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Any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres
Ultramarathoners compete at the Sahara Race 2011 (4 Deserts).
An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).
There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance or route; and those that last for a predetermined period of time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km), and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is recognized as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field.
Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single loops (some as short as a 400-metre (1,300 ft) track), to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail events, have significant obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations, perhaps every 20 to 35 kilometres (12 to 22 mi), where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.
Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3, 6, and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile (1.6 km) or less.
There are some self-supported ultramarathon stage races in which each competitor has to carry all their supplies including food to survive the length of the race, typically a week. An example of this is the Grand to Grand Ultra in the USA.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 kilometres (31 mi), 100 kilometres (62 mi), 24 hours, and ultra trail running, which are also recognized by the IAAF. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World best performances for distances, times, and ages are tracked by the IAU.
Until 2014, the IAU maintained lists of world best performances on different surfaces (road, track and indoor). Starting in 2015, the distinction between the surfaces was removed and the records were combined into a single category. Some governing bodies continue to keep separate ultramarathon track and road records for their own jurisdictions.
In August 2019, Zach Bitter ran 11:19:13 for 100 miles at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee and continued to reach 168.792 km in 12 hours. These will likely be confirmed as the new world bests once ratified.
Wally Hayward, multiple winner of Comrades Marathon, London to Brighton, many other ultramarathons; set early world records
Camille Herron, Only ultrarunner to win the 50 km, 100 km, and 24 Hour world championships; Comrades Marathon winner; holds the world bests for 50 miles, 100 miles, 12h and 24h, Tarawera Ultramarathon course records for 100k and 100 mi
Al Howie, record holder for the trans-Canada, 7295.5 kilometres in 72 days, 10 hours and 23 minutes
Sumie Inagaki, current women's 48h Track world record holder(397.103 kilometres (246.748 mi), Surgeres FRA, May 2010), two time female winner of IAU 24-hour run World Championship, two time female winner of Spartathlon
Yiannis Kouros, often considered the best ultrarunner in history, at least in the longer track and road races, holder of numerous world bests from 24 hours to 1,000 miles, course record holder of the Spartathlon since its inception in 1983
Ultra Marathons are run around the world with more than 70,000 people completing them every year.
Several ultra distance events are held in Africa.
South Africa hosts a number of notable ultra marathon events.
On paved surface: the world's oldest and largest ultramarathon, the 87 kilometres (54 mi) Comrades Marathon. Approximately 12,000 runners complete the Comrades each year, out of approximately 17000 who start, with 23,961 competing in 2000.
The Grand Raid de la Réunion is held annually on Réunion in October, crossing the island over 163 kilometres (101 mi) with an altitude gain of 9,643 metres (31,637 ft). This race attracts 2,350 competitors, with 1,000 runners from overseas.
South Korea's first ultramarathon was held in 2000.
The Gobi March in northwest China was China's first ultramarathon, first staged in 2003. The Gobi March is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series.
India's first ultra marathon, the Bangalore Ultra was held in 2007. Since 2010, Indian Himalayas have hosted La Ultra - The High, a 333 km course crossing Khardung La, touted to be the world's highest motorable mountain pass.
Soochow International 24H Ultra-Marathon is held since 1999 in Taipei, and is an official IAU-registered event.
A night race called the Sundown Marathon has been held in Singapore annually since 2008, over a double marathon distance (84 km) up to 2010 and 100 km since then.
Nepal hosts several ultramarathon races, including the Annapurna 100, the Kanchenjunga Ultra Marathon Trail Running Race and the Everest Ultra. Running a total of 1,504 km in a bit more than 24 days, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel set a new fastest known time during March 2018 for the Great Himalaya Trail.
Malaysia's first ultra trail marathon was founded in November 2011 and is known as the TMBT (The Most Beautiful Thing) in Sabah at Mount Kinabalu, South East Asia's highest mountain. The event has a 55% drop out rate and is a 3-point qualifying race for UTMB and a 2-point qualifying race for the 55 kilometer category of the event. This was followed by the Beaufort Ultra Marathon in Sabah organized in 2012 and a 60 kilometer endurance run under 35-39-degree Celsius heat with a 60% finish rate amongst runners. First 100 miles ultra marathon road race, Putrajaya 100 Miles, was held on 22-23 November 2014.
