By: Isaiah Montoya
The Franklin Mountains Trail Runs take place from January 20th, 2023 to January 22, 2023 and registration begins on October 1st, 2021. Some of the runs include a sport called ultrarunning, also known as ultramarathoning. Participants start at the desert floor and run up to the highest point in the Franklin Mountains (7,192 feet above sea level), then they circumnavigate the mountain and go back down to the desert below. Various El Pasoans have been participating in the sport including some women.
Ultrarunning or ultramarathoning is long distance running. How far is “a long distance”? The standard definition is anything past the marathon, or 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50 kilometer distance, or 31.07 miles. Other standard distances are the 50 mile, 100 mile, and a series of events that last for specified time periods such as six hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, 48 hour, and six days.
How does a person prepare for such long distances and what does their body go through? According to Andrew Walsh of Ultrarunning Magazine, “Your body can go through a lot of stress during these grueling tests of human endurance. During races, nausea and vomiting are the most common problems for runners and some may get blurry vision. Sleepiness and hallucinations are problems in longer races lasting more than 24 hours.”
Many ultramarathons, especially trail events, have significant obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations, perhaps every 12 to 22 mi, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.
The Franklin Mountains Trail Run is obviously rough and rugged. There is also road running. Is trail running harder than road running? Walsh says, “Trail running is harder than road running in the sense that the hills and uneven terrain you’ll typically encounter will make it necessary to run slower.”
Injury wise Walsh says, “The most common running-related ‘overuse’ injuries are knee pain, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis, which affects the bottom of your foot. It’s no surprise that the majority of the longest ultramarathons in the world are run mostly on trails, and not on roads!”
Recently women have been showing the resilience it takes to excel at the sport. Some women have won overall races, such as Jasmin Paris who had given birth only 14 months before and went on to beat 136 other competitors (including 125 men) at the Montane Spine Race in the UK in 2019. Why are women able to run such long distances at such a high level?
Dr Nicholas Tiller, a sports sciences expert notes that women tend to have more slow-twitch muscle fibres than men, which are slower to fatigue and so are more suited to long-distance running.
Tiller also thinks mental toughness and psychological factors could play a part. Studies of marathon runners show that men are more likely to overestimate their ability, starting too fast and slowing more than women in the second half of a race. Women are more consistent with their pacing so less likely to crash and burn.
El Pasoan Constance Wannamaker became one of only 18 people in the world in 2016 to complete four 100-mile runs in under three months. Local runner Wendy Hoggard also participates in ultra runs in El Paso and beyond. She recently participated in the Human Potential Running Series at Franklin Mountains State Park.
CityBeat hereby encourages El Pasoans to participate in Sun City Sports including ultra running through Human Potential Running at info@HumanPotentialRunning.com.