16 Reasons To Run An Ultra

For the sake of this list, let’s define an ultra marathon as any distance greater than a marathon.  The most popular ultra distances are the 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile.

In Nashville, we have an incredibly supportive Ultra Dirtbag Running Group.  There are some amazing runners in the group that have made the ultra “a little” less intimidating.  If I can do it…you can do it!

I started writing this list for selfish reasons.  I just signed up for another 50k in January and wanted to remind myself why I love ultras!


1.  Fun Food.  The aid stations have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, soda, pretzels, candy, etc…


2.  You won’t have to fight crowds for parking and a porta potty.


3.  Beautiful scenery


4.  Great way to reconnect with your love for running.  You don’t have to worry about paces or splits…just keep moving, and do your best not to fall!


5.  Awesome people. Ultra runners are a small, super-friendly community.  Everyone is laid back and encouraging.


6.  I feel like I’m competing with myself instead of others.


I was SO proud to earn my first Ultra-Dirtbag shirt!

7.  Big bragging rights for “only” going a few miles longer than marathon.

8.  Power hike the hills.  Walking is encouraged!


9.  You are regularly reminded to slow down.  The race is long.  If you go out too quickly, you will pay for it later.


10.  Age group awards.  Fewer runners means a much better chance at placing in your age group!


11.  The post-race hang.  Everyone brings lawn chairs, drinks beer, and eats more food.


12.  Buckles are so much cooler than medals.

13.  Starting line isn’t stressful. Everyone is hanging out talking, and the director just says “ready-set-go.” It’s all very chill.

14.  Training is often based on time instead of miles.  When I trained for a trail 50k, my longest long-run was to run for 5 hours.  I loved the idea of just spending the morning in the woods without worrying about pace.


15.  Creek/river crossings to cool off and refresh.

16.  Most people don’t even ask about your finish times.  Every ultra is so different, that it’s hard to compare finish times from one race to another.  You get respect just for finishing!


***One of my favorite books on ultra running is Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.


Have you ever run an ultra? Distance? Road or trail?
What am I forgetting on this list?


10 thoughts on “16 Reasons To Run An Ultra

  1. Great post! I have been thinking about doing an Ultra and you might have convinced me! It is totally twisted, crazy logic but I think by running some longer races, I could adopt the mentality that it is “only” a marathon and be able to race faster – just like when you go from a half marathon to a full. A half seems so much easier by comparison!

    Does it take a lot longer to recover from a 50K?


    • I love runner logic! The recovery is similar to marathon recovery unless the terrain is tough. A hilly trail race means that you’re on your feet for quite a big longer than a road marathon. That can lead to more swelling and fatigue. That’s why a lot of folks train for time instead of distance for trails.


  2. Jennifer, I have only done one trail race and it was a 25K, but I really enjoyed it and the training on trails, as well. You are so right about trail running “reconnecting” me with running; it’s so mindful, isn’t it? Just watching the trail and not being able to think about anything else? I love it! I’m so excited you’ll be running a 50K in January; I hope it’s super-fun for you!


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