The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece today about the rise of the ultra marathon. According to Running USA, over 63,000 runners completed races with distances longer than 26.2 miles.
This figure is more than double what it was in 2008.
“There’s more prize money in ultras [than before], so that has helped make that part of the sport more interesting,” said Running USA spokesman Ryan Lamppa.
One reason runners are seeking more of a challenge with distances longer than the marathon is that the 26.2-mile race itself is slowing down and is perceived as less of a challenge than it once was.
In fact, the median men’s finishing time from 1980 to 2011 is 44 minutes slower.
“Now there’s a lot of people walking, so it’s not like the old days when you had to run a 3-hour, 30-minute marathon to consider yourself a marathoner,” said race organizer Les Wright in the story.
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