Ultra marathons as the name implies are long distance, endurance runs, which exceed the marathon distance of 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometres. It is generally accepted that runs over 50k fall into this category. The Comrades Marathon in South Africa (www.comrades.com) is the world’s oldest and largest events, drawing in around 10,000 up to 20,000 competitors every year. The race which starts in St Pietermaritzburg and finishes in Durban covers a total distance of 56 miles or 90 km and is made up of 5 “killer hills”. There are 5 cut- off points, which runners must reach within an allocated time or face being “pulled” from the race. Athletes who complete the course within 12 hours receive a medal for their heroic efforts. On a slight comforting note the race starts at an altitude of around 700 metres and finishes at sea level!!
Ultra running provides a new form of extreme challenge for those individuals who may have completed multiple marathons in succession (for example 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days) or have taken part in various ironman triathlon events and are looking at new ways pushing their bodies to the limit.
Taking part in any ultra running event takes a lot of dedication and training. A good way to start is to join an endurance running club or find a training running partner. You find a good selection of running clubs in London and your nearest running partner on Totally Sporty.
Extreme Running Limited (www.extremerunning.org) organise a popular London to Brighton run covering over 56 miles every Sept, through the beautiful English countryside of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. One of the main highlights of the challenge is crossing the North Downs, a national trail and area of outstanding natural beauty which is popular with walkers and cyclists.
Jackson is a respected ultra athlete, who has completed a number of long distance endurance challenges including “Run across America” in 2007 and recently running 26 marathons in 26 days on a treadmill in aid of UNICEF. He is currently training for his toughest challenge so far, the Barefoot Australia Challenge. Jackson is setting out to become the first person to run “barefoot” across Australia in July 2010. He is currently wearing Vibram Five Fingers shoes in training instead of usual sports wear sponsors Mizuno trainers. The Vibram’s will aim to strengthen and protect his feet during training rather than provide cushioning and support.
The route crossing three states starts in Perth and will finish in Sydney, a staggering distance of 2,471 miles. Not only will Jackson will be pushing his body and mental strength to the limit running distances of between 32- 40 miles a day, he will also be battling high temperatures and may also encounter dangerous wildlife in the form of venomous snakes and spiders.
So what drives Jackson to take on these extreme challenges? Jackson: “There are a number of factors which motivate me, but first and foremost, my target is to become an internationally-renowned ultra marathon athlete and leave a lasting legacy for my family.”
The City College Norwich lecturer needs to raise in the region of £20,000 to fund the challenge and is appealing for businesses and individuals to support his venture.
www.ultrarunner.co.uk (ultra running forum)