The Long View: The Power of Ultramarathons


We hadn’t attended the Western States lottery in a few years and I was not expecting the spectacle that was ahead of us that morning in the packed auditorium at Placer High School in Auburn, California. I knew it would be flawlessly conducted, high energy and even entertaining.

But to be honest, I had forgotten how life-changing ultramarathons can be in people’s lives, and the visceral emotions that are unleashed when someone’s name is chosen.

When the names of people in attendance were selected the entire place erupted. The runner’s responses were different, but each was intense. Of course we saw sheer joy and delight. But also shock and awe. Some people sprinted to the stage as if they were doing repeats on the track. And some staggered up to the stage with tears streaming down their cheeks. After each one culminated in hand-shakes, hugs and even kisses, the place grew silent again as Tim Twietmeyer cleared his throat to read off the next name.

When selected at an ultra lottery your whole life gets a new focus – you are alive in a new way and something essential deep inside of you is turned on. Maybe it had been dormant since you were a child, or maybe you never knew it was in there. A life that was maybe drifting or had too much junk in it – TV, excess food and drink, “fake” news, bad relationships – suddenly crystallizes. That other stuff melts away and your spirit is awakened. You are suddenly on the path of your destiny, taking on a huge and worthy challenge to reach your highest potential.

Jim King, former Western States champion and an icon of our sport, took the stage to say a few words before he pulled some names, and he had a special message. He shared some stories about the good old days, but then he told us all that we are the pioneers. Despite the growth and changes in our sport (there are now over 150 hundred-milers, and most don’t even require a lottery), what we do is epic and there is still life-changing magic in it.

I had forgotten the raw power of a slip of paper with a name on it, and the massive impact that our sport still has on people’s lives. Experiencing it again first-hand, and hearing Jim’s words, I learned yet again how special ultrarunning is, and will always be.

This 96-page issue of UltraRunning is our biggest and best ever – celebrating 2016 with our UROY results and John Medinger’s year-in-review on page ___. This is also a time of planning the year ahead, the easiest and maybe most exciting part of being an ultrarunner, and we have a number of great articles that will inspire and help prepare you for the year ahead. As well as a few cautionary tales about the dark underbelly of our sport, over-training and burning out. Whether you were selected in a lottery, or have chosen to sign up for other challenging ultras, we are here to cheer you on your path.

From all of us at UltraRunning, thank you for your support and here’s to a fantastic 2017!


About Author

Karl Hoagland has been the Publisher of UltraRunning Magazine since June, 2013. Hoagland is a former investment banker and hotel entrepreneur, having worked at Goldman Sachs, Montgomery Securities and Larkspur Hotels & Restaurants after graduating from Brown University in 1987. Since running the Quad Dipsea in 2003 Hoagland has been obsessed with ultrarunning and everything about it, especially the community and new friendships he’s made. Karl especially likes to take on challenges and strive for improvement. Ultrarunning is the perfect platform for such endeavors, and his big goals are to encourage others and help the sport grow.


  1. Tina Frizner on

    I’m so grateful to Joe for capturing the moment my name was drawn. The reason why we all look so extraordinarily shocked and excited was because my name was drawn the same exact way 3 years prior–I was the very last one both times! What are the chances of that? Congratulations on another excellent issue.