Alan Davidson wore skin tight black Under Armour running shorts, with the number 11 safety pinned to his left thigh. He stretched his calves against a white Dodge Ram on a foggy morning as he got ready for the 43.3 miles ahead of him.
On Sunday, Apr. 2, 2017, 45 solo runners and some relay teams competed in the Paumanok Pursuit 70k.
Anything above 26.21 miles qualifies as an ultramarathon, according to the International Ultrarunning Foundation. Participants spend months training for anything from a 50k to a 24-hour track race.
“Maybe ultrarunners are a little crazy, or have addiction problems, I’ve heard a lot of that,” Davidson said. “But I would say in some ways there’s a lot of truth to that stigma, for sure.” Even though he had the option to run as part of a relay team in the Paumanok Pursuit, Davidson conquered his run alone, finishing second in the solo male division.
The Paumanok Pursuit was started by Dave and Jennifer Gatz, who also founded Jayasports in 2001. Jayasports is an organization that integrates athlete development with race experience by studying the physical impact of running on the mind and body. The race is meant to give runners a different experience, specifically one that is more therapeutic since it is on different trails in the woods. The route starts in Rocky Point and ends in Hampton Bays.
“It’s all trail, and there are five legs,” Jennifer Gatz said. “It’s not like normal running at all, so the pace is a little bit slower. Running trail as opposed to road, the trail is just so much more peaceful and challenging. You don’t think that Long Island is really hilly until you’re running on it.”
The trend of ultrarunning formally started in the 1980s, when the International Association of Ultrarunners was founded. They host world and continental championships each year.
“People started off running around their block, then they started running 5ks, and then they did 10ks, and then graduated to marathons,” Ron Bowman said. He is an ultrarunning coach, and has completed over 118 ultra marathons. “A lot of runners now are starting to get fulfilled by marathons, and are looking for something more to do.”
On Mar. 28, the American Journal of Kidney Diseases released a study that determined that even with proper hydration, runners should limit themselves to running less than 26 miles at a time. Anything amounting over that has the potential to put too much strain on kidneys.
“Risks can all be managed and minimized and are not exclusive to running a 50k or more,” Ellie Greenwood, a two-time ultra marathon world champion from the United Kingdom, said.
Coach Bowman advises those wishing to participate in an ultramarathon to get a physical checkup and talk to a doctor about any underlying issues that may be exacerbated by the endurance required when running an ultramarathon.