Note from Matt: Last year when I chose the course for my first 100-miler, one of the criteria I looked for was “fair.” I didn’t want the easiest, flattest course around, but at the same time, it is 100 miles, so why make it tougher than it needs to be?
Next month, Doug Hay will be running his first 100. But in choosing his race, he didn’t look for “fair.” Instead, he went with the race that most inspired him, the Massunutten Mountain Trails 100 — which happens to be one of the toughest on the East Coast. Not a coincidence.
This choice perfectly sums up Doug’s passion for ultrarunning and trails. And it’s the reason I asked him to answer a question that people ask me all the time these days: “I’ve run a marathon, but now I’d like to run an ultra. Any advice?”
Above all, the difference between marathoning and ultrarunning is the mindset, and Doug’s post will help you to understand that shift.
When it comes to running ultramarathons — any distance over 26.2 miles — most people don’t have a clue where to start. The distance sounds so much longer, the courses so much tougher, and the word “ultra” that much more hard core.
I know that before running my first ultra, I worried about things like:
- If I train for an ultramarathon, will I end up rotting alone somewhere deep in the woods?
- Will training for an ultramarathon take over my life and piss off all my family and friends?
- How do I even begin training for such a distance?
Questions like these were filling my head with doubt, and I know these same doubts are common based on the questions I get from runners and readers.
The good news is that the leap from marathoner to ultramarathoner isn’t as big as most runners believe. With a few key distinctions and (maybe) a little extra mileage, you can be well on your way to adding “ultra” to your running accomplishment list.