There are several variations of ultra-distance and the latest edition to the formats is the garden ultra-marathon. This marathon was devised during the COVID lock down and first saw the light in South Africa with the Fresh Trails Ultra Back yard challenge. This format is at its core a max loop distance of 300m, must be completed inside the boundaries of your garden and needs to be completed in one go with an entry distance of 42.3 km.
Of all the races I have done this had to count as one of my most memorable. Also, never to be repeated. Mind numbing laps on a hamster wheel. Never going anywhere. Never getting anywhere. Round and round and round. The punishment my body took far exceeded anything I could have imagined from the constant switchbacks. The beauty about trail running is that you are either going forward or stopping. This garden ultra-provided a constant reminder that you could stop anytime you liked. Creature comforts, coffee, swimming pools, fridges, refreshments on tap and an endless number of distractions. This made the loops almost secondary in difficulty. I have never zoned out quite as badly as this race allowed encourage me to. Imagine banging your head against a wall for hours and hours and hours and then celebrating your achievement with hundreds of other runners that achieved a similar feat.
There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance or route; and those that last for a predetermined period (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 kilometres is recognized as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field.
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. This can be from one to multi day events. Each with their own unique difficulties. Some spoken about more than others. I have had my fair share of these races with The Sky Marathon, 100 km over the Witteberg mountain being extremely memorable. This race counts as one of the races that’s hard to get folks to talk about and share their experiences.
Ask successful ultra-distance runners how they achieved their success and you may hear words like "hard work," "sacrifice," and "persistence."
Dig a little deeper and you'll find some other common attitudes and habits. When you listen to stories of successful ultra-distance runners and multi discipline athletes it's easy to think they have some intangible supernatural something--ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, whatever--that you don't have. While they generally don’t share much regarding the actual experience you catch hints of what makes up their success. The lack of sharing information seems to be in direct relation to the difficulty of the challenge. I’ve often wondered if it isn’t a concerted attempt to forget.
Ultra-distance success is inevitable only in hindsight. It's easy to look back on an ultra-distance challenge and assume that every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion. It wasn't. Success is never assured. Only in hindsight does it appear that way. For those that are willing to work hard and persevere, who you are is often what matters most more than any plan or vision may seem.
When deciding on an ultra-pick a goal and measure yourself against that goal--that is the only comparison that matters. I have observed a deep desire to create often very informal support structures and sharing. No one accomplishes any ultra-worthwhile on his or her own. Great runners are happy providing the tools and training to help other runners do better--and achieve their own goals. While concurring a challenge is you against you it really helps when you know there are others walking a similar path. And as a result, they reap the rewards.
Success in ultra-distance is often the result of pig-headed perseverance. When others give up, leave, stop trying or just don’t start its often the most unexpected person who persists. Other people may be smarter, better connected, more talented, or better funded. But they can't win if they aren't around at the start and finish. Sometimes it does make sense to give up on ideas and challenges --but it never makes sense to give up on yourself.
The extra mile is a lonely place and not often spoken of, because almost no one goes there. Ultra-runners go there--as often as they can. And even though it may seem lonely they don't need numbers. What they rely on is real connections: people they can help, people they can trust, people who care, people who get that the experience far outweighs any recognition for the challenge. Reaching out to the people whom they want to be part of their life. Successful ultra-runners make lasting connections and create an extended professional family. They are there when they are needed.
It's easier to assume that ultra-runners succeed because they have something you don't have. But, the primary difference is that they are willing to do something you won't do.
You can. So go do it.