Indonesia's first ultramarathon race, Mount Rinjani Ultra (52K), was held on August 2013 and Indonesia's first 100K & 160K ultramarathon race, Bromo Tengger Semeru 100 Ultra, was held on November 2013. Tambora Challenge (320 km) held from 2015
Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines is the venue for two of the Philippines premier ultramarathon events. The Clark Miyamit Ultra, known as CM50 a 60K and 50Mile Trail Ultramarathon that takes runners to traverse from Clark to the Aeta Villages, lahar bed, mountain ranges near Mt. Pinatubo and the iconic Miyamit Falls. Cardimax - Clark Ultramarathon is a road ultramarathon of 50K and 100K distance which brings and gathers ultramarathoners from aspiring ones to the most competitive elites.
In Israel, two major ultramarathon races are Mount to Valley relay race; over 215 km, from the hills of the Upper Galilee to the Jezreel Valley, and the Valley Circle race in the Jezreel valley; contains several distances, including 160 km and 200 km.
Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand are hosts to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi).
In Australia, the Westfield Ultra Marathon was an annual race between Sydney and Melbourne contested between 1983 and 1991. Greek runner Yiannis Kouros won the event five times during that period. Australia is also the home of one of the oldest six-day races in the world, the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race, held in Colac, Victoria. The race is held on a 400-meter circuit at the Memorial Square in the centre of Colac, and has seen many close races since its inception in 1984. The 20th Cliff Young Australian six-day race was held between 20 and 26 November 2005. During that event, Kouros beat his existing world record six-day track mark and set a new mark of 1,036.851 kilometres (644.269 mi). The Coast to Kosciuszko inaugurated in 2004, is a 246-kilometre (153 mi) marathon from the coast to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.
Australia has seen a steep growth in ultrarunning events and participants in recent years. Many new races have come into inception, covering a range of ultramarathon distances from 50 km right through to multi-day events. The cornerstone of Australian Ultra events being such races as Ultra-Trail Australia 100, Bogong to Hotham, Alpine Challenge, and the Cradle Mountain Run. The Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA) has a comprehensive list and links of events and their respective results.
New Zealand's first ultramarathon, called the Kepler Challenge, was held on a 60 kilometres (37 mi) trail through Fiordland National Park. It has been running since 1988 and is one of the country's most popular races. New Zealand's Northburn 100 ultra mountain run is the first 100-mile (160 km) race through the Northburn Station. The Te Houtaewa Challenge has a 62 km race on ninety mile beach, Northland. The runners have to contend with rising tides and soft beach sand and the March race dates often means the race is run in the cyclone season. In 2014 the ultramarathon was postponed because of Cyclone Lucy. The Tarawera Ultramarathon is currently one of the most competitive ultras in New Zealand and part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
In December 2013 in Auckland, Kim Allan ran 500 km in 86 hours, 11 minutes, and 9 seconds, breaking the 486 kilometres (302 mi) women's record.
In April 2013, a Feilding man, Perry Newburn, set a new New Zealand record by running 483 kilometres (300 mi) without sleep at Feilding's Manfield Park.
Ultramarathon running in New Zealand has a national body: the New Zealand Ultrarunners Association.
New Caledonia Trail Festival has several annual Ultramarathon including the Ultra Trail New Caledonia 136 km / 6 000m D+ and the Endurance Shop Trail race 70 km / 3 000m D+ on Pentecost long Week end. The Trail des Cagous is another 60 km Ultramarathon held in April.
The UTMB, through France, Italy and Switzerland, has been considered the world's most competitive trail ultra. The other races in the UTMB festival, including the CCC, TDS and OCC, are also significant events in the ultrarunning calendar.
In 2021 the Megarace will be held. The Megarace will be the world longest nonstop A-B trail race. The race is 1001 km and goes on trails through Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. The runners have 13 days and 15 hours to cover the distance.
Due to logistics and environmental concerns there are only a handful of ultramarathons held in Antarctica, and travel costs can mean entrance fees as high as $14,000.
Ultramarathons in Antarctica include: The Last Desert, part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon - a marathon and 100-kilometer race.
There are several hundred ultramarathons held annually in North America. One of the best known is the Western States Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974, when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh's horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in 23 hours and 42 minutes.
