Though we at Run Junkie are not of the ultra-marathon world, we certainly feel immersed in it, running as we often do with many of the accomplished ultra-runners who live near our home base of Hailey, ID. Apart from the wildly long training sessions tossed of in conversation as modest runs, ultra-running really is a part of running set off from all the others. With small, often no, prize purses even for races that draw the world's best; finishing times where 4 hours is often short and 36 hours not uncommon; and elevations gains that make Heartbreak Hill look like a pitcher's mound; it is a sport that draws a unique set of devotees. As dedicated as any Ironman triathlete but as relaxed as a snowboarder, ultrarunners are just as likely to run a 150 mile week with 20,000 feet total evaluation gain as they are to drain a keg of Anchor Steam. And this makes for a great community of folks.
Running Times' latest issue (July/Aug) had a nice piece by Rachel Toor, which really captured the magic of the ultra scene, particularly from the female perspective. It's not available online (RT is quite stingy), but if you have the chance to pick it up or borrow it, it's worth the read. One passage that really captures the ultra-life:
"I am particularly fond of the women I've met - and who have beaten me - at ultras. We're willing to drive long distances, camp out in primitive conditions, take a post-race bath in a freezing cold stream, pee, poop, and sometimes puke on the trail, and then hang out afterward drinking beer and eating cookies."
(Photo by P. C .Loadletter, used under Creative Commons)