Are You Part of The Ultrarunning Community?

I was asked in the comments of my last post what I thought was required to be considered part of the ultrarunning community, to be someone “inside the community.”  I know the commenters wanted me to say something like “you have to have run X distance in order to be admitted to the club.”  But I did not give a simple answer because the community does not just include people who have run a certain distance or time.  It’s much more profound than that.  When I started this blog a few years ago I did a synchroblog on the WS Family which I thought was a pretty damn good post.  In that post I included the succinct answer from Shannon Weil, WSER co-founder, non-runner, and then VP of the board of trustees, to the question of what the WS family is:

“The WS Family is simple to join; it includes anyone who has ever been moved by the spirit of the Western States Run or the Western States Trail Ride.”

I don’t think I could say it any better than Shannon.  So, giving her full credit for the sentiment, this is my answer:

If you’ve ever been moved by the spirit of ultrarunning then you are part of the ultrarunning community.

Darcy Kleiman gets hug from Meghan after finishing her longest ultra at Waldo

If that is too quasi-foofoo for you and you’re still wondering whether you are part of the ultrarunning community or not I offer you (Americans) this simple test.  If three or more of these apply to you then you are NOT part of the ultrarunning community.

1. You have no idea who Gordy Ansleigh is.

2. You don’t have a subscription to or access to UltraRunning Magazine.

3. You’ve never held a detached toenail in your hand.

4. You’ve never read Conduct The Juices.

5. You don’t know anybody with a trail name.

6. You’ve never run, crewed, or volunteered (real or forced) at an ultra.

7. You have no idea what the big dartmouth list is.

8. You’ve never received or given an S-cap or gel when cramping or bonking.

9. When you hear someone talk about running 100 miles you say or think, “I don’t even like to drive that far.”

10. You need to take this test to determine if you are in the community or not.



  1. When do you sleep? Look at the time of posting!
    This list is great, compiled funny, but speaks the truth.
    To me, there are a couple of criteria important: volunteering and longevity. If one just runs an ultra, or few, a glimpse of what’s on the other side provides a lot of insight (and vise verse). As for longevity…in theory, one is an ultrarunner once one completes a distance over 26 miles. Fine and inspiring. Stick around. Don’t simply check the box. Even if life/health/whatever prevents from making through another over-26M run, hang out. Be moved (Shannon has words of wisdom, indeed). Lots of people come and go, like in anything in life. And that’s ok, they got richer for the experience (hopefully). But if you are still around 5, 10, 15 years later – you are “inside”. I know, not fare, it takes time, what do new folks do? Stay. We tell kids they don’t know much till they mature – and fortunately (or not so much) everybody gets older. And tells their kids (or any younger generation) to keep maturing:)

  2. Of course, to be in the ultra club three more characterestics are required: you must be white, you must be a yuppie, and you must have spent some or all of your life suffering from some degree of affluenza. This applies even more to bike racers.

    • freddy, in my previous life I used to hang out with the rock climbing crowd a lot. When I started doing 100 milers 10 or 12 years ago and hanging out with ultra folks I generalized the difference between the groups as such: If you go out to dinner with a bunch of climbers you do not want to be the banker because you end up paying more than your share. If you go out to dinner with ultrarunners you do want to be the banker because people will overpay their share. If the generalization is valid perhaps it does speak to your affluenza description. Or, it could speak to the generousity and giving nature of ultrarunners. Or both. But race? Are you just trolling to get a reaction?

  3. 2, 7, and 9 apply to me. I have to admit a fondness for being outside the circle 🙂

    If the original purpose of ultra running is to explore, both remote trail, and inner depths of the self, then segregation and containment of people may not be the best way to propose definitions.

    Every sport, everything actually, once popular, turns into a s show. Triathlon used to be pure, marathoning was once a serious endeavor, and even yoga stands to erode with the wave of popularity it faces.

    The only aspect of sport that nobody can ever take away from you is your attitude towards it.

      • Go ahead and post my comment there. I’ve been on and off the listserv for 5 years and hope they’d find the image of my comment funny and will probably end up on a “you know you’re an ultra runner when….” list (and, at a literal level, they’d likely find it accurate – running 100s WAS more difficult without all the knowledge and gear we have now). It’s interesting how people with such thick-soled feet can have such thin-skinned egos. Lighten up, man. I’m a funny guy (just let me believe that in my mind, please) and enjoy laughing. This elitist garbage where people are given the right (or not) to comment on our sport is pathetic. Discussion is great but if we start judging people’s right to express themselves based on how much or fast they run, then we’d have a quiet blogsphere.

  4. Well well well, a little sleuthing on the net reveals that InsideTrail Matt is none other than Aaron Copeland. Now, sure he has a right to comment on ultrarunning, but the fact that he has never actually run an ultra himself suggests just how much credibility his writing should receive (very little). His blog is full of posts about how tired he is after his little runs, and he appears to be another ultra trustfunder as he lists himself on Linkedin as a ‘freelance writer.’ So keep the comments coming, Aaron, we can all use a good laugh.

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