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Endless training, mental determination, insane amounts of kit, plus the possibility of trench foot are all elements you need to embrace if you want to go ultra


For many in the running world, ultramarathons hold the same position as an Iron Man for triathletes or a multi-stage cyclosportive for cyclists. While you may know someone who’s completed one, it still sits at the hardcore end of your chosen sport. For a run to be classed as ‘ultra’ it simply has to go beyond the traditional marathon distance of 26 miles and 385 yards. Yet despite the extreme nature of ultras, popularity is booming.

They happen all over the world, in all environments and terrains and over all sorts of distances. From the Marathon des Sables, the equivalent of six regular marathons in the Sahara Desert, to the Yukon Arctic Ultra, 430 miles at the other end of the thermometer, to some races that are a comparatively short at 50K. For some runners they are an obvious next step after completing a few ‘vanilla’ marathons. A quarter of those tackling their first ultra event have less than three years of regular running behind them (and that level of experience before a first ultra is on the decrease). We spoke to those who’ve gone before and beyond to show you what it takes – and takes out of you – to complete an ultra.


Gen’ up not just on the route but the reputation of the race, too – especially when you’re taking on challenging conditions. “The Spine Race (a 268-mile, non-stop race along the Pennine Way in January) takes place in winter, so most of it is spent in the dark, with floods, ice, snow and absurdly strong winds,” says GB ultrarunner, inov-8 ambassador and two time Spine finisher Damian Hall (@damo_hall). It’s a race where water bottles and hydration bladder hoses can freeze up and potentially fatal hypothermia isn’t uncommon. “Some ‘Spiners’ have discovered trench foot isn’t just something that happened in France during World War I,” he adds. But the Spine Race is an extreme example.

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About Men's Running

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and when it comes to running nothing could be truer. Whether novice or veteran, once you’ve got your running shoes on the world opens up to you unlike it does for any other sport. If you just want to pound the pavements you can start the moment you step out the door, either following a beaten path or taking a psycho geographical approach to an area. Or you can head off into nature and run the trails, marked or unmarked, and experience the unique challenges they have to offer. At this time of year those who prefer their runs organised can enter multiple events every weekend – from tiny attendance 10Ks to mass participation marathons – and build up quite a medal collection in the process. And if a marathon isn’t quite long enough for you, the growing number of ultra events means your endurance ambitions are well catered for. Then there are the OCRs, charity dashes, duathlons, triathlons and of course your local parkrun. All of which add to the diversity you enjoy when being part of the running community, whatever your ability. Our aim at Men’s Running is to cover all of these bases and offer a balanced view of what it is to be a runner and the issues and topics that affect and interest us all. Drop us an email on and let us know how we’re geting on – we’d love to hear from you. And don’t forget to head over to for more reviews and features, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.