Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Extreme Ultramarathons

I am in awe when I read about some endurance events, wondering how these people can ever complete such massive amounts of miles in such a short period of time. I do want to take part in longer endurance runs than the marathon, but I can almost positively say that I don’t think I could ever get to that level, nor that I would even want to. A 50k works for me, or even eventually a 50 miler. I’ve even considered taking part in a 12 hour event (they have a 24 hour but that is way too much for me) just to see how much I could push myself in that time period. But there are some crazy events that make your jaw drop.

The best known is the Western States 100, which took place on the 23rd of June. Racers run 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn in California, oftentimes through low temperatures cold enough for snow to highs in the canyons in the hundreds. This is one of many 100 mile races and this is perhaps the best known race. The race began when Gordon Ainsleigh's horse became injured before the race, a race where it is held on horseback for a 100 miles. Not wanting to be left out he decided to run the race and not only finish but to finish under the cutoff to receive the covetted silver belt buckle. Of course he finished it and to this day the 100 mile races hold the tradition of the silver belt buckle to those finishing in a certain time limit.

Another extremely hard endurance run is the Badwater 135 which begins in Death Valley in scorching 115 plus weather. It is so hot when they start that if you left your phone in the car window it would melt, and the runner’s feet swell several sizes larger than their normal shoe size. Eventually they run from below sea level at -282 to the trailhead of Mount Whitney with an elevation of 8,360, covering 135 miles. This could be considered one of the more extreme running events in the world and rightly so.

The longest foot race in the world, though, is in New York and is a 3,100 mile race: Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race. This race usually last several months as the participants are on a lap course, where each lap is equivalent to .5488 miles. That means they must complete 5,649 laps in order to finish. If the monotony of doing the same exact lap for over 5,600 miles doesn’t get you, I am sure the 3,100 miles would. Labeled a run, the runners typically complete 70 or so miles a day, which amounts to about 4-5 miles per hour depending on the amount of sleep they take. I definitely give the participants props for completing such a long distance in such a short amount of time.

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