An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).
There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km), and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is recognized as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field.
Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single oiple loops (some as short as a 400-metre (1,300 ft) track), to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, have severe course 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 every 20 to 35 kilometres (12 to 22 mi) apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break. Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3, 6, and 10 days (known as multi-day or "stage race" events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile (1.6 km) or less.
Considered to be a tougher event are self-supported ultramarathon stage races where each competitor has to carry all their supplies including food to survive the length of the race, typically a week. A good example of this is the Grand to Grand Ultra, America's first ever self-supported ultramarathon stage race.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 kilometres (31 mi), 100 kilometres (62 mi), 24 hours, and ultra trail running, which are also recognized by the IAAF. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World records for distances, times, and ages are tracked by the IAU.
Racewalking events are usually 50 km, although 100 km and 100 mile (160 km) "Centurion" races are also organized. Furthermore, the non-competitive International Marching League event Nijmegen Four Days March has a regulation distance of 4 × 50 km over three days for men aged 19-49.
|50 km||Road||2:43:38||Thompson Magawana (RSA)||12 April 1988||Claremont, South Africa|||
|50 km||Track||2:48:06||Jeff Norman (GBR)||7 June 1980||Timperley, United Kingdom|||
|100 km||Road||6:13:33||Takahiro Sunada (JPN)||21 June 1998||Yubetsu-Saroma-Tokoro, Japan|||
|100 km||Track||6:10:20||Donald Ritchie (GBR)||28 Oct 1978||London, United Kingdom|||
|100 miles||Road||11:46:37||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||7-8 Nov 1984||Queens, New York, USA|||
|100 miles||Track||11:28:03||Oleg Kharitonov (RUS)||20 Oct 2002||London, United Kingdom|||
|100 miles||Indoor||12:56:13||Donald Ritchie (GBR)||3-4 Feb 1990||Milton Keynes, United Kingdom|||
|6H||Road||92.188 km||Tomasz Chawawko (POL)||7 Mar 2004||Stein, Netherland|||
|6H||Track||97.200 km||Donald Ritchie (GBR)||28 Oct 1978||London, United Kingdom|||
|6H||Indoor||93.247 km||Denis Zhalybin (RUS)||7-8 Feb 2003||Moscow, Russia|||
|12H||Road||162.543 km||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||7 Nov 1984||New York City, USA|||
|12H||Track||163.600 km||Zach Bitter (USA)||14 Dec 2013||Phoenix, USA|||
|12H||Indoor||146.296 km||Ryoichi Sekiya (JPN)||11 Feb 2007||Lohja Citymarket, Finland|||
|24H||Road||290.221 km||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||2-3 May 1998||Basel, Switzerland|||
|24H||Track||303.506 km||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||4-5 Oct 1997||Adelaide, Australia|||
|24H||Indoor||257.576 km||Nikolai Safin (RUS)||27-28 Feb 1993||Podolsk, Russia|||
|48H||Road||433.095 km||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||2-3 May 1998||Basel, Switzerland|||
|48H||Track||473.495 km||Yiannis Kouros (GRE)||3-5 May 1996||Surgeres, France|||
|48H||Indoor||426.178 km||Tony Mangan (IRL)||16 Mar 2007||Brno, Czech Republic|||
|50 km||Road||3:08:39||Frith van der Merwe (RSA)||25 March 1989||Claremont, South Africa|||
|50 km||Track||3:18:52||Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR)||3 March 1996||Barry, Wales United Kingdom|||
|50 Miles||Road||5:38:41||Camille Herron (USA)||24 October 2015||Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA|||
|50 Miles||Track||5:48:12||Norimi Sakurai (JPN)||28 September 2003||San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy|||
|100 km||Road||6:33:11||Tomoe Abe (JPN)||25 June 2000||Yubetsu-Saroma-Tokoro, Japan|||
|100 km||Track||7:14:06||Norimi Sakurai (JPN)||27 Sept 2003||San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy|||
|100 miles||Road||12:42:40||Camille Herron (USA)||11 Nov 2017||Vienna, IL, USA|||
|100 miles||Track||13:45:49||Gina Slaby (USA)||10 Dec 2016||Phoenix, USA|||
|100 miles||Indoor||14:43:40||Eleanor Robinson (GBR)||3-4 Feb 1990||Milton Keynes, United Kingdom|||
|6H||Road||83.275 km||Nele Alder-Baerens (GER)||2 April 2016||Nuremberg, Germany|||
|6H||Track||83.200 km||Norimi Sakurai (JPN)||27 Sept 2003||San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy|||
|6H||Indoor||80.600 km||Marina Bychkova (RUS)||7-8 Feb 2003||Moscow, Russia|||
|12H||Road||144.840 km||Ann Trason (USA)||4 May 1991||Queens, New York, USA|||
