You step over the large rock, barely avoiding hitting your head off the low-hanging tree branch above you. The forest has gone on for the last six miles, and you’re eager to get out. You know you’re close; the forest had been thinning out, signaling that you are close to the edge of it.
You’ve been running for the last six hours, your water is low, and you could use a healthy snack to pick your spirits back up. Or maybe an entire pizza. Yeah, that sounds better.
Finally, you can see the edge of the forest ahead. You pick up your pace, knowing that the finish line, and your lodging for the second stage of your multi-stage ultra race, will be a few steps past the edge.
Finally, you come bursting out. The sun is beginning to lower in the sky, casting an orange-red hue across the horizon. You look forward, there’s the finish line, your heart leaps for joy. That means that your lodging for the night should be right behind it.
Ah, there it is. A nice luxury tent, five-star chef outside preparing your multi-course meal, your butler is preparing your post-race slippers, and getting your hydrotherapy pool jets set to the perfect pressure to promote recovery.
Wait, what? Do you mean this isn’t like the ultras you’ve run in the past? Oh, well, that’s simple. That’s because you paid less than one percent of the price in the ultra you entered.
Welcome, everyone, the newest member of the ultrarunning scene: ‘luxury ultra races.’
What are luxury races?
It’s funny you should ask that because, up until recently, such a thing was an oxymoron. There’s absolutely nothing luxurious about an ultra unless your idea of luxury is blistered feet, destroyed legs, a stomach that is both hungry and ready to expel its contents out both orifices at any time, and a mind that wants to sleep but is also determined to finish this stupid thing you started.
So take all of those awful things, and throw them away. Or at the very least, minimize their impact. A ‘luxury race’ is a long-distance “challenge” where competitors will perform the standard race, except have the luxury of a five-star hotel at the end of each stage. The Highland-King ultra is one of the specific races I am referring to.
In this race, runners travel in Scotland from Dalness to the Isle of Arran. And don’t you worry, you won’t have to get your feet wet, darlin’. There will be a high-speed boat waiting to zip you across the channel.
This race costs over $21,500 to enter. It comes with all the commodities mentioned above: a Michelin chef, personal butler, hydrotherapy pool, luxury tent, and also a Garmin MARQ watch – preprogrammed with the route for your convenience, of course.
And how could we forget the personalized training plan that you will receive, complete with a stand-in double to run the race for you when things get too tough.
What’s the issue?
Okay, I’m joking. Running that distance is still challenging, regardless of the recovery tools you have at your disposal. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t take issue with it if you couldn’t tell by now.
Ultras are one of the ultimate feats of endurance – mentally and physically. Many would suggest (me among them) that the mental aspect is the actual endurance test of an ultra.
You learn quickly when you begin training and racing ultramarathons; the human body is amazing, and that we can do far more than we believe. However, the true fight lies with that question that inevitably pops into every runner’s head during a race when things start getting tough, “Why am I doing this?”
And why are we running ultras? What’s the point? I think I can speak for many ultra runners here – we want to push ourselves.
It’s the moments when you’re miles into an ultra, with a whole lot left to go. Your body is rebelling against you, and your mind is doing everything in its power to get you to stop.
But you continue.
It’s those moments of battling yourself and your mind and finding out what you’re really capable of. That is why I, and many others, run stupidly long distances then hate (and love) ourselves afterward.
A luxury ultra race strips much of that from an ultra, leaving behind a rotting carcass that stinks of irreverence.
For me, luxury races are akin to international luxury resorts that I see many fly to each year. You want the luxury and novelty of flying to a different country, yet none of the difficulties like navigating the language and culture and dealing with infrastructure that may be less developed, to name a couple.
With $21,500, you could do so much more and still get the experience you’re looking for. Besides, races like this are meant to challenge, not to comfort.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”