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.
Check your gear.
Running is the only major sport that doesn't require a major investment in equipment, but there are still some basics, for instance, clothing, shoes, and a water-carrying device. As for the controversial area of shoes, Ayres says, "I tend to get the same kind I've had for many years: medium-weight, fairly sturdy Asics or Saucony, mainly because it's what I'm used to and they've been fine and I don't see a need for change."
Ayers once evaluated shoes for 'Running Times' and his long experience has made him skeptical of the recent trend in barefoot running or minimalist shoes. "I've been through that," he says. "Most young runners today don't remember the fad years ago for racing shoes – runners would train in 13-ounce shoes and then change to 7-ounce shoes on race day. I did that for a while, but it really burned up my feet."
If you're going to put in high mileage on rugged trails with roots, rocks, holes, and snakes, you're going to need shoes that are reasonably solid. At last year's JFK 50, which covers part of the Appalachian Trail and takes runners past Civil War battle sites, Ayres says, "Out of a field of 1,000, not a single person was running barefoot, and I didn't see any minimalist shoes out there either."
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