When Does a Run Become Ultra Running?

Ultrarunning competition

If you’ve been joining races, I’m sure you’ve heard about ultra running. But do you know when a run becomes ultra running? Like you, I had not the slightest idea of what it was when I first heard it, but over the years of researching and joining such competitions, I learned more and more about it.

A run becomes ultra running if it exceeds the marathon distance which is 26.2 miles (42.195 km). Common marathon distances are 50 km, 100 km, 50 miles, and 100 miles but there are races that reach 300 miles. The longest ultra-running competition in the world reached 3,100 miles.

Ahead, we will discuss more ultramarathon distances, the longest ultramarathon race, and the longest distance ever run by a human. So if you’re interested in learning about ultramarathons, I highly recommend you read along.

What Distance is Considered Ultramarathon?

An ultramarathon is a run that goes beyond the standard marathon distance which is 26.2 miles or 42.195km.

The most common distances are 50 km and 100 km which are both considered World Athletics record distances but there are ultra races reaching 200 miles or more.

Most of these events last 8-24 hours, however, there are multi-day races that last for several days continuously to several weeks broken up in stages.

Although the World Athletic record ultramarathons usually take place on the road, there are many ultramarathons that take place on trails and mountains.

Some of the most popular ultramarathons are:

Event NameLocationDistance
Ultra Trail du Mont BlancThe Alps110 miles
Comrades MarathonSouth Africa55 miles
Fire & Ice UltraIceland155 miles
Hurt 100Honolulu Hawaii100 miles
Badwater 135California135 miles
BarkleyMorgan County, Tennessee.100 miles
Moab 240Moab, Utah240 miles
SpartathlonGreece153 miles

Also read: Is Trail Running Lower Impact? (Here’s what you need to know)

What is the Longest Ultramarathon Distance?

The longest ultramarathon distance ever sanctioned is the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100. It’s a multi-day 3,100-mile race that needs to be completed in 52 days. Runners are allowed to run from 6 am to 12 am.

It was founded by Sri Chinmoy and began as a 1,000-mile race in 1985. Chinmoy’s goal in creating the race was to give the participants an opportunity to discover their limits. In 1997, Chinmoy decided to increase the distance to 3,100 miles to allow the participants to truly reach self-transcendence.

The race takes place in one city block in Queens, New York where the runners have to complete 5,649 laps while the streets are in normal use.

How Long Can a Human Run Continuously?

The farthest distance run by a man without stopping is 350 miles. It took Dean Karnazes 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep to complete such a feat.

Dean Karnazes is also famous for running a marathon in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days. He is the author of the book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner which gives the general public an insight into ultra running.

By the way, if you’re interested in listening to the audiobook version of this book, you can get a free audiobook if you subscribe to Audible’s 30-day free trial for the first time.

Recommended read: How Long Do Ultramarathons Take? (from 50km onwards)

How long Does an Ultramarathon Take?

The time it takes to finish an ultramarathon varies depending on the distance, terrain, athlete’s level of fitness, and weather conditions. You can expect an ultramarathon to finish within 8 hours to as long as several days.

Below is a table showing the average time it takes to finish a certain ultramarathon distance and the time it takes an elite ultra runner to finish the same distance.

DistanceAverage time to finishElite times
50 km4-12 hours3 hours
100 km10-30 hours7 hours
50 miles10-15 hours5 hours
100 miles20-48 hours14 hours
240 miles80-112 hours70 hours
A table of the common ultramarathon distances, average finish times, and elite times.

If you’re interested in learning more about ultramarathons and the time it takes to finish them, check out my other article about that topic.

Final Thoughts

Ultra running is one of the best ways to test your capabilities and limits, which is why thousands of people participate in such events year after year.

If you’re someone who’s always seeking new challenges, I highly recommend that you try one of the events I mentioned above.

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.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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