A marathon is something that only elite athletes can dream of competing in. To cross the finish line after traveling 26.2 miles puts even the slowest of runners in a very distinguished category. An ultra marathon, gaining traction for those who aren’t satiated enough with the grueling 20 some miles, is something that many of us cannot even imagine is humanly possible.
People all around the globe are flocking to these outstanding testaments of human feats and doing so with fervor. Breaking records, and wearing out shoes, there are some who are standing out from the rest. These elite marathon runners are making a name for themselves that will likely inspire all those who come after.
Have you ever tried to run in flip flops? Likely, you wouldn’t make it to the mailbox without landing on your face.
is not only known for his ability to cover 100 miles in one run, but he does it all with his flip flops. A naturalist, he runs across country, literally, without two hundred dollar shoes but with inexpensive sandals. McDonald believes that shoes do nothing but break the stride of the natural gait and make it more difficult to compete. He may not have beat all the records or hold any long-standing titles, but he is one of the only to show up casual to the finish line decked out in a day outfit, thongs included.
Ted Corbitt has our deepest esteem for walking over 68 miles in a 24 hour race at the age of 84. Not only did he finish, he placed seventeenth out of 35. Growing up in racially divided times, Corbitt speaks of a time when he was not allowed to ride the bus like the white children in the neighborhood, so he trekked to school on foot. Overcoming great odds, he is not only known for his running feats, but he has also broken every barrier by obtaining a master’s degree and becoming a physical therapist. Winning the 1952 Helsinki Olympic gold in the marathon, the 5000 meter, and the 10000 meter, he also set a world record at the age of 50 in a 100-mile race which was an amazing feat all on its own. Often known as the father of long distance running, he is revered as a runner who not only broke time, but barriers of racial segregation as well.
Holding the record for his 50 mile run for over 21 years now, Bruce Fordyce is sure to go down in the history books. Not only an ultra marathoner, but Fordyce has also won an astonishing eight times consecutively. Although his longest recorded mileage is only 62 miles, he is one of the first, fastest and most amazing runners to inspire a generation. He was as outstanding off the course as he was on. Holding a longstanding position against apartheid, he was a political figure that used his fame to encourage racial equality.
Winning a marathon at the ripe young age of 61, Australian Cliff Young is one of those infamous runners who have captured the heart of every farmer across the globe. Covering an unbelievable 544 miles, that wasn’t what made him a famous force in the running world. He did so with boots and overalls on. What any running enthusiast will tell you is train how you intend to run, and apparently he really took it to heart. Spectators watched as he methodically made the trek across country like a farmer running after his sheep.
Yiannis Kouros is not only a famous poet and musician; he ran an ultra marathon after going against any training protocol suggested. Never going more than 7.5 miles at a time and always on a track, he completed an ultra marathon in 1984, covering 100 miles in 24 hours. He held the record for everything ultra marathon as long as he was able to run and many records still stand today. Using his marathons as inspiration for his poetry, he composes sonnets about the spirituality of running and the incredibleness of making it against all odds.
The name Dean Karnazes is synonymous with ultra marathon. The most famous ultra marathoner of all time, he is a runner who touts only needing four hours a day sleep and authors and speaks inspirational literature about how to beat your circumstances by beating your demons. As the story goes, he was drunk one night, left his own party, put on his running shoes, and ran 30 miles outside of town. Known for running 50 marathons, in 50 days and covering 50 states, his feats are something that are not only legendary, but will most assuredly never be outdone by any other runner in this lifetime. Famed for literally falling asleep for a reported 60 feet of a race without ever swerving or falling down, he believes in pushing yourself beyond human capacity and doing things that anyone sane would insist you can’t.
Spraining his ankle halfway through an ultramarathon race,
didn’t stop, or even slow down. During the Hardrock 100, he not only didn’t skip a beat, he came in first ahead of the most elite athletes around the globe. Even after vomiting and passing out by the side of the road during the Badwater run, he picked himself back up and got back into the race. Winning the most famed ultra marathons on record, he has won the Sparathlon several times. A self-proclaimed “vegan” he runs on a diet that contains “nothing with a face”.
Serge Girard ran over 365 days straight without stopping. Running a total of 27,000 kilometers and covering 25 of the 27 European countries, he is a machine who even legend greats tell stories of. He holds the record for covering the most territory without taking a break. Most people could only talk of legends who could go from one end of the globe to the next, Girard actually does it.
There are many who make the commitment in their middle ages to do things on their bucket list. Among those things are usually physical feats such as a marathon. Bernd Heinrich is one such man who made the commitment at the age of 40 to run a marathon and did something that is unheard of, he won. One of the most innately talented ultra marathon runners in history, he has made a name for himself not born to run, but making a commitment later in life and sticking to it.
There is little argument that ultra marathoners are different from other athletes in many ways. Most of those involve commitment making and challenging the human spirit. Ultra marathon runners have the perseverance and drive that most of us only dream of. Cornering the globe from sea to shining sea, literally, they make us believe that the spirit can well outlive the body.