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An ultramarathon (also called ultra distance) is any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).

There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km) and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is an official IAAF world record event.[1]

Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1000 miles or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single or multiple loops (some as short as a 400-meter track),[2] to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, have severe course obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations every 20 to 35 km apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.

Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3 and 6 days and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile or less.

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 km, 100 km, 24 hours and ultra trail running. These events are sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World records for distances, times and ages are tracked by the IAU.


Ultramarathons are run around the world and more than 70,000 people complete ultramarathons every year.


Several ultra distance events are held in Africa.

South Africa hosts a number of notable ultra marathon events. On paved surface: the world's oldest and largest ultramarathon, the 90 km Comrades Marathon. Approximately 12,000 runners complete Comrades each year, with over 24,500 in 2000. It also hosts the 56-kilometer Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town in the southern autumn which attracts approximately 11,000 runners. Off road: The Salomon Sky Run is a grueling 100 kilometre self supported, unmarked trail race held in a particularly scenic part of the country.

Marathon des Sables is a 6 day stage race which covers 250 km through the Sahara desert in Morocco. The Sahara Race in Egypt, part of the 4 Deserts series, is held annually with about 150 competitors from 30 countries competing. There is also an ultramarathon of 250 km across the Namib desert.


Ultrarunning has become popular in Asia recently, and countries such as Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have hosted IAU World Championships in the last few years. Korea's first ultramarathon was held in 2000. India's first ultra marathon was held in 2007, in Bangalore.[3][4] Since 2010, Indian Himalayas have hosted LA ULTRA – The High, crossing Khardung La, the world's highest motorable mountain pass. The Gobi March,[5] first held in 2003, in northwest China was China's first ultramarathon. A night race called the Sundown Marathon has been held in Singapore annually since 2008, over a double marathon distance (84 km) up to 2010 and 100 km since then.[6] Nepal hosts several ultramarathon races,[7] including the Annapurna 100, the Kanchenjunga Ultra Marathon Trail Running Race and the Everest Ultra.[8] Northern Mongolia hosts an annual 100 km summer race, Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset.[9] Malaysia has had its own ultra trail marathon called the TMBT (The Most Beautiful Thing) in Sabah at Mount Kinabalu since 2011.[10] The Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji[11] is a 161 km (100 mile) race around or a 84 km race partially around Mount Fuji, Japan.

Oceania, Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are host to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2200 km.[12]

In Australia, the Westfield Ultra Marathon was an annual race between Sydney and Melbourne contested between 1983 and 1991. Greek runner Yiannis Kouros won the event five times during that period. Australia is also the home of one of the oldest six-day races in the world, the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race, held in Colac, Victoria. The race is held on a 400-meter circuit at the Memorial Square in the centre of Colac, and has seen many epic battles since its inception in 1984. The 20th Cliff Young Australian six-day race was held between 20 and 26 November 2005. During that event, Kouros beat his existing world record six-day track mark and set a new mark of 1036.851 km. The Coast to Kosciuszko inaugurated in 2004, is a 246-kilometre (153 mi) marathon from the coast to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.

New Zealand's first ultramarathon was held on a 100 km track. The [2] is the first 100 mile (160 km) race through the Northburn Station.

Papua New Guinea has the Kokoda Challenge Race, an annual 96 km endurance race held in late August that runs the length of the historic Kokoda Track.[13]

In November 2012, Kim Allan planned to run and/or walk 500 km nonstop, without sleep, on the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile track at the Auckland Domain. Her aim was to beat ultrarunner Pam Reed's record of 300 miles.[14] According to her Facebook page, she only managed 385.8 km.[15]

In April 2013, Feilding man Perry Newburn set a new New Zealand record by running 483 km without sleep at Feilding's Manfield Park.[16]


Ultrarunning is popular in Europe, and the sport can trace its origins here with early documentation of ultrarunners came from Icelandic sagas, or even the antique Greece from where the idea of the Marathon, and the Spartathlon comes. The history of ultrarunners and walkers in the UK from the Victorian Era has also been documented. The IAU hosts annual European Championships for the 50 km, 100 km and 24 hours. There are over 300 ultramarathons held in Europe each year. Some of the largest events include:

