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The A-Z of ultra running

Brendan Davies inov-8 blog A-Z of ultrarunning 2

The popularity of ultra running continues to rise. Once upon a time the aspiration for many was to run a marathon. Now it seems a marathon is just not far enough. Runners want to push their bodies further, for longer… and ultimately go ultra. Whether it’s 27 miles, 100 or more, ultras – specifically those undertaken in the form of races or challenges – are not for the weak. One man who knows plenty about the sport is Brendan Davies, the 2016 Australian Male Ultra Runner of the Year (named by Ultra168). Thinking of running an ultra in 2017 or 2018? Before you do, read Brendan’s A-Z of ultra running – an irreverent look at the sport and its participants.


A is for Attitude – It’s all in the attitude that makes an ultra runner. Resilient, tough, composed, ready for any challenge in any conditions.

B is for Beards – Forrest Gump started the trend, now it’s the fashion among all self-respecting ultrarunners (females excluded!). See below for a perfect ultra running beard example!

Brendan Davies inov-8 blog a-z of ultrarunning 3

C is for Chafing – Thighs, armpits, back, boobs, balls, butt. The only thing worse than the pain of chafing during an ultramarathon is the pain you feel when you hit the shower after it!

D is for Divorce – See letter ‘M’ for Mileage

E is for Espresso – Nowhere else can more coffee fanatics be found that at an ultramarathon. Before, during or after, there’s always time for a caffeine hit.

F is for Fluids – Ultra runners know them all. Fluids in and fluids out: In goes water, electrolyte, coconut milk, beetroot juice, gherkin juice, beer… whatever gets you across the line. Fluids going out: spit, sweat, pee, puke, puss, blood, snot and poop in all forms.

G is for Gear – From ‘calf panties to wimp sticks’, ultrarunners love nothing more than a bit of cool kit. We have it all, shoes for every type of trail (though the ROCLITE – see video below – does most!) and gear for every condition.

H is for Hallucinations – If you’ve tried running for 24+ hours with zero sleep you’ll know that at times a tree log can look like a dead body and a stick a snake – and it’s healthier than taking a pill.

I is for Insane – What regular folk think these ultramarathoners are. Commonly said in the context of “You’re running 100 miles? Are you insane?”

J is for Joints – They creak and swell up, and are generally the first thing that remind us who we are and what we do when we wake up.

K is for Kudos – Strava and ultra running go together, with Kudos feeding our egos like no other. The longer the run the more kudos we get. See my 2016 Comrades Strava entry below….. 55.9 miles = 335 kudos thumbs up!

L is for Lubricant – Apply liberally! Consequences of non-use, refer to letter ‘C’.

M is for Mileage – The defining feature of ultra runners and their training. The more miles the better (or not, see letter ‘D’)

N is for Nutrition – The key to a successful ultramarathon is fuelling well. It’s not hard when aid stations resemble smorgasbords. No wonder some call ultramarathons eating competitions!

O is for Oikophobia – We all must have it. Just Google it.

P is for Panic – Either the moment you realise that late night race signup is coming around very quickly or standing at the start line and you notice you didn’t charge your Garmin watch.

Q is for Queasy – The consequence of taking the eating competition analogy just a little too far during an ultramarathon.

R is for Recovery – Cool Down jog? Ice baths? Massage? Don’t’ be daft. Pancakes and donuts and chips and burgers and desserts and beer. The post race spoils which may even last up to 2 months after the event.

S is for Support Crew – Nothing beats an ultramarathon for the level of unconditional support. It’s a team effort from your support crew and we couldn’t do it without them.

T is for Toenails – Usually found in two states on ultra runners: black or non-existent. Occasionally females may also display a third ‘painted on’ variety.

Brendan Davies inov-8 blog A-Z of ultrarunning 1

My toenails after the 2014 Western States 100 in the US. Ouch!

U is for Undulating – How ultra runners tend to describe mountains. If it’s not the Alps or Pyrenees, it’s just undulating.

V is for Vertical – Ultra runners love to chase the ‘vert’, he more the better and there ain’t no mountain high enough… ever.

W is for Walking – A mode of travel rarely acknowledged but commonly used during ultramarthons. We’ve even named it ‘powerhiking’ to save some face.

X is for X marks the spot – The little place in the finish area of your ultramarathon where you drop, get in the foetal position and don’t get up for a couple of hours. Can be anywhere!

Brendan Davies inov-8 blog A-Z of ultrarunning 1

A definite X marks the spot moment. The 2015 Western States 100 – although I still had 12 miles to run

Y is for Yesterday – The day the ultramarathon you’re currently running started.

Z is for Zombies – What ultra runners tend to move, look and smell like towards the end of the ultramarathon!

* Previous blog posts by Brendan: 10 Things Trail Runners Say Vs What They Really Mean

* All photos courtesy of Brendan and Nadine Davies


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