View Full Version : Anyone run ultras?

silly nanny24
11-06-2012, 17:19
Wondering what the comparison is between ultrarunning and an AT thru hike? Thoughts about each as far as difficulty and such. I've done a 50 mile and planing on doing a 100 in the near future and want to know how that compares with the AT thru hike.

11-06-2012, 17:29
The AT is more than 2100 miles long. Which is more than 2000 miles longer than your simple ultra-run. I have never seen an ultra-runner carrying all their life necessities gear on their back for a run let alone for 4 months. There is a small subjective difference between the two.

Lone Wolf
11-06-2012, 17:50
Wondering what the comparison is between ultrarunning and an AT thru hike? Thoughts about each as far as difficulty and such. I've done a 50 mile and planing on doing a 100 in the near future and want to know how that compares with the AT thru hike.

i've run 5, 50 milers. much more tougher than thru-hiking/long distance backpacking. i didn't find thru-hiking physically challenging. covering 50 miles in under 9 hours on the other hand is physically tough

11-06-2012, 18:12
It's just jogging.......

Lone Wolf
11-06-2012, 19:02
It's just jogging.......

no, it's runnin'. weenies jog

11-06-2012, 19:06
I guess both would be as hard as you want to make them.

11-06-2012, 19:11
I haven't run organized ultras but have done ultra trail running distances multiple times. I would say that a ultra trail runner ( recent experience) would have a fairly leg up on a thru hike assuming they are fairly lightweight and have at least enough backpacking experience to avoid doing something stupid. The biggest advantage they have is the mental toughness to get through some tough times. there would still things to learn but I personally believe that trail running is onevofthe best training methods for backpacking. ( lightweight caveat still applies).

11-07-2012, 13:05
I've run 8 ultras now, up to a 100K. Planning on running a 100 miler in the next year or so. I've never thru hiked, but I don't think you can make much of a comparison. But I agree with the above that the mental toughness gained by running ultras would definitely carry over to a thru hike.

11-07-2012, 13:40
+1 on Lone Wolf. I would say that an ultra runner with no hiking training would have an easier time at a thru hike than would a thru hikerwith no running experience have at an ultra.

But to answer the OP, I don't know that you can compare the 2. One is a one day event, the other is several months. But if you are an ultra runner and have hiking experience, you should the thru hike a wonderful experience; and of course you will be met by several physical and mental challenges.


silly nanny24
11-07-2012, 14:08
Alright, Kinda what I was thinking. Probably the biggest difference will be the time on trail, physical challenge not so much. Thanks Guys!

11-07-2012, 14:26
Ultra: Beat yourself up, go home, lick your wounds.
Thru: Beat yourself up, go to sleep, wake up, and do it again.

Lone Wolf
11-07-2012, 14:46
Ultra: Beat yourself up, go home, lick your wounds.
Thru: Beat yourself up, go to sleep, wake up, and do it again.

not even close. thru-hikin' is easy

11-07-2012, 14:58
not even close. thru-hikin' is easy

Don't be braggin LW! I like ChinMusic's post. :)

11-07-2012, 17:44
I would say that an ultra runner with no hiking training would have an easier time at a thru hike than would a thru hikerwith no running experience have at an ultra.

Absolutely. The thru hiker wouldn't have a problem with the distance, but with the cutoffs. It's a different ball game going 50 miles in 12 hours than doing it over 2 days.

map man
11-07-2012, 23:36
I've participated in some Ultras. The toughest was a 50 miler on some fairly rugged trail. I have not, however, done a thru hike, so I can't compare that particular apple to that particular orange. I have found that the volume of running I do on irregular surfaces to get ready for a trail ultramarathon is very good physical preparation for backpacking trips. The training toughens up my feet (I don't tend to get blisters anymore when I backpack) and the small lateral stability muscles that come in handy when hiking on trails are given a good workout when you run on trails or other irregular surfaces (like my local cross country course). And the increased cardio-pulmonary fitness you achieve when doing a lot of running (on trails or otherwise) always comes in handy when backpacking. I've found that when I'm in ultra-shape even when hiking at high elevations in the Rockies I can go just about all day, and then get up and do it again the next day.

