Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ultra Marathon Running - Can you get famous running ultras?

Running Ultramarathons is getting more and more popular, Ultras are the new marathons, but can you get famous from jogging 100km or more?

I suppose it comes down to how you define famous.  It could be a friendly pat on the back from a stranger at an Ultra event, or perhaps you would hope for a slightly higher profile generating millions of tweets, or overloading Facebook.

Either way why would you choose Ultrarunning as a means of gaining fame? There has to be hundreds of easier ways to get yourself on the cover of a magazine than putting yourself through 24 hours or more of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention months of training).

The most compelling argument I can think of is that while the sport is still in its ascendency it is easier to be a big fish in what is still a relatively small pool. The further you run the smaller the competition. To stand out in the world of the Marathon you have to beat millions of people, to stand out in the world of Ultramarathon you may only have to beat a few thousand, and in some events only a handful of people.

The trouble is though that in the history of running nobody has really become a household name through running ultra marathon distances. Ironically the most famous is probably Forrest Gump, as I know from the regular words of encouragement from teenagers whilst out training!

In Australia probably the best known ultra distance runner is Cliff Young.  His fame is more for his relaxed attitude and “normal-ness” rather than his running achievements. The other two ranking in the Australian chart are Yiannis Kouros (who’s list of ultra achievements is as long as your arm) and Pat Farmer who I’ve covered in previous blogs who’s achievements include a 15,000km run around Australia and he will be setting off on a run from South to North Pole later this year (Pole to Pole Run).

In the rest of the world you have arguably the world number one ultra runner Scott Jurek, who has probably gained more acclaim for his featuring role in the Ultrarunning best seller “Born to Run”; Representing the ladies there is Ann Trason, in my opinion the greatest female ultrarunner of all time; Finally, there is Dean Karnazes, who is perhaps the only deliberately marketed member of the ranks of mainstream ultra fame.

The thing is before I got into ultrarunning, partly inspired by Dean Karnazes’ book Ultramarathonman, you could have mentioned any of these names and as far I was concerned you could have been talking about reality TV show wannabes.

Here are 2 seconds of my 15 minutes of fame, which is part of a documentary about The North Face 100km I competed in during May. For those of you in Australia with an interest, it will be shown of Fox Sports 3, 3rd August, 3pm (prime time viewing!).  I feature at 2mins 48secs, see if you can pick me out, just don’t blink!

Third Edition of The North Face 100, May 2010, Australia NSW from The North Face Australia on Vimeo.

So, for now anyway, if you want to use ultrarunning to get famous you’re probably better off dressing up an animal, sitting it in front of a musical instrument, video it with a funky soundtrack and posting it on YouTube!

Until next time, Happy Running

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it" - Pablo Picasso

Here are a couple of latest training sessions

A new route, Cooroy Mountain with spectacular views


  1. be careful or you'll be signing autographs soon! keep up the hard work...

  2. Nice post! I always enjoyed reading your articles. :D

  3. Thanks guys, appreciate the comments. It's good to know that someone is out there reading them!!

  4. No problem Andy, because I wanted to learn tips and techniques by reading those.

    Keep posting!