One million women will race a marathon this year. Even more will try a triathlon. And then there are those brave ladies who will enter a grueling, sometimes days long ultra-endurance event. Here are details on two ultra events and how you can get in on the (extra-long) action.
You’ve run a marathon. You’ve biked a 100-mile century ride. So what is next on your list? How about an ultra-endurance event? Covering mega amounts of miles via swimming, biking, running or all three (triathlon), ultra events are picking up more and more steam throughout the United States, especially among women. If you are looking for the ultimate challenge, consider adding either of the following two events to your race calendar this season.
WHAT IT IS
A pure test of endurance, this organized cycling event features rides typically covering between 60 to 750 miles. Riders, known as randonneurs, receive a map at the beginning of the ride and must hit designated checkpoints — usually cafes or shops — along the route until they hit the finish line. Since many races last days, riders may also choose to stop at the checkpoints to sleep and rest. The sport stresses self-sufficiency and riders are penalized for any outside help they accept along the way. They are, however, free to buy food, supplies or bike repairs at any stores they encounter along the route.
WHERE YOU CAN DO IT
With its root stemming from France, the sport is hugely popular in the country (the Paris-Brest-Paris ride, held every four years, attracted 5,000 randonneurs last August). There are also many clubs hosting randonneuring events around the country; check out Randonneurs USA (RUSA) Rides Search to find one near you.
A non-competitive sport, trophies are rarely awarded to the first cyclist to cross the finish line. Rather, everyone who finishes an event inside the designated time limit gets a prize.
FIND OUT MORE
WHAT IT IS
Any triathlon that covers the distance of an Ironman (a 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112 miles of cycling and finally the 26.2-mile run) or beyond. This includes double and triple Iron races — the Virginia Triple Iron Triathlon, for example, entails a 7.2 mile swim, a 336 mile bike, and 78.6 mile run. The average competitor takes 12 hours to complete an Ironman, 28 hours for a double, and over 50 for a triple.
WHERE YOU CAN DO IT
Once an obscure event limited to the shores of Hawaii and California, today thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year. Several states and countries host Ironman and half-Ironman races (see Ironmanlive.com for a list of locations). Double and triple Irons are harder to come by, but there are annual races in Virginia, Quebec, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
One of the most daunting ultras in the world is called the Arch to Arc Challenge, an 87-mile run from the Marble Arch in London to the Cliffs of Dover, then a 22-mile swim across the English Channel, followed by a 180-mile bike to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Only three men (and no women) have ever finished the event.