An ‘ultra distance event’ is one that is longer than the standard marathon which is 26.2 miles/42.2kms. In practise the shortest ultras are usually 50km whilst the longest organised race is the Sri Chinmoy 3100 mile race held every year in New York on a half mile road loop.
The standard distances for international competition on the road are the 100km/62.2M and the 24hrs. Approximately 200 races a year are held for the 100km and the 24hrs events world wide on road and track courses.
The world governing body for athletics the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) delegates responsibility for ultra running to the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU). The IAU recognises performances at 6hrs, 12hrs, 24hrs, 48hrs and 6 days.
Because of the breadth of non-standard events there are thousands of ultra races world wide run on roads, tracks and trails. In the USA 100 mile trail races are very popular. In South Africa the world’s biggest ultra marathon is run on an annual basis, the Comrades Marathon, in fact about 88kms/55M, attracts fields of over 12000 runners.
Status of 100 Kilometres and Ultra Distance Racing
What is a 100 Kms Race?
1. A 100 kms race is 62 miles 246 yards long. It is the most popular of all ultra distance races. That is those longer than a marathon.
2. Most 100 kms races round the world are held on roads like the marathon. Competitors like road races because these give them a target and the feeling of going somewhere.
3. A few are held on athletic tracks, usually with the avowed purpose of setting records. But as 250 laps have to be run, lap recording is difficult and limits the number of competitors to about 30. If the competitors’ abilities are unequal, the slower athletes are often asked to leave the inner lane so that potential record breakers have a clear run. The slower competitors then have considerably more than 100 kms to run.
4. A few are held on trails, but this terrain is not really suitable for championships because of the uneven ground, difficulty of measuring the course accurately and, quite often, bottlenecks. Nevertheless trails are very popular.
5. In Great Britain all current and planned 100 kms races are held in parks or similar venues. This avoids traffic or the problems of closing roads, and enables fields of 300 to be accepted. Ideally laps should be 5 or 10 kms so competitors are able to monitor their pace and organisers to control the race.
International Status of 100 Kms Racing
6. For several years the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) has listed the 100 kms as a standard distance for international competition under Rule 165. The International Association of Ultrarunners’ (IAU) 100 Kms Challenge has the lAAF’s official patronage. The lAU’s European 100 Kms Championships has the European Athletic Association’s (EAA) patronage.