One may think that ultramarathons are just the latest trendy thing among runners. That Gordy Ainsleigh invented the 100 milers or Dean Karnazes is the first popular ultramarathoner. But running beyond 26.2 miles is not something of the 21st century.
As early as the 1920s the first endurance runners gathered together to compete against each other and against themselves. Now the French ultrarunner Serge Girard is putting together another TransAmerica footrace: from L.A. to New York in 70 days.One of the first documented ultra races happened between Pachuca and Mexico City in 1926.
A 100Km competition won by two Tarahumara Indians in 9 hours and 37 minutes. But the most popular ultramarathon at that time was held in 1928. Sports agent C.C. Pyle organized what was named the Bunion Derby, a transcontinental competition from L.A. to New York in 84 days. Nothing less than 199 runners toed the start line and the winner, Andy Payne, was only 20 years old. The year after, the Derby reversed the route. There are several books and even a documentary on this historic race.
Since then, several other TransAmerica events have been organized. In the period of 1992 – 1995 Jesse Dale Riley and Michael Kenney planned the LA – NY course in 64 days. In 2002 and 2004 Alan Firth promoted the Run Across America, again from LA to NY in 71 days. For those interested in details, there’s an amazing list of transcontinental U.S. crossings.
Now is the turn of Serge Girard. The French ultrarunner has already accomplished a few extraordinary feats, like running accross the five continents – while breaking numerous records -, and he is at this very moment running through the west coast of France, in an attempt to run accross Europe in 12 months -25000 km without a day off.-
After his cancelled TransAustralia footrace, he will be the RD of the next edition of the TransAmerica footrace in 2011. The race will start in L.A. on June 19th and will take the participants through the heart of North America to end in New York 70 days later.
The route will not follow the exact course of the 1928 event but will go through more backcountry areas located slightly Northerner than the original. Although the goal is to run along trails as much as possible, logistical complications make it unfeasible to ask the participants’ crew to drive an SUV through the country, so a portion of the average daily 45miles will be on roads.