Evolution of Running

Evolution of Running January 19 2015, 0 Comments

As discussed in our post about marathon blues, running is all about progression. It’s about evolving toward the ultimate version of ourselves, the ultimate runner. Maybe someone begins to run on a treadmill, but eventually the monotony of the treadmill wears thin. The next logical step is the road, and once the road becomes less of a challenge, the trail is next. Like this, the evolution of the runner happens, one foot and stride at a time. It’s no surprise then that with each peak, a new peak becomes visible, and this evolution applies to races as well.

We see this evolution with the kind of races or competitions that have come to exist. Road races and marathons may still be the norm, but they were merely the first phase of the progression. Trail races or cross country materialized as a means to add an additional challenge to runners by incorporating natural terrain and obstacles. It was no longer about running on evenly paved surfaces, but through rocky trails that offer something different every step of the way.

But again, the desire to progress and to increase the challenge has led to the ever-growing trend of ultra-marathons. Not only do these races force participants to compete for days on end, but they often take them on a 100+ mile journeys through some of the toughest terrains and conditions in the world. It is the ultimate test of attrition, will power, determination, and physical conditioning. Many of the toughest ultra-marathons are actually self-supported, which means participants need to also be experienced in survival as their caloric intake and hydration depend on that skillset.

While the ultra-marathon trend has roots dating back to the 1970s, the interest in these events has grown exponentially since then. To some of the purists or old school ultra-marathoners, this rise in popularity has led to a watering down of what once was the true personal physical and mental fitness challenge. However, despite some ultra-marathons that might be more accommodating, there are still plenty that ask a lot from their participants, many of whom will not finish.

One of the original ultra-marathons, Badwater, is unique in that it’s a non-stop race that begins 280 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin in Death Valley and ends at Mount Whitney after a total of 13,000 feet in elevation changes. It also takes place in July, the hottest month of the year, in the hottest location in the United States. Runners must actually apply and be approved to be allowed entry to what is surely one of the most insane tests of physical and mental endurance in the world. It is not for the meek or the hobbyist. It is essentially the Super Bowl of running, and until someone figures out a new form of racing on foot, it is the peak of evolution when it comes to competitive running.

If you’ve reached the point where standard marathons or races just don’t do the trick, feel free to check out nine of the world’s most intense ultra-marathons at  http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/running/trail-running/The-Toughest-Ultras.html.  

If you’re not quite there yet, keep grinding and keep evolving. After all, running is all about forward movement, and if you aren’t moving forward then you aren’t running.