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.
Build, sharpen, taper.
Ayers doesn't suggest veering from the classic competitive runner's mantra, and he says that most ultrarunners make running a "seasonal experience" – that is, they train year-round but consciously prep to be at peak form at certain times of year. While Ayres himself runs a few races a year, and other experienced ultrarunners might even do 10 or 12 races annually (making some races a part of their training), he suggests starting yourself out with a limited goal.
"For someone who hasn't run an ultra before, I think having one target date is extremely useful. Plan to make your training a great adventure with that one race in mind." From your target date, count backwards, allowing a couple weeks before the race for a "tapering" period and two or three weeks before that for a "sharpening" period of speed work. Greater detail and recommendations for these types of workouts can be found in his Notes for an Aspiring Ultrarunner in 'The Longest Race.'
Credit: Courtesy Ed Ayres