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Are you a marathoner looking to change things up and challenge yourself with some added miles? Perhaps you should try an ultra. No really, you should sign up for your first one right away!
Ultramarathons typically start at the 50K distance, although technically an ultra is any distance over the 26.2-mile mark. So yes, that one time you got lost on the marathon course and ended up adding an extra mile or two before getting un-lost, you ran an ultra!
But I digress. You want to go longer, run farther, and maybe have some more adventures? In the last few years, there has been an explosion of ultras all over the country and world catering to folks who want to have the unique experience that running an ultra will provide. There are many choices, from gnarly, hilly races to more beginner-friendly courses on flat to gently rolling trails.
Here are some of my favorite, beginner-friendly events on the Eastern Seaboard that will leave you hooked to the ultra-life.
3 Days At The Fair (New Jersey)
If you are looking for a great introduction to running ultra distances, 3 Days At The Fair is for you. You’ll run a wheel-measured one-mile loop at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Northern New Jersey as many times as possible within a certain amount of time. For example, if you are aiming to complete your first 50k or 50M, you might register for the 6H or the 12H depending on your pace. If you’re looking to do more, you can register for up to 144 Hours—yes, that is six days! There is one big, fantastic aid station at the start, along with bathrooms and hot showers. How’s that for a perfect intro to ultra craziness?
Georgia Jewel (Georgia)
The Georgia Jewel is a gnarly, hilly intro to running ultras in the southern Appalachian Mountains. You’ll start early in the morning at a horse park that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, and progress through dense temperate rainforest filled with rhododendron and mountain laurel. You’ll crest a couple of mountains, see some incredible vistas of the Cohutta Mountain Range, stop at fully-stocked aid stations, and experience the Rock Garden. Runners have a choice of 35, 50 or 100 miles.
Finger Lakes 50s 50K, 50M (New York)
If you are into camping out with a bunch of like-minded folks who enjoy running long-distances, this might be the event for you. The Finger Lakes 50s is a celebration of exquisite trail running right outside of Ithaca, New York. The course is a 16.5-mile loop through the Finger Lakes National Forest, on trails that showcase the diversity of foliage in the area. The post-race barbecue is famous for its local delights—think tasty sausages, excellent vegetarian fare and brews.
Catamount 50K (Vermont)
If you’ve always wanted to meet members of the Von Trapp family, run a bit through the mountains in Stowe, Vermont, and then indulge in a sumptuous meal of excellent pizza and a cold pint glass of beer from Von Trapp Brewing, this is the event for you. The 15.5-mile loop course features a lot of up and down on cross country ski trails through cool forests and hot, exposed grassy fields, with an occasional view of the greenest mountains you’ll ever see.
Montour 12/24 Hour Run (Pennsylvania)
This event is another one for campers in central Pennsylvania, although you can simply arrive the morning of, run for 12 or 24 hours, get in as many miles as possible, and call it a literal day. You’ll run a 1.5-mile loop on a beautiful trail with a cool bridge, pass a well-stocked aid station right before you head out to the trail again, and increase your friend circle with really cool people who enjoy running in circles for hours on end.
Do you have a favorite ultramarathon that you think would be a great intro to the ultra life? Let us know!