Confessions from the Trail: Ultra Lingo

Ultra has its own language. So, in a completely arbitrary order, the words you need to know about ultramarathon speak.

Timed race: Ranging from six hour to three days, a timed race is exactly what it sounds like. The race director sets a single looped course and participants run until time expires or they do. Courses tend to be about 5k or 10k long so participants can return to their cars, crews, or drop bags with relative ease.

50k: 31.1 miles of fun and excitement. Also typically acknowledged as the first ultramarathon distance. Technically, anything longer than a marathon is an ultramarathon, but most runners, like myself, aim for the 50k as a first ultramarathon.

50 miler: 50 miles of grinding it out. Seen as a “real” ultramarathon by those who’ve run their first 50k.

100 miler: You are insane.

200 miler: You are a running god. We tremble in your toe nail-less presence.


Drop bag: A bag full of gear left at an aide station or race start/finish for looped courses. Usually has socks, shoes, extra snacks, and first aid supplies.

Crew: Our crazy, loving friends and significant others who are willing to follow from aid station to aid station with your supplies and a word of motivation.

Pacer: Our crazy, loving friends/significant others who is willing to run with us for a section of trail. Their duties include reminding you to eat or drink, keeping your spirits up, and lying about how well you’re doing.

DNF: Did not finish. Hey. It happens. But at least you started.

DNS: Did not start. It also happens. But at least you tried.

DQ: disqualified. You done fuck up, Chuck.

Power hiking: Walking. It’s walking. Recommended on hills. And sometimes flats. Any time you need it really. Its about surviving.

Elites: The running gods. These are the fast folks who will place in the Top 3. Probably before you hit the halfway mark.

Age Grouper: The demi-gods of running. You are good enough train and finish the race but will be place among peers of your own age and gender.

Strava: That cheerful orange app that let’s you brag about your finish. Or become the Local Legend as you train. Or what drives people to be Stravassholes and stand around at the start/end of a course waiting for GPS/data to synch while others are running through.

Chicked: At longer distances, men’s and women’s time start evening out. One of the fastest ultra racers in the world is the fabulous and humble Courtney Dauwalter. If you are a fella and have been beaten over the same course by a woman, you have been chicked.

Note: My husband now refuses to race with me. AT 5k, 10k, and half marathon he kicks my ass. At marathon distance we’re damn close. In an Ironman 70.3, I beat him by an hour and a half (I finished in 6:39, he was a hair under 8 hours).

Belt buckle: Ultimate bragging rights. Throwing back to it’s roots as a horse race, many races offer a belt buckle for finishers of certain distances. For example, Mississippi 50 gives buckles to the 50 mile finishers but 50k and 20k finishers get a small medal and at BUTS, the half racers get a mug.


Lollipop: An out and back trail with a loop in the middle. This one seems rare, but I use it to describe several of my trails via Twitter.

Chaffing: Friction and not the good kind. When skin is rubbed by fabric, gear, or other skin of long enough it will chafe. It sucks. Use lube, just like the other kind of friction.

UltraSignUp: The repository of all ultras. You want to race and ultra? You’re going to find your race here.

That’s gonna be a long day

Happy trails!


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2 Comments on “Confessions from the Trail: Ultra Lingo

  1. Pingback: Confessions from the Trail: Race Day – K R Paul

  2. Pingback: Confessions from the Trail: After the Race – Author K R Paul

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