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.
Take your time.
According to Ayres, an ultramarathon is within the reach of most of us. "Anyone who can run a marathon – who has demonstrated the patience and dedication to put in the mileage – can run an ultra," he says. And while some marathoners might naturally assume that a 50-mile race would be twice as hard because it's twice as long, Ayres insists that it's not harder, just different.
Obviously, those with substantial long-distance running experience have a head start, but Ayres suggests a base level of eight to 12 months of regular running, with a minimum average of 30 to 40 miles a week – ideally working up to 60 to 80 miles per week (mpw) – to build the cardiovascular capacity and endurance needed for an ultra. But he cautions that more isn't always better. Don't jump to the target mpw quickly. "Once you can comfortably maintain 60 mpw, then the race becomes a pleasurable, exciting experience, not a terrible ordeal," says Ayres. "Some people think of marathoners and ultramarathoners as masochists, but I'm not a masochist."
Credit: Courtesy Ed Ayres