Which is more difficult, Ultramarathon or Ironman? Now, runners will have different opinions on this subject and probably debates will occur on which is which?
Let me give mine based only on my experiences as a runner, biker and occasional swimmer. I was able to survived one 102 kilometer Ultramarathon, will try another one next week -a 100 kilometer Trail run but to tell you honestly, I haven’t done an Ironman yet, not at this time but maybe within this year? So I can only speak with regards to my Ultramarathon experience, and little about my biking and swimming skills.
First, let me differentiate the two in terms of distances. An Ironman is a swim, bike and run competition with an approximate total distance of 140.6 miles while an Ultramarathon is only a running competition which has a distance of more than 26.2 miles- in this case I can only speak of my 102 kilometer race during the Bataan Death March Ultramarathon.
While I believe that Ironman is a tough competition, particularly the swimming event, but in my own opinion, Ultramarathon is harder. Why? In Ironman, your feet are not totally being “in used” most of the times unlike in Ultramarathon where your life lies in the strength of your feet alone. In Iron man, you rely mostly on your arms in swimming and some parts of your legs in biking. Unlike in Ultramarathon, from the starting area to the finish line-it’s your feet and your feet alone. When you reach the km 90 in Ultramarathon, your legs and feet normally locks up, in severe pain, with blisters and swelling all over-and you must run or walk briskly still-with 12 kilometers to go.
I invited some of my friends who are an Ironman already to join me in the BDM102k Ultramarathon, but they did not join me. They did not elaborate why.
The bottom line here is endurance. I can swim slowly a 3 or 5kms event, bike a 190k at my comfortable pace, can run a 42k and I know I can finish an Ironman, but my question is, can an Ironman finish a 102k race only by running? Let’s say the time to beat was only 18 hours? I believe most of them can.
Someday maybe I can make a broader comparison, and who knows, after finishing an Ironman, my view on this will change!
God be praised!