One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held in 1926, and at the time was part of the Central American Games. Tomas Zafiro and Leoncio San Miguel, both Tarahumara Indians, ran 100 km from Pachuca to Mexico City in 9 hours and 37 minutes. At the time, the Mexican government petitioned to include a 100 km race in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam; however, nothing came of these efforts.
In 1928, sports agent C. C. Pyle organized the first of two editions of the 3,455-mile-long Bunion Derby (the first went along U.S. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago before heading toward New York; the 1929 Derby reversed the route). Neither the race nor the accompanying vaudeville show was a financial success.
Since 1997, runners have been competing in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is billed as the longest official footrace in the world. They run 100 laps a day for up to 50 days around a single block in Queens, NY, for a total distance of 3,100 miles (5,000 km). The current recordholder is Ashprihanal Pekka Aalto, at 40 days 09:06:21 for a daily average of 76.776 miles (123.559 km) in 2015.
There are a small number of ultramarathons in South America, but participation in the sport is increasing. The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is a single-stage race of 135 miles (217 km) with a 60-hour cutoff, held in Brazil. This is a Badwater "sister race".
Several ultramarathons are held in Chile and with both local and international participation. Ultramarathons held in Chile include:
Atacama Xtreme 50K, 80K and the first 100 Miles in Chile. One loop for each distance starting and finishing in San Pedro de Atacama at an avg. of 2,400 above sea level.
The Endurance Challenge, a 10K, 21K, 50K and 80K trail running race held in the Andes mountain range near Santiago. It is part of the global Endurance Challenge circuit. The race seeks to promote the sport, outdoor activity and the use of mountain trails, taking care to have the lowest impact possible on the environment.
The Atacama Crossing, established in 2004, a 250 km (155-mile) ultramarathon which takes place in the Atacama desert, around San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and crosses through the driest place on earth. There are six stages in seven days, with almost four marathons run in the first four days, then a 74 km stretch, then a rest day and a final stage of 11 km. It is part of the 4 Deserts Series. The race covers rugged terrain, with a harsh climate and an altitude that averages 2500 m (8000 ft). The race uses the town of San Pedro de Atacama as its host town, and in 2012 the race began at its highest point of over 3,000m in the Arcoiris Valley.
View from the Atacama Crossing 2011.
The Patagonian International Marathon, organized by NIGSA, takes place in Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chilean Patagonia. The event features four race distances: an ultramarathon (63 km), marathon (42 km), half marathon (21 km) and a 10K. Each distance has a different starting point, but everyone finishes in the same place. The event has the secondary goal of promoting the conservation of Chilean Patagonia and contributing to the sustainable development of the region through the planting of trees in the Torres del Paine National Park through the "Corre y Reforesta" (Run and Reforest) campaign run by the organization "Reforestemos Patagonia" (Let's Reforest Patagonia)
"Extreme Challenge Peru Ultra" at 210 km, 105 km, 50 km and 25 km. This is a race where participants run in 5 consecutive days traveling to Sierra (9,000 to 11,000 feet elevation), desert (running on top desert dunes), coast and last day at the high elevation jungle (5,900 feet elevation). Some participants also run shorter distances.
There are several ultramarathon races in Argentina.
La Mision has been going on for almost 15 years. There are different editions, one in Villa La Angostura in Patagonia with 3 distances. 110 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 4500m, 160 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 8000m and 200 km with cumulative altitude gain of about 9000m. There is other edition of the race (Short & Half) in Villa San Javier, Cordoba with 2 distances, 35k and 70k.
In April 2019 for the 1st time UTMB took place in Ushuaia (Ushuaia by UTMB) A very tough race facing the wild Patagonia weather with 4 different distances, 35k, 50k, 70k and 130k. The race brings together in one competition all the landscapes and geographies of the southern Andes (forests, rocky terrains, mountains, hills, glaciers, lakes, rivers and wetlands, among others) The race has a technical, non-stop format and is ruled by the principle of semi-autonomy.
Many ultramarathon organizers are members of the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), an organization which promotes values, diversity, health and safety during races, as well as working to further the development of trail running and helps to coordinate between the national and international bodies with an interest in the sport. ITRA also evaluates of the difficulty of specific ultramarathon routes according to a number of criteria, such as the distance, the cumulative elevation gain, and the number of loops and stages. ITRA maintains a calendar of ultramarathon events.