|12H||Track||149.130 km||Camille Herron (USA)||9-10 Dec 2017||Phoenix, Arizona, USA|||
|12H||Indoor||135.799 km||Sumie Inagaki (JPN)||11 Feb 2007||Lohja Citymarket, Finland|||
|24H||Road||259.991 km||Patrycja Bereznowska (POL)||1-2 July 2017||Belfast, UK|||
|24H||Track||255.303 km||Mami Kudo (Kudou, Kudoh) (JPN)||9-10 Dec 2011||Soochow, Taipei|||
|24H||Indoor||240.631 km||Sumie Inagaki (JPN)||29-30 Jan 2011||Espoo, Finland|||
|48H||Road||401.000 km||Patrycja Bereznowska (Poland)||26-28 Jan 2018||Athens, Greece|||
|48H||Track||397.103 km||Sumie Inagaki (JPN)||21-23 May 2010||Surgeres, France|||
|48H||Indoor||390.024 km||Traci Falbo (USA)||4-6 Aug 2014||Anchorage, USA|||
|Year||Location||Champion (m)||Champion (f)|
|1987||Torhout||Domingo Catalán (ESP)||Agnes Eberle (SUI)|
|1988||Santander||Domingo Catalán (ESP)||Ann Trason (USA)|
|1989||Rambouillet||Bruno Scelsi (FRA)||Katherina Janicke (FRG)|
|1990||Duluth||Roland Vuillemenot (FRA)||Eleanor Adams (GBR)|
|1991||Faenza||Valmir Nuñes (BRA)||Eleanor Adams (GBR)|
|1992||Palamós||Konstantin Santalov (RUS)||Nurzia Bagmanova (RUS)|
|1993||Torhout||Konstantin Santalov (RUS)||Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR)|
|1994||Yubetsu/Saroma/Tokoro||Aleksey Volgin (RUS)||Valentina Shatyeyeva (RUS)|
|1995||Winschoten||Valmir Nuñes (BRA)||Ann Trason (USA)|
|1996||Moscow||Konstantin Santalov (RUS)||Valentina Shatyeyeva (RUS)|
|1997||Winschoten||Sergey Yanenko (UKR)||Valentina Lyakhova (RUS)|
|1998||Shimanto||Grigoriy Murzin (RUS)||Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (GBR)|
|1999||Chavagnes-en-Paillers||Simon Pride (GBR)||Anna Balosáková (SVK)|
|2000||Winschoten||Pascal Fétizon (FRA)||Edit Bérces (HUN)|
|2001||Cléder||Yasufumi Mikami (JPN)||Yelvira Kolpakova (RUS)|
|2002||Torhout||Mario Fattore (ITA)||Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)|
|2003||Tainan||Mario Fattore (ITA)||Monica Casiraghi (ITA)|
|2004||Winschoten||Mario Ardemagni (ITA)||Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)|
|2005||Yubetsu/Saroma/Tokoro||Grigoriy Murzin (RUS)||Hiroko Sho (JPN)|
|2006||Misari||Yannick Djouadi (FRA)||Elizabeth Hawker (GBR)|
|2007||Winschoten||Shinichi Watanabe (JPN)||Norimi Sakurai (JPN)|
|2008||Rome||Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)||Tatyana Zhyrkova (RUS)|
|2009||Torhout||Yasukazu Miyazato (JPN)||Kami Semick (USA)|
|2010||Gibraltar||Shinji Nakadai (JPN)||Ellie Greenwood (GBR)|
|2011||Winschoten||Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)||Marina Bychkova (RUS)|
|2012||Seregno||Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)||Amy Sproston (USA)|
|2014||Doha||Max King (USA)||Ellie Greenwood (GBR)|
|2015||Winschoten||Jonas Buud (SWE)||Camille Herron (USA)|
|2016||Los Alcázares||Hideaki Yamauchi (JPN)||Kirstin Bull (AUS)|
For reliable and updated information, see the IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) annual report of current world records on its newest "World's Best Performances" page in statistics.
Several ultra distance events are held in Africa.
Australia and New Zealand are hosts to some 100 organized ultramarathons each year. Additionally a handful of runners have run the entire length of New Zealand, a distance of around 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi). The most recent runners being Lisa Tamati and Andrew Hedgman who both completed the challenge separately in 2009 and 2010.
In Australia, the Westfield Ultra Marathon was an annual race between Sydney and Melbourne contested between 1983 and 1991. Greek runner Yiannis Kouros won the event five times during that period. Australia is also the home of one of the oldest six-day races in the world, the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race, held in Colac, Victoria. The race is held on a 400-meter circuit at the Memorial Square in the centre of Colac, and has seen many close races since its inception in 1984. The 20th Cliff Young Australian six-day race was held between 20 and 26 November 2005. During that event, Kouros beat his existing world record six-day track mark and set a new mark of 1,036.851 kilometres (644.269 mi). The Coast to Kosciuszko inaugurated in 2004, is a 246-kilometre (153 mi) marathon from the coast to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.
Australia has seen a steep growth in Ultrarunning events and participants in recent years. Many new races have come into inception, covering a range of Ultramarathon distances from 50 km right through to multi-day events. The cornerstone of Australian Ultra events being such races as; Ultra-Trail Australia 100, Bogong To Hotham, Alpine Challenge, and the Cradle Mountain Run. The Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA) has a comprehensive list and links of events and their respective results.
