Photo Credit: Samantha Lovett Photography
Here are ten reasons to run a 50K instead of a marathon:
1. It's only a couple more miles and you get some serious bragging rights.
A 50K (31 miles) is only a mere five miles longer than a marathon. Go those extra few miles. I promise it'll be worth it.
2. The aid stations (and volunteers) are WAY better.
This is me at the aid station of the Red Rock 50 a couple of years ago. I'm wearing a German beer-maid costume. Salted potatoes, anyone??
Tyler and Stephanie looking happy to be at the aid station for the Nine Trails 35-Mile Ultra!
Look at that SPREAD! (Photo cred: FastCory.com)
3. Trails are more beautiful than running on the road.
Where would you rather run?
I'll never forget my first 5K-- it was around an airport hanger and every single step was misery. There was no beautiful backdrop to distract myself with; it was just me and the pavement. The repetitiveness of the race drove me mad, I couldn't imagine 26.2 miles of it. I struggled to push myself and wondered why I was even running in the first place.
I didn't run again for several months, let alone try to run any longer.
Ultras, on the other hand, are often designed specifically with the location in mind. The majority of Ultras happen on trail-- most of which are beautiful. When you are pushing yourself through the miles, nothing is more rewarding than an expansive view of a valley at sunrise. Or seeing animals scurrying through the forest. Many ultras give you an excuse to travel to parts of the world and see trails that you'd never get a chance to visit otherwise.
4. You get a more supportive community filled with friendlier people.
In my research, I compared marathon runners with ultrarunners on their personality types and competitiveness. I found that marathon runners were more introverted and much more competitive than ultrarunners. If you have toed the line at a marathon, you'd notice that most people have their headphones in and aren't talking to anyone. In ultras, it's the opposite. I have made countless friends in the middle of ultras. I almost never listen to music when I run with other ultrarunners. Try and make friends during your next marathon and see how hard it is; you'll probably get some weird looks if you try to strike up a conversation with another runner during a marathon. Also, unlike with marathons where you tend to go home right after, Ultras usually are an all weekend affair complete with camping, socializing and all-around FUN!
Maggie and I ran into eachother during the last section of our 50K and finished together. Those miles went by so much faster as we laughed and chatted about life!
5. Dollar per mile, Ultras tend to be cheaper.
$300 for 26.2 miles? You've-Got-To-Be-KIDDING-Me. While you will surely find some 100-Mile ultramarathons that have a hefty price-tag, you can at least assure yourself that it makes sense given the distance and amount of work required to put on such a long race. Marathons with a $300 price tag just make me scratch my head. I'd rather get the most out of my dollar, thank you.
6. You're supporting locals rather than corporations.
The majority of Ultramarathons are directed by Ultrarunners themselves. They rely on volunteers and local running groups to support their races. I have several friends who are race directors and trust me, there is just something magical about having a race director who knows what they are doing from experience. Making sure the aid stations are well-stocked with food you actually want, accurately marking the courses, finish-line parties....Ultras just do it better. You never know what to expect when you go to an Ultramarathon. Especially if it's put on by Luis Escobar (AllWeDoIsRun.com). See examples below:
Have you ever been to a marathon that had an epic after-party with a metal-meets-mariatchi band? I bet not. (Photo credit: Larry Gassan)
Or how about an Ultra with a beer mile the day before?
(Photo credit: Samantha Lovett Photography)
7. Better chances of placing in your age divisions.
Ultras tend to be much smaller than marathons in terms of people signed up. 20,000 people in one marathon?! Not only is it going to be congested as hell, but the chances of you placing in your age division (or overall...) are much much harder. In Ultras, the playing field is leveled out more. The average Ultra has between 100-300 participants.
The NYC marathon....what do you think your chances are in this one? (Photo Cred: Kaftan Bikini Photography).
8. You'll be happier and healthier.
There are numerous studies which show that immersion in nature makes you happier. It lowers your blood cortisol levels (stress hormones), it improves your mood, and it is more challenging (which gives you more endorphins!). After a couple of hours on the trail, you are guaranteed to be in a better mood than if you were doing the same amount of miles on the road.
Look at all those happy runners! You'd never think we all just ran 31 miles.
9. The playing field is leveled out between genders.
New research suggests that in distances lasting several hours or more, the gender gap is significantly reduced. Not only are more women able to compete against men in ultras, but some are actually beating them. Women, rejoice!
10. There is room for growth.
Unlike the marathon, which is always going to be 26.2 miles, in ultras, you have room for growth. There is actually a big variance of distance in ultramarathons. They range from 50K (which is the shortest distance to be considered an ultramarathon), to 50-miles, 100K, 100-Miles and beyond. This gives you numerous areas for goal-setting and growth.
These are just some of the various reasons I came up with to run an ultra instead of a marathon. I'm sure there are countless more. What are other reasons to run an ultramarathon instead of an ultra?