Ultramarathon Running – A Brief Cultural History
In 2004 there were 235 ultra running events in the United States. By 2014 that number had increased to 1,296. Ultra running saw ~64,780 total ultra finishers residing in the United States (or approximately 0.02% of the total 2014 US Population). Ultra running has been, and likely will be for some time, a niche sport full of individuals who strive to succeed together. It is this very fact that we can comfortably say that Ultra running is more than just running.
In the decades since the birth of the modern ultra movement in America, the sport has focused itself more on the communal aspect as opposed to the competitive aspect. Every year nearly 10 times as many people finish a marathon as opposed to an ultra marathon. It is that disparity in the size of the population of the marathon culture vs. the population of the ultra marathon culture, that makes ultra running so unique.
Historically, individuals have moved on to Ultramarathon running from the marathon or triathlon scene looking for a smaller more intimate vibe. Simply put, ultra running is fundamentally human. There is a camaraderie, a community focus, that exists in ultra running that is unlike that which resides in other endurance avenues. Most of us came here looking to challenge our bodies and minds. What we found was a that Ultra is different. It’s different because it rejects people having to be the fastest or the strongest, and it supports people stretching their abilities beyond what they thought possible and doing it with the help of their fellow runners.
Since 2004, Ultramarathon running has experienced exponential growth unlike anything it had seen previously. As the influx of new runners continues to increase in numbers and pace, it is important we maintain the basic tenants of ultra-running by teaching new-comers proper ultra etiquette and providing them with the guidelines necessary to preserve the modern communal traditions of the sport.
In an effort to assist with this initiative, HPRS would like to share our WE not ME Pledge. We hope many of you will take and share this pledge to preserve the sports traditions and ensure it is enjoyable for WE and not just “ME.”
The WE not ME Pledge:
• I pledge to take care of the environment by carrying all trash with me until I reach a receptacle at one of the aid stations. Even when in the aid station, I will use the receptacle. I will never litter anywhere.
• I pledge to stop my run to pick up any pieces of trash I see on the ground and carry it to the next aid station for proper disposal.
• I pledge to thank all the volunteers at each and every aid station. I will never complain to, or chastise, a race volunteer. I understand that they are only there to help and I will save my complaints for those in charge; The Race Director, or Race Committee Members.
• I pledge to put the wellbeing of my fellow runners first and foremost. If I see a runner stopped on the trail for any reason, including tying their shoe, I will stop and ask them if they’re OK and even wait a few seconds with them to be sure.
• I pledge to only take what I need at aid stations to ensure that all other runners behind me will have plenty as well. I won’t waste food or water, as I understand a lot of ultra aid stations are in hard to reach locations.
• I pledge to take 100% responsibility for the actions of my pacers and crew. I will ensure they understand the rules of the events I participate in, what is expected of them, and what not to do.
• I pledge to read each and every communication sent by the race director, regardless of its length. I will also carefully read the runners manual should there be one. I understand these communications are critical to ensuring my personal safety and positive experience.
• I pledge to take responsibility for knowing the course in each and every ultra I run. While it is the responsibility of the race organizer to provide me with a well-marked event, I understand that they cannot possibly guard 30-100 miles of trail markings to ensure they are not messed with.
• I pledge to give back to the community of the sport. I will volunteer at a race, organize a group run or Fat Ass for others, perform trail work, or pace/crew for a fellow runner to help them accomplish their goals.
• I pledge to be supportive of my fellow runners. I will offer encouragement and friendship. I will let others offer up their finishing times should they feel comfortable doing so and even then, I’ll congratulate them on their accomplishment.
• I pledge to post more USies and less Selfies as a way to show other people what makes the ultra community so great.
As part of my pledge to focus more on WE and not ME in ultra running, I will do my best to post more USies and fewer Selfies as a way to show other people what makes the ultra community so great.