Ultramarathoners compete at the Sahara Race 2011 (4 Deserts)

An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).


There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km), and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is recognized as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field.[1]

Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single or multiple loops (some as short as a 400-metre (1,300 ft) track),[2] to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, have severe course obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations every 20 to 35 kilometres (12 to 22 mi) apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break. Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3, 6, and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile (1.6 km) or less.[3]

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 kilometres (31 mi), 100 kilometres (62 mi), 24 hours, and ultra trail running, which are also recognized by the IAAF. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World records for distances, times, and ages are tracked by the IAU.

Racewalking events are usually 50 km, although 100 km and 100 mile (160 km) "Centurion" races are also organized. Furthermore, the non-competitive International Marching League event Nijmegen Four Days March has a regulation distance of 4 × 50 km over three days for men aged 19–49.[4]

IAU World Best Performances


Event Record Athlete Date Place Ref
50 km Road 2:43:38  Thompson Magawana (RSA) 12 April 1988 South Africa Claremont, South Africa [5]
50 km Track 2:48:06  Jeff Norman (GBR) 7 June 1980 United Kingdom Timperley, United Kingdom [5]
100 km Road 6:13:33  Takahiro Sunada (JPN) 21 June 1998 Japan Yubetsu-Saroma-Tokoro, Japan [5]
100 km Track 6:10:20  Donald Ritchie (GBR) 28 Oct 1978 United Kingdom London, United Kingdom [5]
100 miles Road 11:46:37  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 7-8 Nov 1984 United States Queens, New York, USA [5]
100 miles Track 11:28:03  Oleg Kharitonov (RUS) 20 Oct 2002 United Kingdom London, United Kingdom [5]
100 miles Indoor 12:56:13  Donald Ritchie (GBR) 3-4 Feb 1990 United Kingdom Milton Keynes, United Kingdom [5]
6H Road 92.188 km  Tomasz Chawawko (POL) 7 Mar 2004 Netherlands Stein, Netherland [5]
6H Track 97.200 km  Donald Ritchie (GBR) 28 Oct 1978 United Kingdom London, United Kingdom [5]
6H Indoor 93.247 km  Denis Zhalybin (RUS) 7-8 Feb 2003 Russia Moscow, Russia [5]
12H Road 162.543 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 7 Nov 1984 United States New York City, USA [5]
12H Track 163.600 km  Zach Bitter (USA) 14 Dec 2013 United States Phoenix, USA [5]
12H Indoor 146.296 km  Ryoichi Sekiya (JPN) 11 Feb 2007 Finland Lohja Citymarket, Finland [5]
24H Road 290.221 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 2–3 May 1998 Switzerland Basel, Switzerland [5]
24H Track 303.506 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 4-5 Oct 1997 Australia Adelaide, Australia [5]
24H Indoor 257.576 km  Nikolai Safin (RUS) 27-28 Feb 1993 Russia Podolsk, Russia [5]
48H Road 433.095 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 2–3 May 1998 Switzerland Basel, Switzerland [5]
48H Track 473.495 km  Yiannis Kouros (GRE) 3–5 May 1996 France Surgeres, France [5]
48H Indoor 426.178 km  Tony Mangan (IRL) 16 Mar 2007 Czech Republic Brno, Czech Republic [5]


