I’ve seen so many different words to describe what we do and who we are that I thought I’d start this blog out with what words are correct or at least likely correct. You see, many dictionaries only have the word ultramarathon in them and I have yet to use a spell checker that even has that word in its list. My book form dictionary from 1994 has ultramarathon defined as any footrace of 50 miles or more and that the word was invented between 1975-80. It also lists ultramarathoner as the noun form. Nowadays, most people would say any footrace longer than a marathon is an ultra, but I tend to agree with the original definition. A 50k race is just a long marathon, 50 mile and higher is where you need to train at least a little differently in my opinion. So it seems there is some doubt as to the definition of the word ultramarathon, but not that it is indeed the correct spelling.
So here are the lists of words I’ve seen: Ultrarunner, ultramarathoner, ultra runner, ultra marathon, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, ultras, crazy/stupid people (OK that last one is what my wife calls us)
The New York Times has published articles with ultrarunner, ultramarathoner, and ultramarathon. So even they can’t quite decide if it’s ultrarunner or ultramarathoner. I would assume they would use words that are at least possible of being grammatically correct so anything they don’t use is probably wrong or considered slang.
So since we are the ones who actually do this crazy thing, we get to decide what the words are, or at least we should (ask Steve Wilhite how the whole GIFF pronunciation is going for him, by the way I agree with the masses that he’s wrong even though he invented it).
The sport itself is called ultrarunning. As in “Wow look at this ultrarunning craze taking over the country!” You will never hear that by the way unless people start including walking/gimping to their car after a marathon as being an ultramarathon.
I have never heard an ultrarunner use the word ultramarathoner so I think it should be ultrarunner. One word, not split up.
It’s ultramarathon, not ultra marathon, and always has been according to my old school dictionary. One word, not split up.
But I have to say most often, I and the people I know use the term ultra to describe a race. As in “I ran an ultra last weekend and I’m starving now!” If the distance is involved we usually don’t even say ultra, “I ran a 100 miler last weekend”. Note you need to say miler to separate it from a 100k race. I just had a flashback to the old “How to talk Minnesotan” book as I’m typing now. Perhaps how to talk to an ultrarunner should be in the works?
So to summarize these are the correct or soon to be correct words: Ultrarunner/s, Ultramarathon/s, Ultra/s, Ultrarunning. I’m eagerly awaiting my spellchecker update so I don’t see so many red underlined words anymore.