An Inside Look At Ultramarathon Running

ultra marathons 1069648 flash An Inside Look At Ultramarathon Running
Many runners and athletes have tested their mettle by running a marathon. But a true
test of your grit is running an ultramarathon. Brian
Pilgrim had been running 64 miles through the extreme Colorado terrain in the Leadville
100-mile trail run when his stomach turned on him. After the brutal double crossing of
Hope Pass and a brief moment of lost focus, he drank something he normally would have
avoided. Within two miles he was wishing he could throw up, but all that came were dry
heaves. After two more miles he was seriously depleted of nutrients and unable to eat or
drink. It was 2:30 in the morning, and his core temperature had dropped because of a leaky
hydration pack. Pilgrim shook so hard his wife had a hard time getting his clothes off and
re-dressing him. What do ultrarunners do when they
are hypothermic, nutrient-depleted and have 24 miles more to run through some of the
steepest single-track trails of Colorado? They keep
on running. To complete a 100-mile run is daunting
in itself. Finishing four of the toughest in one year is amazing. That is what the Grand
Slam of Ultrarunning award is about. It is an award in recognition of those who complete
four of the oldest 100-mile trail runs in the U.S. The Grand Slam includes the Western
States 100-mile run, Vermont 100-mile run, Leadville Trail 100-mile run and the Wasatch
Front 100-mile run. In 2012, only 15 hardy trail
runners finished the Slam successfully. They pushed their limits as they ran over gnarly
mountain trails and through rivers and drastic climate changes, all while facing sleep
deprivation, hallucinations, nausea, emotional highs and lows, hypothermia, and
dehydration. Just staying awake poses a challenge.
The majority of runners need close to 24 hours to finish, and some take over 30 hours.
Exhaustion has new meaning in the ultrarunner’s world. With all the variables, DNFs (Did Not Finish) become commonplace. Finish rate for
the Slam hovers around 50% or lower. All it takes is one wrong move, and it’s
over. Mike Le Roux, an athlete from Australia, is no
stranger to heavy-duty endurance events. He won the Ultraman (double Ironman) World
Championships in 2010 in Hawaii. He says his experience with the 2012 Grand Slam was
“memorable, very tough and ultimately life changing.”
He acclimated to the altitude for Leadville at Pagosa Springs at 7200
feet. He felt great going into the race, but still says he suffered unexpectedly from
vomiting and nausea about halfway and kept going at a teeth grinding slog to the finish
line. Proof that even the toughest endurance
warriors will be tested while competing.

The First Run

How did this hardcore trail challenge come about? We can track the first 100-mile trail run back to 1979. Gordy Ainsleigh, a regular
participant in the Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance horse race, decided to cover the course by
foot. Gordy finished the race within one day, and the famed Western States 100-mile run
was officially introduced to the world of running. It was only a matter of time before
other 100-mile trail races showed up on the scene. Fred Pilon, the former editor of Ultrarunning magazine,
created the concept of running four of the oldest 100-mile races in one summer. His 1985
attempt failed, but the next year, Tom Green, an experienced ultrarunner, was named as the
first to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.

The Challenge

When a person goes out to run a 100 miles, the reasons and motivations are endless,
and when that same person tackles four exhausting footraces in one year, the inner drive
turns epic.Pilgrim, a finisher of the 2012 Grand Slam, started
running in 2005 at the age of 38. Since then, he has run 31 ultras, 10 of which have been
100 milers. What made him want to dive into such a challenge?

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