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.
Be at home in the wild.
Ayres says that the desire to get back home is one of the common failings of long-distance runners, causing them to cut a run short or skip it when the weather looks bad. Ayers says that we should, instead, reset our idea of what "home" means.
"One of the great pleasures of ultrarunning is simply the experience of wilderness trails, breathing fresh air, enjoying sun, clouds, and sometimes the rain and the snow, and getting close to nature and the world we've evolved in." Ayres subscribes to a well-accepted theory that humans evolved as long-distance runners through their past as persistence hunters pursuing game to the point of exhaustion. "For many successful ultrarunners today," he says, "there's no particular focus on time," but rather a desire to get back to that long-ago feeling of comfort and autonomy in the wild.
Credit: Jack Gescheidt