11-12-2012, 15:18
I thought about this question on a long hike this weekend. An experienced ultra would have learned a number of important lessons which are directly applicable to a thru hike such as blister prevention, shoe and sock selection and sizing, chafing prevent and probably the biggest which is nutrition. Knowing how to fuel can be very important especially for folks doing high mile days or hiking in heat. Knowing the signs of hitting the wall and how to recover has likely been learned by ultra runners.

11-12-2012, 15:53
Many trail runners have no outdoor experience off a marked trail. Something like the AT? No problem. The CDT (or even more obscure), they have run into trouble.

An outdoors person who also happens to run ultras could do well on the more obscure trails/routes. An ultra runner who happens to be outside for his activity may run into trouble.

(cf. Horton on the CDT. Heat exhaustion, getting a little lost, etc on a relatively well marked portion of the trail. Not trying to say anything bad, I just think it is more of an apples/oranges comparison then some of you may think)

11-12-2012, 16:22
I more of a trail runner than a backpacker. However, I am currently injured, so I am not doing any running at the moment, but a lot of hiking. My ass hurts. :D Running doesn't engage the butt as much as hiking does! (Sorry, random semi-related thought!)

12-13-2012, 01:14
I've done over 40 ultras, about 70 events including marathons. Did one/month for several years. Currently injured.

The difference is that with hiking your heat rate is only moderate most of the time, and you generally are not drenched in sweat. With ultras, the heart rate is significantly higher and the sweat pours out. You can't keep your clothes dry. Hypothermia is a real issue. How are you going to dry your clothes if you are running every day? That's the big problem that I see in multi-day fastpacking. That's one of the reasons why most of the runners on the AT have had serious RV's to retire to in the pm.

12-13-2012, 12:28
I'd have to say ultras are harder (except short ones)
50k's are considererd ultras and not that hard.
100 milers however take a LOT more training.
I trained for over a year to complete Leadville and that included speed hiking the Colorado trail the year after I thru-d the CDT.

It's all good. One is harder than the other on some days and easier on others.
Almost all ultra runners will have the occasional DNF.
Many thru hikers too.
For different reasons though.

Looking back, I have to say my first CDT hike was the hardest thru I've done.
But completing Leadville in under 30 hours (26 hours 38 minutes for me) was harder.
2 years later I DNF'd it. (dehydration on a hot day)

I think if I decided I wanted to do another one, it would take me 3 or 4 years to train now.
A thru hike doesn't need nearly as much training.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

12-13-2012, 13:25
Wondering what the comparison is between ultrarunning and an AT thru hike? Thoughts about each as far as difficulty and such. I've done a 50 mile and planing on doing a 100 in the near future and want to know how that compares with the AT thru hike.

I do both, but for different reasons. Generally, I don't make a comparison between the 2 activities except that when you have backpacked for a few weeks and you are already a conditioned runner, a 100 mile race seems easy. (At least it did before I got too old). I've been questioned about that several times, but I always back opinions up with:

1. With backpacking, you are almost always on your feet from dawn to dusk (plus or minus a couple of hours) for weeks or months at a time. In my experience there is no better way to train for a long distance run.
2. Backpacking takes the weight/fat off but definitely enhances the leg muscles making your endurance capabilities greater.
3. Hiking the AT can be rugged in many places, plus, for the average person, you are way out of your comfort zone (for most people), dealing with rain, hot and cold weather.
4. Most 100 mile trail runs, including the famous Western States 100 miler are not as rugged and technical as much of the AT.
5. A 100 mile race (or long ultra) is usually run at a comfortable pace unless you are an elite runner. Furthermore, you are done in a day or so, can quickly take a shower, eat, and go to bed. The suffering only happens a day later when you find that your legs and feet are sore as hell. :)
6. With an ultra run, you may be carrying 3 to 4 pounds of water or clothes at any one time. With backpacking, you are getting in serious cross-training with a heavy pack on all day.
7. Most organized ultarunning races have aid stations every 3 to 8 miles (varies with the race). Some of these stations are like a buffet line and you stop and eat (or you may not finish a run that exceeds 50 miles). Logistically, that makes it easy since they give you water and food. I'm talking about organized ultras here, not those that are self-supporting.
8. Completing ultra runs over 50 miles (even less) usually requires that you speed walk a lot. Without a backpack on, it feels like you are going through a full rest period during those walk times.
9. Backpacking does not build your oxygen processing ability substantially like running does, so if you are a 5K, 10K, or higher mileage road runner you would have the oxygen processing requirement covered.

