When I packed up my enormous backpack full of crappy gear and unpalatable food in the spring of 2003. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was that as my friends drove away from the Springer Mountain parking lot all that was left for me to do was to walk. And walk, and walk...across the country.
I’d never really backpacked before and had really only done a smattering of day hikes in the previous 2 years. As someone who had been sedentary and overweight her entire life the task ahead of me was almost unfathomable. But I had taken up running 6 months prior and had shed 40 lbs. I had gained the confidence that I could at least probably cover 10 miles or so a day.
It turns out that I did much more than that. I completed the Appalachian Trail in 4 months and immediately began planning a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail whose existence I hadn’t even known about prior to somewhere in Virginia. From the PCT I went on to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.
With the Triple Crown under my belt I looked for new activities to keep me occupied, especially during the winter months. Running 8 or 9 miles at a time wasn’t really meeting that need to cover distance anymore...and that’s when I discovered ultra-running.
Simply stated, an ultra-marathon is any race that is longer than the standard 26.2 miles of a marathon. However, there are other differences as well. Normally they take place on trails. While many are around 31 miles long, there are extremely long ultras that cover distances of 50 to 100 miles (or more).