An ultra marathon is a race that exceeds the distance of a traditonal marathon (26.2 miles). Usually these events are of a masochistic distance, like the London to Brighton race, which covers 54 miles, or in insane conditions, like the Badwater Ultra Marathon, which takes place in Death Valley and covers 135 miles.
On Sunday I participated in my third half-marathon of my running "career." This was also the worst most miserable I have ever been while participating in a running event. My frequent race partner and colleague, Adriana, and I decided that this was not a normal run-of-the-mill half marathon, as advertised, but a horrible abomination of an "ultra half-marathon," if such a thing even exists.
A seemingly thrown-together race, it began in the small town of Restrepo, less than an hour north of Cali, near to the resort and vacation area of Lago Calima, a weekend spot for many Cali residents. Ignoring the fact that the race began with a blow horn from atop a fire truck and that water stations sprung up like weeds on the side of the road where ever the water-carrying motorcyclists decided to stop, the race failed for several other reasons.
First of all, it didn't begin until almost 9:30am, and in the high country around Lago Calima, that means it gets hot very quickly. Secondly, there were no clouds. More accurately, the clouds just never went near the blazing sun. Next, the course was hilly - as expected when one is running in the mountains - however, of the last 7 kilometers, the first four were straight uphill. To make matters worse, the organizer of the race coordinated with a bike race doing essentially the opposite route, so that we all would pass each other. Runners struggling up a mountain road and cyclists barreling down one, do not a happy combination make. Finally, as an added bonus, the distance between Restrepo and the finish line, a tiny hamlet called Pavas, was not exactly 21.1 kilometers (the traditional half-marathon distance), but about 24 kilometers instead.
All compounded, I finished in a painful just-over two hours. Thankful to be done, we escaped to the shade of the car and left immediately, despite the fact that Adriana had finished third for the women (I was 73 for the men out of some 300 runners). If I ever see a fire truck at the starting line of a race again, I'm going to take it as the warning it probably is.