Giving yourself just small hurdles--in my case, just having to study taxation for 20 minutes, then taking a break--is really effective in getting through long, difficult tasks (got me an A in that tax class, anyway).
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2012


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