Event Record Athlete Date Place Ref
50 km Road 3:08:39  Frith Van Der Merwe (RSA) 25 March 1989 South Africa Claremont, South Africa [5]
50 km Track 3:18:52  Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR) 3 March 1996 United Kingdom Barry, Wales United Kingdom [5]
100 km Road 6:33:11  Tomoe Abe (JPN) 25 June 2000 Japan Yubetsu-Saroma-Tokoro, Japan [5]
100 km Track 7:14:06  Norimi Sakurai (JPN) 27 Sept 2003 Italy San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy [5]
100 miles Road 13:47:41  Ann Trason (USA) 4 May 1991 United States Queens, New York, USA [5]
100 miles Track 14:11:26  Pam Smith (USA) 14 Dec 2013 United States Phoenix, USA [6]
100 miles Indoor 14:43:40  Eleanor Robinson (GBR) 3-4 Feb 1990 United Kingdom Milton Keynes, United Kingdom [5]
6H Road 82.838 km  Ricarda Botzon (GER) 7 July 2001 Germany Kiel, Germany [5]
6H Track 83.200 km  Norimi Sakurai (JPN) 27 Sept 2003 Italy San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy [5]
6H Indoor 80.600 km  Marina Bychkova (RUS) 7-8 Feb 2003 Russia Moscow, Russia [5]
12H Road 144.840 km  Ann Trason (USA) 4 May 1991 United States Queens, New York, USA [5]
12H Track 147.600 km  Ann Trason (USA) 3-4 Aug 1991 United States Hayward, USA [5]
12H Indoor 135.799 km  Sumie Inagaki (JPN) 11 Feb 2007 Finland Lohja Citymarket, Finland [5]
24H Road 252.205 km  Mami Kudo (JPN) 11–12 May 2013 Netherlands Steenbergen, Netherlands [5]
24H Track 255.303 km  Mami Kudo (Kudou, Kudoh) (JPN) 9-10 Dec 2011 Taiwan Soochow, Taipei [5]
24H Indoor 240.631 km  Sumie Inagaki (JPN) 29-30 Jan 2011 Finland Espoo, Finland [5]
48H Road 368.687 km  Mami Kudo (Kudou, Kudoh) (JPN) 8-10 Apr 2011 Greece Athens, Greece [5]
48H Track 397.103 km  Sumie Inagaki (JPN) 21–23 May 2010 France Surgeres, France [5]
48H Indoor 390.024 km  Traci Falbo (USA) 4-6 Aug 2014 United States Anchorage, USA [5]

IAU World Championships

There are four IAU World Championships: the IAU 100 km World Championships, IAU 50 km World Championships, IAU 24 Hour World Championship, and the IAU Trial World Championship.[7]

The IAU 24 Hour World Championship is held annually. Originally begun as a track event in 2001, it was rebooted as a road event in 2003. It also incorporates the IAU 24 Hour European Championship.[8]

IAU 100 km World Championships

Year Location Champion (m) Champion (f)
1987 Belgium Torhout  Domingo Catalán (ESP)  Agnes Eberle (SWI)
1988 Spain Santander  Domingo Catalán (ESP)  Ann Trason (USA)
1989 France Rambouillet  Bruno Scelsi (FRA)  Katherina Janicke (West Germany)
1990 United States Duluth  Roland Vuillemenot (FRA)  Eleanor Adams (GBR)
1991 Italy Faenza  Valmir Nuñes (BRA)  Eleanor Adams (GBR)
1992 Spain Palamós  Konstantin Santalov (RUS)  Nurzia Bagmanova (RUS)
1993 Belgium Torhout  Konstantin Santalov (RUS)  Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR)
1994 Japan Yubetsu/Saroma/Tokoro  Aleksey Volgin (RUS)  Valentina Shatyeyeva (RUS)
1995 Netherlands Winschoten  Valmir Nuñes (BRA)  Ann Trason (USA)
1996 Russia Moscow  Konstantin Santalov (RUS)  Valentina Shatyeyeva (RUS)
1997 Netherlands Winschoten  Sergey Yanenko (UKR)  Valentina Lyakhova (RUS)
1998 Japan Shimanto  Grigoriy Murzin (RUS)  Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR)
1999 France Chavagnes-en-Paillers  Simon Pride (GBR)  Anna Balosáková (SVK)
2000 Netherlands Winschoten  Pascal Fétizon (FRA)  Edit Bérces (HUN)
2001 France Cléder  Yasufumi Mikami (JPN)  Yelvira Kolpakova (RUS)
2002 Belgium Torhout  Mario Fattore (ITA)  Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)
2003 Taiwan Tainan  Mario Fattore (ITA)  Monica Casiraghi (ITA)
2004 Netherlands Winschoten  Mario Ardemagni (ITA)  Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)
2005 Japan Yubetsu/Saroma/Tokoro  Grigoriy Murzin (RUS)  Hiroko Sho (JPN)
2006 South Korea Misari  Yannick Djouadi (FRA)  Elizabeth Hawker (GBR)
2007 Netherlands Winschoten  Shinichi Watanabe (JPN)  Norimi Sakurai (JPN)
2008 Italy Rome  Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)  Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)
2009 Belgium Torhout  Yasukazu Miyazato (JPN)  Kami Semick (USA)
2010 Gibraltar Gibraltar  Shinji Nakadai (JPN)  Ellie Greenwood (GBR)
2011 Netherlands Winschoten  Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)  Marina Bychkova (RUS)
2012 Italy Seregno  Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)  Amy Sproston (USA)
2013 cancelled
2014 Qatar Doha  Max King (USA)  Ellie Greenwood (GBR)
2015 Netherlands Winschoten  Jonas Buud (SWE)  Camille Herron (USA)
2016 Spain Los Alcázares  Hideaki Yamauchi (JPN)  Kirstin Bull (AUS)

