Welcome to the Rock Creek Roundup, a new monthly series featuring trail and running commentary, and a selection of articles, videos, products, and stories I’m into this month. Click here to read December and January’s roundup.
Ultrarunning has a 100K problem.
When I think through the reputation of your standard ultramarathon distances, here’s what I picture:
- 50K — The introductory ultra. Longer than a marathon, but approachable — both mentally and physically — to most interested runners.
- 50 Mile — The separator. A significantly longer race, which separates out those who really want to go long vs. those who want to dabble in the 50K distance.
- 100 Mile — The crème de la crème. The distance most of us strive for, and the one we proudly promote through the wearing of belt buckles.
All wonderful, challenging, and something to be proud of.
Then there’s the humble 100K, a 62ish mile race often forgotten by the masses. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
In 2013 (the most recent data I could find), there were 69,573 ultramarathon finishes (I believe that’s US only, though it doesn’t say).
Over half, or 51.5% of those finishes, came from the 50K distance. 23.2% from 50 Milers, and 8.6 from 100 Milers.
Only 2.9% of finishes came from 100Ks.
Note, the remaining 13.9% of finishes were in timed events or non-traditional distances.
Since those numbers were a few years old, I did a bit more research. While I couldn’t find finisher numbers for 2016, I did tally the number of races for each distance currently listed on UltraSignup for 2017:
- 50K — 560 races
- 50 Mile — 226 races
- 100K — 120 races
- 100 Mile — 157 races
That’s a larger share than expected, but still the forgotten stepchild by comparison.
Now I know what you’re thinking …
Who gives a shit?
Well, probably not many people, but I think you should. Here’s why:
In Defense of the 100K
As I’ve planned out my race schedule for the year — with an increased work load, 10-week old cold, and other new obligations — it became clear that training for a 100 Miler would need to take a back seat until at least this fall.
I decided on the UROC 100K taking place in May, and through that process, it occurred to me that 100K is kind of the perfect distance for most ultrarunners.
1. It’s long. Unlike a 50K or 50 Miler, the 100K distance will take most runners 10-15 hours to finish. That most likely means running in the dark, running through multiple meal times, and spending most of a day on the trail. It’s a true test of grit and determination.
2. It’s not that long. At the same time, 10-15 hours is a lot different than 24+ hours, like you see at many 100 mile ultras. The recovery period will be shorter and the overall disruption to your life a lot less.
3. It’s logistically closer to a 50M than a 100M. For a 100 Miler, most runners bring full crews, pacers, and at least a few drop bags. For a 100K, there’s less of a need. In part because you’re (probably) not running through the night, but also because it’s a smaller undertaking.
4. Training is Manageable. Don’t get me wrong, training for a 100K will take a lot of time, effort, and determination, but for me, in my life right now, it feels a lot more manageable than properly training for a 100 Miler.
5. It’s a massive accomplishment. Not that 50Ks and 50 Milers are not — they most certainly are — but the 100K distance is nothing to scoff at, and should be considered a truly massive goal.
And that’s why I’d like to see more finishers of the underrated 100K distance.
I’ve only have one finish myself, and look forward to challenging myself to the distance again in a few months.
Update: I was quickly reminded by a few readers that the 100K distance is far from forgotten outside the US where the metric system rules, and off the top of my head I can think of several high profile international 100K races. Consider this a commentary on the US scene, and another lesson we can learn from our friends abroad.
Now, for that roundup …
What’s Worth Sharing on this Month: February, 2017
The Run With the Trails Tumbler
I hear the new tumblers — released just two weeks ago — have already tagged along on many adventures.
A Pen and Paper Training Log
For the past few years I’ve kept a digital training log in a spreadsheet, and I believe keeping a log of some sort is something every runner should do. It’s a way to track progress and notice issues, and make adjustment accordingly. And it helps hold you accountable to stay focused.
Last month I received the Runner’s Log from Territory Run Co. as a birthday gift, and I’ve got to admit, it feels damn good to keep a pen and paper log over a stale digital one.
I don’t plan on going back.
Did You See the 37 Videos Post?
If not, you should check it out.
Hours of sweet trail and mountain running videos.
Run Like a Girl (in the Snow)
Our Sport is Spreading Like Wildfire
While looking up those 100K stats above, I couldn’t help but notice how much the sport is growing.
Again, these are 2013 numbers, but between 2010 and 2013, ultrarunning saw a 50% increase in finishers. I’m sure that number is much higher through 2016.
It makes me incredibly happy to see so many people challenge themselves at the 50K or longer distance.
Well done, everyone. Well done.
The 23 Minute Post-Run Routine
A regular post-run routine was something I struggled with for a long time. Once the GPS stopped, so did my motivation.
But over time I’ve been able to change that by making my “run” the entire workout experience and not just the run itself. By doing so, I have a well balance post-run routine that helps with strength, recovery, and mental focus.
Here’s a formula for creating your own post-run routine, which I published yesterday on No Meat Athlete.