Need an off-season goal? Go long (really long).
You have the fitness. You have the motivation. What you don’t have: a race. In North America, triathlon seemingly goes into hibernation from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day, with few opportunities for swim-bike-run. Though some triathletes welcome a relaxing off-season to rest and rejuvenate, others are chomping at the bit for big miles and even bigger goals. It’s no surprise, then, that triathletes naturally gravitate toward ultrarunning. The physical and mental fortitude an athlete builds while training for a half or full Ironman also translates nicely to the challenge of running 50K, 50 miles, or even 100 miles. (Read more about this here: Are You Cut Out for Ultrarunning?)
The best part? Unlike triathlon, ultrarunning is a year-round sport, with plenty of opportunities to race in the winter months. Get ready to log some serious miles at one of these beginner-friendly winter ultrarunning events.
King of the Mountain 50K
This fun, beginner-friendly race loops around Kings Mountain State Park (located an hour from Charlotte, NC). For those nervous about cutoff times, King of the Mountain is as generous as it gets: 10 hours for 50K, or an average of 3 miles per hour.
Urban Ultra Houston
Everything is bigger in Texas, and this ultra race is no exception. Unlike many other ultramarathons, which take place in remote locations on dirt trails, the Urban Ultra is a nighttime 50K of paved trails under lit-up Houston skyscrapers.
Honey Creek, IA
The Midwest has a rapidly-growing ultra scene, thanks to race organizers like the Greater Omaha Trail Runnerz, or GOATz, who work to deliver a first-class race experience for first-time ultrarunners and veterans alike. The Hitchcock Hundred, which takes place in the Hitchcock Nature Center just outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is no exception.
Across The Years
December 28-January 3
Mark the new year with a new challenge at Across The Years, a fixed-time race where runners can run as many laps of a one-mile looped course as they wish in the span of 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days. Each runner is free to walk and stop (to eat, sleep, blow a few party horns at midnight) as they wish, though the clock will keep counting down.
Hilo to Volcano 50K
Moku Ola, Hilo
The ultimate Hawaii souvenir? An epic race story. You’ll get it at the Hilo to Volcano 50K, a challenging-but-awesome ultra that begins at sea level in Hilo and ends in the big island rainforest just outside of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you’d rather share the suffering with your friends and family, a relay option is available, too.
Go Short Go Long Go Very Long
There’s something for everyone at this running festival, with distances from 5K to 50K. All races run concurrently, allowing 50K runners to share the course with friends and family, even if they don’t share your ultra aspirations.
Winter is a perfect time to run in the dry desert of southern Utah. At the Arches Ultra, Moab’s newest trail race, runners can take on a 50K or 50-mile route along the border of Arches National park.
Florida Skydive Ultra Run
Though most of the course at the Skydive Ultra is flat, the first two miles have a lot of elevation change – 13,500 feet, to be exact. The race is exactly as its name implies, with athletes starting their 50K, 100K, or 200-mile race by jumping out of a plane. (If you’re partial to solid ground, there is an option to forego the jump and run the first two miles instead.)
Rocky Raccoon 100
Widely known for its fun atmosphere and stellar aid stations, the Rocky Raccoon 100K and 100-mile run is popular with beginners and world-class ultrarunners alike. The race, which takes place in Huntsville State Park (one hour north of Houston), is a qualifying race for the Western States 100.
Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival
Las Vegas, NV
Running 6, 12, or 24 hours doesn’t sound so bad when you’ve got Elvis as your head cheerleader and a row of showgirls offering you snacks. Ultrarunning goes full Vegas at this weekend-long running festival, where live bands perform on the course throughout the day and movies play on 120-inch outdoor screens all night.