I would not have believed any of this before I took up ultrarunning, but one year I was on a section hike in Tennesee and hooked up with a 72 year old hiker "Shake". The guy could outwalk me (I was only 50) except on the uphills. He had done the Vermont 100 years earlier and when I told him that was crazy, he looked right at me and said, "you run,.. and backpack hike long distances; you can do a 100 mile run". When I got back to FL, I signed up for the Vermont 100 miler and weeks later went to event and finished it in 22 hours, 28minutes. When I finished.... I remember thinking to myself... that was not nearly as hard as weeks of backpacking up and down the trail. At the start of that run, I was scared and having 2nd thoughts, but finally decided I would just treat it like a very long hike. I went out slow, ate and drank well, and the rest of it just happened.... better than I planned.

Just John
Seminole, FL

Pedaling Fool
12-13-2012, 13:49
I can't answer the question, but I do have some random thoughts.

Most see running, hiking and cycling as cardio events. However, I've noticed that when I get tired I'm not sure it's because of lack of cardio conditioning. Example: I can cycle practically all day (but I've been doing it for over 25 years), but I've only been running seriously since ~2007, so my body isn't as conditioned to running, but I've made much improvement since starting.

However, I can't run an ultra without killing myself. Now many would say that the people that can run ultras have better cardio conditioning, but when I run at my limits in distance I don't feel it's my cardio system that fails me, rather it's my muscles and general skeletal system.

I'm guessing if I never got into cycling and started running in my early 20's and then picked up cycling I'd probably have similar issues with cycling at great distances. So it seems as though it's all about how you develop your skeletal/muscular system. That is, in part, why I believe it's not so important to prepare the cardio system for a thru-hike, yes you'll be winded in the beginning, but that seems to adapt much easier than the pains you feel in the rest of your body.

12-17-2012, 10:33
I can't really speak to the thru-hike, but I have done several weeks on the trail at a time, and over a dozen ultras (5 100 milers, 1 100km, 2 24-hour races, a bunch of 50K's, and a bunch of other odd distances).

Running ultras is much harder than long distance hiking. On any given day, you are unlikely to feel as completely exhausted after hiking as you do after a 50 miler. My three hardest days on the AT were all >20 mile days, and all of them left me roughly as tired as after a road marathon. Obviously, it would be possible to overdo it, and hie fast and far enough to push into that ultra territory, but I don't think that's likely.

12-30-2012, 10:08
I've run several ultras but never did a long distance hike, only day hike. I feel that running a 50 mile or 100 mile race is way more difficult than hiking a 20 or 30 mile day. That being said, hiking 20 miles day after day must have a cumulative effect and over time is more difficult than running an ultra. An ultra runner shows up at a race, runs, goes home to a shower and a comfy bed. A thru-hiker has to deal with food prep, treating water, setting up a shelter, resupply, being dirty, etc etc. So I think it's more difficult, not physically, but for different reasons.

Papa D
12-30-2012, 10:38
50Ks are fun - - your heart rate is up, you are working hard over a relatively short period of time

Thru-hiking is totally different, even moving fast you are not working as hard as doing a 50K or an ultra (usually considered longer than 50K)

I like running, fast-packing, and regular hiking. Over the long haul, fast-packing is the hardest of the three because it combines the harder elements of both (I'm not sure that the its a valid comparison though - - sort of an apples to oranges thing - like others have said)

Brian Clark
08-02-2013, 20:16
I have finished a dozen 100's, done some day hiking and plan on a SOBO in 2013. The thing about a 100 is the finish is out there close you just got to gut it out. I do not want to have to gut out 6 months.