For those of you who either know of someone or are someone who can’t start or finish your day without exercising, this article is for you!
Recently, I had a meeting about which day of the week would work best to be a running coach for individuals who want to train for a half marathon, 13.1 miles. While we were discussing days, times, and the look of a training program a devoted runner stopped by to say “hello” and introduce himself. Unto me, this devotee has ran every day for the last 30 years. Even though this particular runner does not always run long distances (6+ miles at a time) there are plenty of runner who do. While thinking of those extreme runners, of which some are my friends, I began wondering how can their body handle such physical demand?
While I have trained and ran marathons, 26.2 miles, I have never ventured to run more than a marathon. But for some people, such as some of my colleagues, 26.2 miles is no longer a challenge. For these extreme runners turning to ultra marathons has become their next big adventure. While ultra marathons can be any distance over 26.2 miles, the most common distances are 50 and 100 miles and 50 and 100 kilometers, or 31 and 62 miles.
While a marathon is no cake walk, ultra marathons provide greater challenges physically, logistically and psychologically.
Hallucinations –> when running around the clock, extreme fatigue sets in which can play havoc with your mind.
Blurred Vision –> can occur due to corneal swelling
Inset bites –> ultra marathons occur throughout the day and night and often times on trails
Cuts and bruises –> due to uneven terrain and fatigue, falls are common
Heart problems –> some studies have shown that distance runners may be at slightly higher risk for irregular heartbeat
Exercise-associated hyponatremia –> a condition in which distance runners consumes too much water which dilutes the body’s sodium causing cells to swell and burst
Gastrointestinal problems –> ultra marathoners utilize a higher percentage of fat vs. carbs as their source of energy, this means more real food needs to be consumed which can cause GI upset
Muscle cramps –> most often occurs in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves in part due to lack of sodium
Stress fractures –> caused by overuse and usually seen in the pelvis, femur, tibia and fibula
Currently, ultra marathons are small with less than 100 runners partaking in the event. More than two-thirds of participants are men and more than half are older than 40 years of age. On average, a 50-miler takes an average of 10 hours and a 100-miler typically takes 24-30 hours of nonstop forward motion.
So before you add ultra marathons to your 2016 bucket list, make sure you understand the degree of training, nutrition planning, as well as physical and mental challenges that come with it!