  • The Tor des Geants – a 330 km loop (including 24000 m total elevation gain) of the Aosta Valley in max 150 hours. The path follows the Alta Via 2 and Alta Via 1 footpaths of the Aosta Valley in Italy (these foothpaths are normally divided in resp. 14 and 17 daily stages).
  • The John o'Groats to Lands End, Scotland/Wales/England – UK
  • The Davos, Switzerland.
  • The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc which consists of a 166 km loop around Mont Blanc including 9400 m total elevation gain.[17]
  • The 100 km del Passatore Florence – Faenza Italy
  • The Strasimeno ultramarathon, Castiglione del Lago Italy
  • The Southern Carpathians, the race stretches for 90 km over harsh terrain, comprising a total 7500 meters elevation gain.
  • The Biel running days, Switzerland.
  • Sudecka Setka – 100 km in the Polish Sudetes.
  • The 72.7 km Rennsteiglauf in the Thuringian Forest, Germany.
  • The 230 km Al Andalus Ultra-Trail is a stage race over five days in the July sun and heat of Poniente Granadino, Andalucia, Spain.
  • The Lakeland 100 (UTLD) which has a circular route encompassing much of the Lakeland fell area, including in the region of 6300m of ascent and consisting entirely of public bridleways and footpaths.
  • The ULTRArace.100 which has a circular route of 100 miles of road in The Cotswold Hills with an overall ascent of 2248m.
  • The second oldest ultramarathon in the world, London to [3]
  • Day Runners – Athens International Ultramarathon Festival (24h, 48h, 72h, 6days, 1000k, 1000m)
  • The Rodopi Ultra Trail is the first 100 mile trail race in Bulgaria and wanders the vast forests of the Rodopi mountain range, one of the biggest ranges of the Balkan peninsula.
  • Velebit 100 – Velebit, Croatia.
  • Transvulcania - La Palma, Spain
  • Lapland Ultra – Adak, Lapland, Sweden. 100 km loop in the land of the midnight sun.
  • The European Ultramarathon Cup (ECU) is an annual series covering several of the biggest races in different European countries.
  • An extreme challenge in Germany is the annual multiday Deutschlandlauf (Germany Run) over 1200 km.
  • In Portugal, the "Ultramaratona das Areias" race covers 43 kilometres on the sand of southern beaches under the blazing sun of summer.
  • In southern Spain, the "Spanish Foreign Legion.
  • In Greece, Spartathlon is held every last weekend of September since 1983. It's a non-stop historic ultra-distance foot race covering 246 km from Athens to Sparta. It's considered[by whom?] one of the most difficult ultramarathon races due to the weather conditions encountered by the runners (heat and humidity during the day and cold during the night hours) and the non-stop profile of the race. Only 1/3 of the runners reaches Sparta.
  • The Grand Raid de la Réunion is held annually on Réunion island in October, crossing the island over 163 km with an altitude gain of 9643 meters. This race attracts 2350 competitors, with 1000 runners from overseas.


Due to logistics and environmental concerns there are only a handful of ultramarathons held in Antarctica, and travel costs can mean entrance fees as high as $14,000.[19] Ultramarathons in Antarctica include: The Last Desert, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon – a marathon and 100-kilometer race.

North America

There are several hundred ultramarathons held annually in North America. One of the most popular is the Western States Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974, when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh's horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in 23 hours and 47 minutes.'

One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held in 1926, and at the time was part of the Central American Games. Tomas Zafiro and Leoncio San Miguel, both Tarahumara Indians, ran 100 km from Pachuca to Mexico City in 9 hours and 37 minutes. At the time, the Mexican government petitioned to include a 100 km race in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam; however, nothing came of these efforts.

In 1928, sports agent C. C. Pyle organized the first of two editions of the 3,455-mile-long Bunion Derby (the first went along U.S. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago before heading toward New York; the 1929 Derby reversed the route). Neither the race nor the accompanying vaudeville show was a financial success.

Since 1997, runners have been competing in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is billed as the longest official footrace in the world. They run 100 laps a day for up to 50 days around a single block in Queens, NY, for a total distance of 3,100 miles (5,000 km).[20]

In April 2006, the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame was established by the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA). Candidates for the Hall of Fame are chosen from the 'modern era' of American ultras, beginning with the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held in 1958. The Inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt, a former US Olympian, winner of the aforementioned race in 3:04:13, and co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America, and Sandra Kiddy, who kicked off her ultra career at age 42 with a world record at 50 kilometers, 3:36:56, and who went on to set a string of US and world ultra records.

South America

There are few ultramarathons in South America. The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is a single stage race, with 135 miles ( 217 km)and 60 hours cutoff, held in Brazil. This is a Badwater "sister race". The official web site is Atacama Desert, another multi-day stage race covering 250 km in total.