World or national-record holding or world-championship-winning ultramarathon runners

For reliable and updated information, see the IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) annual report of current world records on its newest "World's Best Performances" page in statistics.

Ultramarathons by regions

Ultra Marathons are run around the world with more than 70,000 people completing them every year.


Several ultra distance events are held in Africa.


Ultrarunning has become popular in Asia recently, and countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea have hosted IAU World Championships.

Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are hosts to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi).[38] The most recent runner's being Lisa Tamati and Andrew Hedgman who both completed the challenge separately in 2009 and 2010.


In Australia, the Westfield Ultra Marathon was an annual race between Sydney and Melbourne contested between 1983 and 1991. Greek runner Yiannis Kouros won the event five times during that period. Australia is also the home of one of the oldest six-day races in the world, the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race, held in Colac, Victoria. The race is held on a 400-meter circuit at the Memorial Square in the centre of Colac, and has seen many close races since its inception in 1984. The 20th Cliff Young Australian six-day race was held between 20 and 26 November 2005. During that event, Kouros beat his existing world record six-day track mark and set a new mark of 1,036.851 kilometres (644.269 mi). The Coast to Kosciuszko inaugurated in 2004, is a 246-kilometre (153 mi) marathon from the coast to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.

Australia has seen a steep growth in Ultrarunning events and participants in recent years. Many new races have come into inception, covering a range of Ultramarathon distances from 50 km right through to multi-day events. The cornerstone of Australian Ultra events being such races as; The North Face 100, Bogong To Hotham, Alpine Challenge, and the Cradle Mountain Run.[39] The Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA) has a comprehensive list and links of events and their respective results.[40]

New Zealand

New Zealand's first ultramarathon called The Kepler Challenge was held on a 60 kilometres (37 mi) trail through Fiordland National Park, which has been running since 1988 and is one of the country's most popular races. New Zealand's Northburn 100 ultra mountain run is the first 100-mile (160 km) race through the Northburn Station. The world-famous Te Houtaewa Challenge has a 62 km race on ninety mile beach, Northland. The field of international and local runners have to contend with rising tides and soft beach sand and the March race dates often means the race is run in the cyclone season. In 2014 the ultramarathon was postponed because of Cyclone Lucy. In 2016 the race will be in its jubilee and the 25th anniversary will see many of its past runners compete for the honour of the ultimate challenge winner.

In November 2012, Kim Allan planned to run and/or walk 500 kilometres (310 mi) nonstop, without sleep, on the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile track at the Auckland Domain. Her aim was to beat ultrarunner Pam Reed's record of 300 miles (480 km).[41] According to her Facebook page, she only managed 385.8 kilometres (239.7 mi). She eventually passed the 500 kilometre mark at 86 hours, 11 minutes, and 9 seconds, breaking the 486 kilometres (302 mi) women's record.[42]

In April 2013, a Feilding man, Perry Newburn, set a new New Zealand record by running 483 kilometres (300 mi) without sleep at Feilding's Manfield Park.[43]

Ultramarathon running in New Zealand has a national body: the New Zealand Ultrarunners Association.


