This post contains affiliate links.
If you’ve been running for a while, you might have heard of these crazy feats of men and women running hundreds of miles in one go. Naturally, you may also have wondered how long do these ultramarathons take?
In general, an ultramarathon can take somewhere around 8 hours to as long as multiple days. The actual time to finish depends on a number of factors including the athlete’s fitness level, the terrain, and the weather conditions.
Ahead, we’ll talk about the different ultramarathon distances and their average time to finish. We’ll also answer a few frequently asked questions that relate to the topic. So if you’re interested in learning about the world of ultras, read along.
Common Ultramarathon Distances and Their Estimated Time to Finish
Ultramarathons are long-distance running events that cover distances greater than the traditional 26.2 miles (42 kilometers). The most common ultramarathons are 50 kilometers or longer, but there are also 100-mile (161-kilometer) and even 24-hour races.
Most ultramarathons have a cut-off time, typically between 10 and 112 hours (depending on the length), beyond which runners are not allowed to continue.
This is to ensure that participants don’t push themselves too hard and end up injured or worse. However, it’s not uncommon for runners to finish outside the cut-off time, particularly in longer races.
The time it takes to complete an ultramarathon will vary depending on the distance, the terrain, and the runner’s level of fitness.
For example, a relatively flat 50-kilometer race on a paved road could be completed in 5 hours or less by a fit runner, while a hilly 50 km race could take closer to 10 hours.
Here’s a table showing the common ultramarathon distances, their average finish times, and the elite times (athletes who finish in the top 10).
|Distance||Average time to finish||Elite times|
|50 km||4-12 hours||3 hours|
|100 km||10-30 hours||7 hours|
|50 miles||10-15 hours||5 hours|
|100 miles||20-48 hours||14 hours|
|240 miles||80-112 hours||70 hours|
Notice the wide range of duration? That’s because ultra races are usually done on trails and the finish times are highly dependent on the trail and its conditions.
Obviously, you can finish faster than the time listed above if you’re running on a paved trail, and longer if you’re running on a hilly technical trail.
So if you want to know the average time it takes to finish a particular route, you should check out the average time of that route.
How Fast Do Ultrarunners Run?
A runner’s pace on ultramarathons is typically slower than their marathon pace. However, it is highly dependent on the distance, terrain, elevation, and weather conditions.
The majority of runners finish ultramarathons within the cut-off time, but there are always a few who don’t.
In fact, the average finish time for most ultramarathons is close to the cut-off time.
This is likely because many runners sign up for ultramarathons without fully training for them, and therefore can’t sustain the pace for the entire race.
While the average finish time for ultramarathons is close to the cut-off time, the fastest runners can finish in a fraction of that time.
For example, at the 2017 Moab 240-Mile Endurance Run, Courtney Dauwalter completed the race in 57 hours and 55 minutes and 13 seconds. More than 10 hours ahead of the second finisher and almost half the cutoff time.
Do Ultramarathon Runners Take Breaks?
Most ultramarathon runners take breaks during the race, and there are usually aid stations set up at regular intervals to help them refuel and rehydrate.
The length of the break will depend on the runner’s goals, how they’re feeling, and the conditions of the race.
Some runners will take a few minutes to eat and drink at each aid station, while others will only stop for a couple of seconds every few hours.
It’s also not uncommon for runners to take unintended breaks, such as when they fall asleep on the side of the trail or attend to the call of nature!
What Factors Affect Ultramarathon Finish Times?
As we’ve seen, there are a number of factors that can affect how long it takes to finish an ultramarathon.
The most important factor is the distance of the race, but the terrain and weather conditions are also significant.
Another important factor is the runner’s level of fitness.
A fit runner who has properly trained for an ultramarathon will be able to sustain a faster pace for longer than someone who hasn’t.
Finally, the runner’s goals for the race will also affect their finish time.
Some runners are aiming for a personal best and are more likely to push themselves to the breaking point, while others are just hoping to finish within the cut-off time and cruise the entire race.
No matter what your goals are, it’s important to be realistic about the time it will take to complete an ultramarathon.
If you’re new to the sport, start with a shorter race and work your way up to longer distances.
And make sure to give yourself enough time to train! Ultramarathons are not to be taken lightly.
How Far Is The Longest Distance Run by a Human Nonstop?
In October of 2015, Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles (560 km) without stopping for 80 hours and 44 minutes across Northern California.
This is just one example of an ultramarathon that goes beyond the traditional distances.
Posts you might also like:
- Is Trail Running Dangerous? (What trail runners think)
- Is Trail Running Lower Impact? (Here’s what you need to know)
- How To Prevent Knee Pain When Running (A Physio Weighs In)
Ultramarathons are a test of both physical and mental endurance.
They can take anywhere from 7 hours to a few days to complete, depending on the distance.
Most runners will finish within the cut-off time, but there is always a small percentage who don’t.
The average finish time for ultramarathons is close to the cut-off time, but the fastest runners can finish in a fraction of that time.
Do you have what it takes to run an ultramarathon?
My Recommended Gear
Hey, if you’re looking for the perfect running gear and you’re having a hard time choosing one, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below.