There are tons of great races out there. I decided to make a list of the 10 that I'd most like to do.
1) Western States 100 – States is the race that started it all back in 1974. It used be a 100 mile horse race, but then a badass dude named Gordy Ainsleigh toed the start line without his horse. His horse came up lame and some say there may have been a woman involved (there usually is). The end result was that he finished in less than 24 hours, which both created the sport of ultramarathoning and created the tradition of trying to finish 100 miles in less than one day.
Aside from the history of the race, it also takes place in Lake Tahoe and is supposed to be an absolutely beautiful course. Unfortunately it’s also the most sought after ultramarathon. The wait list for the race has been growing, and when the race was cancelled last year due to wildfires it got a lot longer. It may take 4-5 years for me to get into the race, so hopefully this one actually happens someday!
2) Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100
I hadn’t really thought about it much, but apparently there are a lot of ultramarathoners in Europe as well. However, there are actually very few 100 mile races (maybe it’s the whole metric system thing). In fact, there is really only one big 100 mile race that I know of. And it is a BIG one. UTMB 100 climbs over 31,000 feet and descends 31,000 feet in the French Alps. It’s also a big one in that over 2,000 crazy people sign up to do this thing every year. So this one is very high on the list. Incredibly difficult race, the company of over 2K people, and hanging out in Chamonix. What more could an ultramarathoner ask for?
3) Hardrock 100
Speaking of hard races, this one is a MOTHER. It’s regarded as one of the toughest races out there. Not only does it climb and descend 33K feet, but it’s all at elevation between 9K and 14K feet! This one is so tough that it has a 48 hour cutoff. It’s also the most scenic race on the planet (in my opinion at least). Alpine glaciers, wildflowers, towering evergreens, and lots of running above the tree line. If I can manage to finish, it’ll be one heck of a ride. Unfortunately this is also one of the few races I haven’t qualified for yet. Apparently running the Vermont 100 wasn’t sufficient. I need to run a 100 mile race out West at high altitutude before I can even enter the lottery for this surprisingly popular race. In other words, don’t hold your breath!
4) Comrades Marathon
The Comrades Marathon is the oldest and largest ultramarathon in the world. This 55 mile race started in 1921 and draws over 12,000 people every year now! It’s run all on roads but is supposed to have some pretty good hills along the way. It would be great to run such a huge ultramarathon with such an amazing history. It would also be a great excuse to make a trip to South Africa.
5) Boston Marathon
So the Boston Marathon is … well … the Boston Marathon. The long history and the tough qualifying standards (sub 3:10 for males in my age group) have made this race legendary among distance runners. Even before I ran my first marathon in 2004, I set a goal of qualifying for Boston. It took me until 2006 to finally do it. I was injured in 2007 (from qualifying in 2006) and traveling for work in 2008, so my qualification actually expired. I re-qualified this year with my 2:55 in Philly. I’m traveling again in 2009, so watch out in 2010! I’m setting my sights high and planning to shoot for sub 2:50. That’s ~ 6:18 pace, so we’ll see if that actually happens.
6) Diablo 50
I ran the Diablo Marathon in the spring of 2008. It’s a monster of a marathon, with 8K feet of climbing and 8K feet of descending over some gorgeous trails near San Francisco with fantastic views of the Bay Area. I had so much fun in the marathon that I really want to go back for the 50. I actually tried to time a trip to San Francisco this spring with the Diablo 50, but the race was moved, so I’ll end up missing it. But I’ll definitely be back for this one!
7) Great Wall Marathon
So imagine a marathon along the Great Wall of China. Very hilly, very historic, lots of fun. Jen and I were in a bar in Santorini, Greece when we started talking to three other people who had run races all over the world. I was trying to figure out how they had managed to run so many races in so many places, and then we found out later that they were all flight attendants and could fly wherever they wanted. One of them had run the Great Wall half marathon, which sparked the idea. This race would be a great complement to a fun trip to China.
8) Trans Rockies Run
There are a lot of multi-day races out there (as if one day of cranking hard in a race wasn’t enough). While I definitely prefer the simplicity of a one day race, it would be really fun to do a multi-day race at some point. The Trans Rockies run is about 150 miles across a great course in the Rocky Mountains. What I really like about this one is that it is a team race where you pair up with someone and are required to stay with your teammate throughout the entire 6 days. That means that you are only as fast as your slowest runner on each day. I need to find another person crazy enough to do this with me, but I look forward to this challenge someday.
9) Massanutten Mountain 100
This is another beast of a 100 miler. It’s often described as the toughest race east of the Mississippi. It’s run in the Massanutten Mountains (part of the Shenandoahs) and has 23K of elevation gain, a lot of water crossings, and LOTS of rocks. Fortunately this race is also right in my backyard. All of the course is 1.5 to 2 hours drive from me, which lets me train on this challenging course a lot. Two weeks before Vermont 100, my biggest training run was a 50 miler mostly on this course (I intended the whole training run to be on the official MMT 100 course, but I ended up getting a bit lost). It would be a lot of fun to test myself on a really tough 100 mile race that is so close to home.
For those of you that know me, this one may seem like dark horse. For the last 5 years, I’ve been completely committed to running. However, I’d really like to try some triathlons someday. Naturally, I’ve already set my sights on a very difficult and the most elite of triathlons. Kona Ironman is the standard distance with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run through Hawaii. The tough part is that everyone wants to get into Kona and there are only 1,800 spots. Someday I hope to qualify, and then we’ll see how an ultramarathoner does in an ironman. I have to be honest … I think it will be easy compared to a 100 mile race, but I certainly hope to be proved wrong!
So that’s the wish list. In the near future, I’m joining up with the Virginia Happy Trails club tomorrow for a 32 mile training run out the Massanuttens (on the MMT 100 course mentioned above. It would be a tough run in the best of conditions, and it’s supposed to be around 2 degrees when we start tomorrow morning. Hopefully I make it through! I’ll try to take some pictures and will let you all know how it goes.