What is ultra running?

Ultra running / ultra marathon is the branch of running for you if you enjoy really long runs. There are several sub-branches within this type of running.

Beyond marathon

Ultra runs are defined to be runs that are longer than marathon (42 195 meters). The shortest standard race distance is 50 km.

Races are arranged either as distance runs (like the mentioned 50 km) or running by time; hours/days, like 6 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours and races over 6 days.There are also leg races, where the leg each day is longer than a marathon.

International championships are arranged for 100 km road, trail runs (75-90 km), 50 km and 24 hour races.

The hourly based races and the multi day races are arranged either on a track arena, on roads or in parks where the laps are relatively short, for example 1000 or 2000 meters, or along roads where the runners can experience both quiet and busy streets.

All over the world

Ultra run races are arranged at all continents around the world. Every continent  have their classical races which have been arranged for many years, and which are prestigious among ultra runners. In opposite to shorter distance races, within ultra running it is a goal itself just to complete the race. The races are just as much about the mental part, as about the physical part, to be able to fulfil the targets.

An important aspect about ultra running is intake of liquid and nutrition, which actually is a branch of itself in this context. Proper nutrition during the ultra run is essential if you shall be able to succeed.

History and status today

The history of ultra running can be traced all the way back to a couple of million years ago, when human beings started their exploration of our planet. Today several hundred thousand persons participates in thousands of ultra runs all over the world.

Some of the great classical races are:

  • Marathon Des Sables; 250 km leg race in the Sahara desert, Morocco
  • Spartathlon; 246 km from Athens to Sparta in Greece
  • Comrades; 90 km in South Africa
  • Self Transendence ; 3100 miles race in USA  – considered to be the longest ultra run race i the world.

Read more about what is going on inside the head of an ultra runner, and other interesting topics about ultra running, in our blog, under the category “ultra running”.

Read about how to train for ultra running here:



Author: Gjermund Sørstad, ultra runner

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