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In the Ultra-Taper - It's not that scary...

Posted by Chris Russell on Sep 11, 2008 5:55:27 AM

In the Ultra-Taper - It's not that scary...


Ultra-training is easier than training for a Boston qualifier.



I'm not an official bib-number carrying ultra-runner yet, but after Sunday's 36 mile training run I think it's in the bag. Training for this ultra-trail-marathon - The VT 50 Miler - has been one of the easiest training programs I've done when compared to your average Boston qualifying campaign.



I know it's a paradox, but ultra training is easy. Let me try to explain.



Like many of you mid-packers I started running again late in life to get healthier and caught the bug. The key difference being that I ran X-country in high school - so I knew how to run, I knew I could do it. I had no expectations beyond building up to 5 miles or so 3-4 time a week to keep my weight under control.



My big eye-opener was when some ‘friend' said "hey, let's run the marathon!" (In Massachusetts you don't have to say "which marathon") Qualifying for Boston was an amazing learning experience and quite difficult. It involved tempo and speed and hills and long runs at pace - plenty of late, painful nights at the track doing mile repeats at the edge of my ability.



Even after 10 Bostons, qualifying is work for me. That's why it came as such a surprise that stepping up to the ultra would be so easy, both psychologically and physically. All the painful speed and tempo work is replaced with long-long-long slow run-hikes in the woods. After you break the barrier - you can run forever - it doesn't get worse.



Of course I'm coming off a base of training for Boston and Mt. Washington. That's quite different from starting from scratch, but if you're a solid marathoner, stepping up to an ultra distance is a piece of cake. The hardest thing is scheduling the 5-6 hour long runs, but it's no more difficult than trying to schedule two high-quality midweek speed workouts.



Here are my 2009 predictions:



  • - Ultra-marathon distance events will explode in popularity and participation as mid-packers graduate from the marathon.

  • - Runner's World will run a saccharin piece on the explosion of ultras and some troubled person's quest to finish.

  • - Main stream media and some dopey celebrities will get ultra-involved for some dopey ego charity.

  • - 10-20 books will be published on "Zen and the art of the Ultra" and "The beginner's guide to Ultras", one of them will make Oprah.

  • - Related endurance events in swimming, biking, relays and adventure racing will also see double digit growth.

  • - Some old idiot like me will keel over spectacularly in one of the events and the national pundits will bash these events as ‘bad for you'.

  • - I'll smile at the dog, pick up my feet and put them down, ignoring all the hoopla.


That's my story and I'm sticking to it - I'll see you out there (for 9+ hours).





Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy. Chris is the author of , short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at Chris' Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at Chris also writes for ( and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners.



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