Running Times published an article earlier this year entitled “Is 100 Miles The New Marathon?” That made me smile—so the rest of the running world has finally found our crazy little corner of the running world? Then I considered the absurdity of the notion and the flat out mega-difference between these distances and races. But having done the New York Marathon five times and Western States 100 six, I let the concept sink in and I came to realize that it really isn’t that far-fetched.
Sure, the vision of 40,000 people coursing through a remote aid at station at mile 70 at 3 a.m. doesn’t compute. But both running feats require huge commitment and bold vision, and in the end, both can be life-changing experiences. The training and preparation to properly race either distance requires a commitment that takes over your life for many months. The starting lines have the same excitement and trepidation. The finish lines, if you meet your goal, are pure euphoria.
What happens in between is different, and for my money I’d choose a hundo over a marathon any day (and night). Moving steadily and efficiently over 100 miles, surging where you can but staying aerobic the whole time, navigating the ups and downs and changing trail conditions is, quite frankly, enjoyable. Plus there are so many encouraging and helpful people along the way—from aid station volunteers to the other runners too. Red-lining a road marathon just a tick under your anaerobic threshold, dodging runners, struggling to grasp a cup of water and pushing the pace every step so that maybe your finishing time can start with a 2 or 3 (or whatever number is beyond your ability) is a completely different kind of challenge, and pain.
The bottom line is that you should try it yourself and find out. I’d recommend point- to-point races if possible, because either way, part of the fun is traveling a serious distance on foot.
Most ultrarunners are geeks for stats, so naturally I wanted to take a look at this from that point of view too. In 2014, there were 8,728 finishers of 100 milers in North America. That’s up from just 1,539 in 2000, representing a whopping 467.12% annual growth rate. That compares with 353,000 marathon finishers in 2000 and 550,637 now, a solid (but much lesser) growth rate of 55.99%
So maybe 100s are becoming the new marathon after all?
In this issue we have a plethora of great articles from our columnists, as well as many reports from fun races all around the globe. Dean’s article on page 82, Seconds Matter, could not be more relevant considering the events that transpired at the finish line of Western States 100 this year. Read all about it in John Trent’s account of another truly epic Western States 100. And be sure to check out our review of summer running apparel on page 18. Half the fun of getting out on the trail can be donning your favorite running kit, and there are many cool and innovative designs and fabrics designed just for running long on the trails.
Enjoy summer; fall is coming up with more wonders and delights waiting around the next bend in the trail.
May your every run be a great one!