New Zealand's first ultramarathon called The Kepler Challenge was held on a 60 kilometres (37 mi) trail through Fiordland National Park, which has been running since 1988 and is one of the country's most popular races. New Zealand's Northburn 100 ultra mountain run is the first 100-mile (160 km) race through the Northburn Station. The world-famous Te Houtaewa Challenge has a 62 km race on ninety mile beach, Northland. The field of international and local runners have to contend with rising tides and soft beach sand and the March race dates often means the race is run in the cyclone season. In 2014 the ultramarathon was postponed because of Cyclone Lucy. In 2016 the race will be in its jubilee and the 25th anniversary will see many of its past runners compete for the honour of the ultimate challenge winner. The Tarawera Ultramarathon is currently one of the most competitive ultras in New Zealand and part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
In November 2012, Kim Allan planned to run and/or walk 500 kilometres (310 mi) nonstop, without sleep, on the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile track at the Auckland Domain. Her aim was to beat ultrarunner Pam Reed's record of 300 miles (480 km). According to her Facebook page, she only managed 385.8 kilometres (239.7 mi). She eventually passed the 500 kilometre mark at 86 hours, 11 minutes, and 9 seconds, breaking the 486 kilometres (302 mi) women's record.
Ultramarathon running in New Zealand has a national body: the New Zealand Ultrarunners Association.
In Europe, ultrarunning can trace its origins with early documentation of ultrarunners from Icelandic sagas, or ancient Greece from where the idea of the Marathon, and the Spartathlon comes. The history of ultrarunners and walkers in the UK from the Victorian Era has also been documented. The IAU hosts annual European Championships for the 50 km, 100 km and 24 hours. The European Ultramarathon Cup is an annual cup event covering some of the biggest Ultramarathon races in Europe. Also worth mentioning is the ultramarathon CajaMar Tenerife Bluetrail, the highest race in Spain and second in Europe, with the participation of several countries and great international repercussions.
There are over 300 ultramarathons held in Europe each year,. This includes the Harz Run in the Harz Mountains, the Irish Connemarathon, the British Bob Graham Round, Spine Race and Welsh Dragon's Back which covers 315km with 15,500m of height gain .
Due to logistics and environmental concerns there are only a handful of ultramarathons held in Antarctica, and travel costs can mean entrance fees as high as $14,000. Ultramarathons in Antarctica include: The Last Desert, part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a multi-stage footrace, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon - a marathon and 100-kilometer race.
There are several hundred ultramarathons held annually in North America. One of the best known is the Western States Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974, when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh's horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in 23 hours and 47 minutes.
One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held in 1926, and at the time was part of the Central American Games. Tomas Zafiro and Leoncio San Miguel, both Tarahumara Indians, ran 100 km from Pachuca to Mexico City in 9 hours and 37 minutes. At the time, the Mexican government petitioned to include a 100 km race in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam; however, nothing came of these efforts.
In 1928, sports agent C. C. Pyle organized the first of two editions of the 3,455-mile-long Bunion Derby (the first went along U.S. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago before heading toward New York; the 1929 Derby reversed the route). Neither the race nor the accompanying vaudeville show was a financial success.
Since 1997, runners have been competing in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is billed as the longest official footrace in the world. They run 100 laps a day for up to 50 days around a single block in Queens, NY, for a total distance of 3,100 miles (5,000 km). The Latest Trans-American Footrace (2015) winner was Robert HP Young (Marathon Man UK) Winning in a time of 482 hours 10 minutes 00 seconds 
In April 2006, the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame was established by the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA). Candidates for the Hall of Fame are chosen from the 'modern era' of American ultras, beginning with the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held in 1958. The Inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt, a former US Olympian, winner of the aforementioned race in 3:04:13, and co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America, and Sandra Kiddy, who began her ultra career at age 42 with a world record at 50 kilometers, 3:36:56, and who went on to set a number of US and world ultra records.
There are a small number of ultramarathons in South America, but participation in the sport is increasing. The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is a single-stage race of 135 miles ( 217 km) with a 60-hour cutoff, held in Brazil. This is a Badwater "sister race". Several ultramarathons are held in Chile and with both local and international participation. Ultramarathons held in Chile include:
Many ultramarathon organizers are members of the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), an organization which promotes values, diversity, health and safety during races, as well as working to further the development of trail running and helps to coordinate between the national and international bodies with an interest in the sport. ITRA also evaluates of the difficulty of specific ultramarathon routes according to a number of criteria, such as the distance, the cumulative elevation gain, and the number of loops and stages. ITRA maintains a calendar of ultramarathon events.
In 2009, Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run was released. It contained both anthropological and scientific information, and is about a society of ultramarathoners. It was not the first book written specifically about ultramarathons, but McDougall included controversial conclusions about humanity's roots in long distance running that attracted attention to the sport. It became a national bestseller and a Forbes and Washington Post book of the year.