Monday, January 23, 2012

When is a Run a Hike?

Ok ...I was reading the iRunfar article on UTMB entrants and started looking around the UTMB website at the insane collection of 4 races they have. They are incredible events requiring incredible feats of endurance, no question.

However, as I browsed through the stunning scenery and looked at the race descriptions 10 000m elevation gains and times etc.... I got to thinking..."How much of these races do most people actually run?" I mean you look at many of the pics and you see streams of people hiking up long, grueling ascents. So my question ... more to myself was.. at what point does an ultra race become an ultra hike? How much running should a race require of the average racer in order to be called a run versus a trek or hike? 51%? 60%? 80%?

Granted a lot of people walk most of a road marathon, for example, but it fits in the category of a running race. How so? Is it a running race if the average runner...or the top 75% of racers can run all or close to all of the race?

If a race is so hard that only the top 10% can run anything near 60% of it... is that a running race? Or a hiking race? Or what is it?

I'm not trying to be an ass here....I was really wondering all these things as I looked through the website. And I don't really have an answer. Off the top of my head I'd say a running race should allow a middle of the pack runner to run 70% or more of the race. But I don't know. Am I out to lunch? If so...what are these European events to be called? Are they "fell races"? Is that a different category than "trail race" and one whose definition incorporates more hiking because of the vertical nature of the courses?

What do you folks out in the running community think and especially those of you accomplished athletes who have done several of these ultra events? I'm interested to know your thoughts.

When is an ultra trail race an ultra hike/trek? Or does this never apply?


Tom Craik said...

You're not an ass, Coo.Not about this anyway. This is a great question and I think it's one that many people ask on occasion.

What makes an ultra an ultra? Even 50k is considered an ultra because it's 8 km further than a regular marathon. Based on that definition anything over 42km is an ultra.

You're right though, if I walk the Vancouver marathon this May, do I have any right to say I've run a marathon when I'm done? Personally I wouldn't say it.

Even walking some of those UTMB distances is astonishing however. It impresses me for sure. Walking or running, it's an ultra-endurance activity.

Maybe it's just an issue of naming?

Humans are so trained to classify things. Even you, Coo.

mrC said...

I forgot i turned moderating off so I was looking for alerts by email.

Oooui...i'm a bit of a classifier. I like your terminology calling it an "Ultra endurance event" or activity. I could live with that.

Thks for the comment.

priceyruns said...

How about if we forget the running part and focus on the race. I think any event that is timed qualifys as a race and racers are entitled to use what ever means they can to get to the finish line. If its a foot race, then run, walk, crawl, whatever you can do on the day and on the terrain.

Take mountain biking, or kayaking for example. There are times in a mtn or kayak race where the racer can roll down a hill, or ride the water for a good part of the race, does that still qualify as a mtb race or a kayak race?

or adventure racing where multiple disciplines are in action, you gotta stop to read a map every now and again, does that mean that you are not racing?

mrC said...

Fair enough kiwi man. I get your drift. Makes some sense. If we call something a race then it's quickest to the end by any means allowed.

Guess I was thinking that these ultras are commonly understood to be running races and I was just wondering if that would fit for some of these euro races that have so much steep vertical that most people aren't running for much of the course. That's all.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mrC said...

Yes, anonymous..that is me but I don't teach at that school you mentioned anymore. Why?