Ultramarathon Vs. Ironman

15 05 2009

Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. Bernice Johnson Reagon

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!

There is no greater challenge than to have someone relying upon you; no greater satisfaction than to vindicate his expectation. Kingman Brewster




7 responses

15 05 2009

Good luck on your triathlon adventure. Elites do the Ironman in around 9hrs I believe. Last year’s winner of the Marathon des Sables (230K) on the other hand had a total elapsed time of 54:52:47 (this year’s race was abridged due to flooding I think), which shows they are two different disciplines.

15 05 2009

Endurance + You——–> im scurred, classmate….i’ll tell you off the record, hahaha….

16 05 2009
rick gaston

I’m with miraclecello. It’s apple to oranges. My experience: back in 2004 I completed my first 100-mile race and a month later my first and only Ironman. I thought the training for the Ironman was harder and more time consuming. You are constantly cycling between three different sports whereas with the ultra-marathon I only had to run. However the 100-mile race was the harder to complete. I remember thinking during the Ironman, “Thank God, at least I will be done before midnight”. I would say and again this is just my opinion only, that an Ironman is harder than a 100k race but easier than a 100-mile event.

18 05 2009

Thanks for sharing Rick…God bless.

25 12 2009

I am training for western states 2010, first hundred. But so far with even just 50milers. I’d say ironmans are easier. But I’m more of a ultra cyclist than a runner so that would explain that. I’ve done many 24 hour cycling events also and I would probably say that is still way easier than running even 50 miles. Anyway, with all that said I would say ultramarathons are way easier to train for. Less hours and you can go for a run outside your door. tri’s you have to find a pool.

26 12 2009

Roger…thanks for the input and visit. Glad to know you, God bless.

30 03 2010
Chito Peppler

I totally agree — an ironman is an extreme balanced feat. While an ultra is extreme beating on your feet.

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