Since 2012 the Endurance Challenge in Chile is a 10K, 21K, 50K and 80K trail running race held at The Andes mountain range in Santiago, part of the global Endurance Challenge circuit.

List of ultramarathons

This is only a partial list of events. For a full list, see Ultramarathon Running's Calendar and local countries' ultrarunning websites.

Road and dirt paths

Track Ultramarathons

  • United Kingdom Barry 40
  • Canada Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race Ottawa

Mountain and trails

Extreme conditions

Very long events and multidays

IAU 100 km World Championships

Edition Year City Country Date No. of
24th 2010 Gibraltar  Gibraltar 7 November 180[21]

Prior IAU World Championships were held in the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Korea.

IAAF World Records


Event Record Athlete Nationality Date Meet Place Ref
100 km (road) 6:13:33 Takahiro Sunada  Japan 21 June 1998 Japan Tokoro, Japan [1]


Event Record Athlete Nationality Date Meet Place Ref
100 km (road) 6:33:11 Tomoe Abe  Japan 25 June 2000 Japan Yubetsu, Japan [1]

IAU World Best Performances


Event Record Athlete Nationality Date Meet Place Ref
50000 m (track) 2:48:06 Jeff Norman  United Kingdom 7 June 1980 United Kingdom Timperley, United Kingdom [22]
50 km (road) 2:43:38 Thompson Magawana  South Africa 12 April 1988 South Africa Claremont, South Africa [22]


Event Record Athlete Nationality Date Meet Place Ref
50000 m (track) 3:18:52 Carol Hunter-Rowe  United Kingdom 3 March 1996 United Kingdom Barry, Wales United Kingdom [22]
50 km (road) 3:08:39 Frith Van Der Merwe  South Africa 25 March 1989 South Africa Claremont, South Africa [22]

World or national-record holding or world-championship-winning ultramarathon runners

  • Yiannis Kouros, multi-day race legend, holder of numerous world records and world bests from 24 hours to 1,000 miles, course record holder of the Spartathlon since its inception in 1983
  • Tomoe Abe, 100 km female world record holder (6:33:11)[1]
  • Suprabha Beckjord female and Wolfgang Schwerk male record holder 3100 mile Race [20]
  • Edit Berces, 24 hour treadmill world record holder; holds several Hungarian records
  • Ted Corbitt, "father of American ultrarunning"; 1952 US Olympic team member; former American world record holder at various distances
  • Bruce Fordyce, nine time Comrades Marathon winner; African 100K record holder (6:25:07)
  • Serge Girard, trans-USA (4,597 km – 1997), trans-South America (5,235 km – 2001), trans-Africa (8,295 km – 2003/2004) and trans-Eurasia (19,097 km – 2005/2006) record holder
  • Wally Hayward, Multiple winner of Comrades Marathon, London to Brighton, many other ultramarathons; set early world records
  • Bernd Heinrich, US 100 mile track record holder (12:27:01), naturalist
  • Shaul Ladany, Israeli racewalker, world record holder in the 50-mile walk, former world champion in the 100-kilometer walk[23][24]
  • Frith van der Merwe, set Comrades Marathon records for both directions
  • Stu Mittleman, US record holder for six-day race (578 miles)
  • Arthur F. H. Newton, 5 times Comrades Marathon winner
  • Takahiro Sunada, 100 km world record holder (6:13:33)[1]
  • Ann Trason, thirteen time Western States Endurance Run winner and former female course record holder; holds numerous world records, including 100 mile (13:47:41 1991), 50 mile (5:40:18, 1991), and 12 Hours (147.6k, 1991); American 100k record holder (7:00:48)
  • Cliff Young, former winner Westfield Sydney to Melbourne; holds numerous world age records
  • Arun Bhardwaj, first Indian to compete in and win the George Archer 6 day race in South Africa, completed a 4,000+ km run from Kargil, India to Kanyakumari, India, in 61 days.
  • Connie Gardner, American Record Holder in the 24 hour event (149.368 miles)

Born to Run

In 2009, Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run was released. Written from both anthropological and scientific angles, this book is a story of an entire people of ultramarathoners. While other books had previously been written specifically about ultramarathons, McDougall made conclusions about humanity's roots in long distance running that were just controversial enough to excite the masses who had never heard of the sport. It quickly became a national bestseller and a Forbes and Washington Post book of the year, helping spread the idea of ultramarathons.

See also


External links

  • DMOZ
  • Global Ultramarathon Races & Events Calendar

Archives ultamarathon :

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