Ed Ayres has been on the run for a very long time – running long distances, that is. As founder of 'Running Times' magazine at the dawn of the modern running movement, he placed third in the inaugural New York Marathon in 1970 (and is, remarkably, the only participant of that race still competing today). "Ultras," the wilder world of extreme endurance running that covers distances from 50 kilometers to 1,000 miles, have been another passion.
His new book 'The Longest Race: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance' is a play-by-play of his experience at age 60 in the famed JFK 50 Mile (a race he won in 1977). But it's also a thoughtful guide to the accomplished environmental journalist's ideas about sustainability and the natural world. Ayres is gearing up for another JFK 50 in November – this time competing in the rarified 70-year-old group. Recently he shared with 'Men's Journal' his 10 tips for anyone who aspires to go the distance and become an ultramarathoner.
Balance stress with rest.
Learn how to adjust your regimen so you don't shortcut the recovery periods (days off, easy runs) that are needed to keep building endurance. That way, we can avoid those times when, as he says, the training effect begins to reverse and instead causes a stale physical feeling, performance slumps, and even illness and injury. Ayers points out that the trick to finding balance is an essentially personal proposition that has to be learned over time. For instance, for many athletes, speed work will require more recovery time between sessions than slower base building.
Life's varied stresses, from work to family and beyond, should also be considered when calculating the actual stress of running. If you're dealing with a lot off the trail, you might not be able to train as hard during those days. For instance, for Ayres, who often runs on the Pacific Crest Trail and lives in a house surrounded by the Angeles National Forest north of L.A., recovery periods might include clearing brush or building hardscape – enjoyable time off for the active outdoors enthusiast.
Credit: Courtesy Ed Ayres