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.
"I'm not a biomechanics expert," Ayres says. Still, a lifetime of running has left him with a fair share of practical observations and insights. For instance, he recommends running vertically, which means over your center of gravity, not leaning backward or lurching forward. He also suggests trying to prevent your feet from splaying out to the sides. And he notes that it's best for your arms to swing directly forward and back instead of across the body. It's important that the body overall, from your jaw to your neck to your shoulders, arms, hands, and so on, be as relaxed as possible.
Addressing today's controversy over the benefits of a forefoot versus a heel strike, Ayres is pragmatic. "The natural forefoot runners are probably going to be more successful as 5K, 10K, maybe even marathon runners," he says. "For an ultrarunner, landing on the heels may be more beneficial because it's more energy-efficient, but this will vary from person to person – you can't fight it."
Credit: Courtesy Ed Ayres