Where is Ultra Running Going?

Subtitled A Dean Rant

Ultra running is growing in popularity. Races sell out 8 months early (the summer Buckeye Trail 50k), meet their runner limit in minutes (Way Too Cool and the Umstead 100 for example) and others have gone to lottery system to designate who gets a chance to run: Western States, Massanutten, Hard Rock, Bull 50, Miwok.

A new race caught my eye: The Dean Karnazes 50K Ultra which I see is sold out!

If you read farther, all this race consists of are tacking 4.8 crummy miles “before” the official start of the PF Chang Rock N Roll Marathon. For this privilege, 50 runners are paying 150 dollars. They run their 4.8 miles, then have to hang out in a corral behind the “elite” runners and then they run the official marathon.

So that’s 4.83 dollars a mile. Heck, the Massanutten 100 is 150 dollars-that’s a dollar a mile folks! And you get real food! What do you get at the DK 50K Ultra? Water, Cytomax, Gu (hint: the normal marathon stuff.) I just don’t get it. Many ultra runners will use a marathon as a long run, and might tack on miles before or after. I don’t know if anyone then calls it their “Cleveland UltraMarathon finish”.

The race also advertises rock bands at every mile for the ultra. Well, it’s actually for the marathon. Could you imagine hearing a band every mile at Umstead? Actually, I don’t think the rockers could last 30 hours out on the course LOL.

Oh, if you haven’t gotten enough Dean yet, he’s also putting his face to yet another race: The Fargo Marathon

So why I am writing this post? I don’t know. I’m dismayed to see ultra running entering the slick world of the Rock N Roll Marathon. I don’t need chip timing, water every mile with paper cups to trash roads with. I kind of like our little below the radar, quiet, laid back ultra world. Where running a marathon is just some miles and most of the time “it’s only a 50K” are common comments. I don’t want to see all those anxious, watch timing uptight marathon runners showing up at ultras. Groaning about the hill coming up, muttering that they are still “on target” to run a 7.32 50K. I’d rather not see
The Barkley mentioned in the NY Times. Ultra running is like a hip little secret. It doesn’t need to go mainstream.

Luckily, lots of us ultra runners don’t need the fanfare of a medal for a 50K. Many ‘races’ are run without official sanction of…well, anyone. Sometimes they are called Fat Asses or just “group runs”. Where time on the trail (or road!) and some camaredie is all the recognition one needs.

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