Tuesday, November 22, 2011


 It has occurred to me recently that I might be a bit slow,...well snail like in fact. I mean my average trail speed is 8 k per hour on a good day, including hills, mountains and valleys. My flat road speed is 12 k per hour so there is a big difference. I have probably mentioned this before but the very loose equivalent of climbing uphill to running on the flat is about 1 kilometre per 100 metres ie. If you do a 34k run and climb 1600 metres (16k) during the run then that is the equivalent of running 50 k on the flat...16+33= 50k....(please keep up). Everyone gets slower as they get older but when you look at elite runners they can cruise for miles through the mountains at 17 k per hour. That would be my top speed in a sprint and on the flat!! Its weird because to me its a challenge just to run 50 k, never mind the speed. But, to the top guys and girls they are actually racing each other during this distance....this must be a strange experience. First of all try to imagine running 100 miles, then 100 miles over mountains, then actually racing against others the whole time. Hard to get your head around isn't it? They must be 'hurting' from the demands of running so far and at such a speed, but then to be competing with fellow athletes at the same time, well.........frankly it doesn't bare thinking about.
         So who are these weird people? I realise that many readers of this blog may know nothing about them....and then some readers might actually be them, but whatever, I think its time I gave us all a quick education. For example, who is the number one male ultra runner in the world today? The number one female runner? Which country hosts the most races? What is the number one race in the world? Is there prize money? What is the hardest race?
            World's biggest ultra---- Comrades, S.A. /////// Hardest-------Barkley, USA//////
Hottest-------Badwater,USA  /////// Prize money------None /////// Most ultras--------USA, (France is second) //////// Top Male/Female-------There is no official list but for me its Killian Jornet (Spanish) and Lizzy Hawker(English)
          To ultra runners it seems quite bizarre that the London Marathon can attract 36,000 runners but the London Ultra 50k......250 runners! and its on a relatively flat course through places like Richmond Park etc......Weird. Many, many years ago I ran the London Marathon and have run many half's on roads but there is just no comparison compared to the snow capped mountains of Val d'allos.Now to be fair I didn't know there was a London Ultra either but that's the point. Advertising and sponsorship plays a major role in these large events. The elite runners in the big city marathons get paid not only to win but also just to turn up. This does not exist in ultra's. You have supreme athletes such as Killian Jornet and Lizzy Hawker; Scott Jurek, Anton Kupricka, Hal Koerner, Dakota Jones, Ann Trason, Krissy Moehl,Geoff Roes......and I could go on, and no one has ever heard of them. They have a small amount of sponsorship but usually have to hang on to their day jobs.

London Marathon
      And these guys (and girls) are fast.I do not believe that stood on a rainy street corner in London's Docklands, watching runners go by, could in any way compare to Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. The same is true in the USA, at the finish of the Hardrock 100 mile, set in awe inspiring mountain scenery you get a couple of hundred spectators, and at the Western States 100, the most prestigious race in the world ( the Wimbledon of ultra running), they sit the winner down on a plastic chair at the end for a quick chat and a biscuit, surrounded by a few families, 3 kids on mountain bikes, two sheep and a bear!!
       Most elite runners say that the UTMB in the Alps has the most support with crowds even up on the high peaks who have camped out or have a picnic for the day. I would contest that this experience is as spectacular and awe inspiring for them as it is for the runners and surely has a much greater appeal.
      I heard a story the other day that during the Lakeland 100 mile ultra, again a prestigious event, one of the checkpoint/aid stations was in a corner shop in the village of Ambleside and the runners had to wait in the queue with the local shoppers, (who had no idea there was a race on).........I am suprised they didn't charge them for the peanuts and mint cake! 
     Its a funny old world.


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