Papua New Guinea has the Kokoda Challenge Race, an annual 96 km endurance race held in late August that runs the length of the historic Kokoda Track.[44]

Papua New Guinea also has the The Great Kokoda Race, a multi-stage 96 km (3 day) race held in early July where competitors run or walk the length of the Kokoda Track.[45]


In Europe, ultrarunning can trace its origins with early documentation of ultrarunners from Icelandic sagas, or the antique Greece from where the idea of the Marathon, and the Spartathlon comes. The history of ultrarunners and walkers in the UK from the Victorian Era has also been documented. The IAU hosts annual European Championships for the 50 km, 100 km and 24 hours.

There are over 300 ultramarathons held in Europe each year.


Due to logistics and environmental concerns there are only a handful of ultramarathons held in Antarctica, and travel costs can mean entrance fees as high as $14,000.[46] Ultramarathons in Antarctica include: The Last Desert, part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon – a marathon and 100-kilometer race.

North America

There are several hundred ultramarathons held annually in North America. One of the best known is the Western States Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974, when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh's horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in 23 hours and 47 minutes.

One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held in 1926, and at the time was part of the Central American Games. Tomas Zafiro and Leoncio San Miguel, both Tarahumara Indians, ran 100 km from Pachuca to Mexico City in 9 hours and 37 minutes. At the time, the Mexican government petitioned to include a 100 km race in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam; however, nothing came of these efforts.

100 Mile Footraces in the Contiguous United States, 2011

In 1928, sports agent C. C. Pyle organized the first of two editions of the 3,455-mile-long Bunion Derby (the first went along U.S. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago before heading toward New York; the 1929 Derby reversed the route). Neither the race nor the accompanying vaudeville show was a financial success.

Since 1997, runners have been competing in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is billed as the longest official footrace in the world. They run 100 laps a day for up to 50 days around a single block in Queens, NY, for a total distance of 3,100 miles (5,000 km).[14] The Latest Trans-American Footrace (2015) winner was Robert HP Young (Marathon Man UK) Winning in a time of 482 hours 10 minutes 00 seconds [17]

In April 2006, the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame was established by the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA). Candidates for the Hall of Fame are chosen from the 'modern era' of American ultras, beginning with the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held in 1958. The Inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt, a former US Olympian, winner of the aforementioned race in 3:04:13, and co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America, and Sandra Kiddy, who began her ultra career at age 42 with a world record at 50 kilometers, 3:36:56, and who went on to set a number of US and world ultra records.

South America

There are a small number of ultramarathons in South America, but participation in the sport is inclreasing. The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is a single-stage race of 135 miles ( 217 km) with a 60-hour cutoff, held in Brazil. This is a Badwater "sister race".[47] Several ultramarathons are held in Chile and with both local and international participation.[48] Ultramarathons held in Chile include:

View from the Atacama Crossing 2011.

International Trail Running Association (ITRA)

Many ultramarathon organizers are members of the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), an organization which promotes values, diversity, health and safety during races, as well as working to further the development of trail running and helps to coordinate between the national and international bodies with an interest in the sport. ITRA also evaluates of the difficulty of specific ultramarathon routes according to a number of criteria, such as the distance, the cumulative elevation gain, and the number of loops and stages. ITRA maitains a calendar of ultramarathon events.

Born to Run

In 2009, Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run was released. It contained both anthropological and scientific information, and is about a society of ultramarathoners. It was not the first book written specifically about ultramarathons, but McDougall included controversial conclusions about humanity's roots in long distance running that attracted attention to the sport. It became a national bestseller and a Forbes and Washington Post book of the year.

See also


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  2. If the loop is less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi), run direction changes every 2–4 (sometimes 6) hours
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  20. NHK team, 激走! 日本アルプス大縦断 密着、トランスジャパンアルプスレース富山~静岡415km, 26 Apr 2013, ISBN 978-4087815276
  21. "日本一過酷な山岳レース「トランスジャパンアルプスレース(TJAR)」に密着したノンフィクション書籍『激走! 日本アルプス大縦断』(NHKスペシャル取材班・著)が、集英社より4月26日(金)に発売! | 株式会社 集英社 | プレスリリース配信代行サービス『ドリームニュース』". Dreamnews.jp. Retrieved 2016-11-23.
  22. RUNTRAIL editors, RUN+TRAIL vol.2 トレイルランレースをはじめよう ハセツネ/UTMF完走法 (SAN-EI MOOK),22 Aug 2012, ISBN 978-4779615627
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