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Performance Life: The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning

Performance Life: With this issue, we’ve added a new section to Drive Performance called 
“Performance Life.” Articles found here will reflect lifestyles that push physical, mental, and emotional 

This first Performance Life article takes a look at runners for whom mere marathons are not enough. Instead of 26.2 miles, they run in events that extend as far as 100 kilometers or 100 miles. And not just once in a year’s time, but four times.

If you have run a marathon, you can run an ultramarathon. You need to keep in that marathon state of mind: “One foot in front of the other, week after week, and I will reach my destination.”




Ultramarathons and Ultrarunning


The sport of ultrarunning attracts endurance athletes worldwide, and events are held on every continent. Each year more ultrarunning (ultra) events pop up across America.


The standard definition for an ultramarathon would be anything that goes above and beyond marathon distance, which is 26.2 miles. These ultra-races are typically 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 kilometers, or the classic 100-mile run. Others last for specific periods of time, such as six hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, and six days or more.


Ultras can be run on tracks, roads, or trails. The majority are run on trails, where the ultrarunner can soak in hours of natural beauty; be challenged by roots, rocks, and ruts; and find an even greater challenge by ever-changing weather elements.


In the marathon world, the achievable challenges are limited – there are only so many races, and they have set distances. In an ultramarathon, it is always possible to run longer or farther. The challenges are unrestricted.


Beginning ultrarunners are sucked in by the camaraderie of the ultra-scene. From first place to last place, there is a bond between ultramarathoners. Front-runners can be seen cheering on the back-of-the-pack finishers.


The commonality: They keep on running and pushing their bodies and minds to new limits.


Photo: Carl Costas/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Gordy Ansleigh

100-Mile History


The first official 100-mile trail run took place in 1974. Gordy Ansleigh, a regular participant in the Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance horse race, decided to cover the course by foot. Gordy finished the race within one day, and the famed Western States 100-mile run was officially introduced to the world of running. It was only a matter of time before other 100-mile trail races made the scene.


Fred Pilon, the former editor of Ultrarunning magazine, created the concept of running four of the oldest 100-mile races in one summer. His 1985 attempt failed, but the next year, Tom Green, an experienced ultrarunner, was named as the first to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.




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