Anyone willing to train for and compete in an ultramarathon clearly has a unique perspective on a few things; pain, endurance, and fun to name a few. Still, even (or perhaps especially) an ultrarunner appreciates the beauty of spending at least 31 miles bonding with nature.
Although an ultramarathon is technically anything longer than a marathon, the most common ultramarathon distances are 50k (31 miles), 50 miles, 100K (62 miles), and 100 miles. A lot of beauty can be revealed when covering that kind of distance on foot, and what better place to do it in than the Pacific Northwest, already renown for it’s natural beauty? Here are a few of our top recommendations for races in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon for breathtakingly scenic ultras.
Vashon Island Ultramarathon & Trail Run: The largest island in the Puget Sound, can now be known for more than it’s awesome tourist attraction ‘bike in a tree’ (a tree grew around a child’s bike, completely encompassing it. It’s actually pretty rad.) Vashon Island’s 50K ultramarathon is only four years old but quickly gaining traction. The course and terrain is widely varied, including single and double-track park trails, dirt roads, gravel driveways, grass shoulders, and some paved road.
Entry Fee: $60
This 100-miler is not for the novice ultrarunner. Completion of at least one 50-miler and 8 hours of volunteer time helping maintain the trial is required just to be able to enter the lottery system determining who gets to pay to run. There’s a reason this race is so competitive though – it’s gorgeous. The unforgettable course runs through Washington’s Central Cascades beginning in the small mountain town of Easton.
Entry Fee: $450, entrants chosen in a lottery
Idaho Mountain Trail Ultra Festival: This challenging 100-miler is the perfect race to drag your family to for support, as it feels suspiciously like a vacation. Runners, their families, and volunteers are invited to stay at the beautiful Burgdorf Hot Springs above the town of McCall. The race includes technical sections known as the ‘Bear Pete Climb’ and the Crestline traverse. The names pretty much tell you what to expect. It’s a work hard, play hard, and enjoy kind of race.
Entry Fee: $210
Waldo 100K Trail Run: Sometimes also called the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ race, the Waldo 100K occurs primarily on technical single-track trails. The race caps off at 125 runners, so it’s always guaranteed that too many other runners will not obscure your forest views. The Waldo 100K trail begins at the Willamette Pass Ski area, about 70 miles southeast of Eugene. It features three major climbs and 11,000 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of elevation loss. This is a hard course and not recommended for beginners; runners are required to have completed at least one 50K prior to Waldo.
Entry Fee: $125
The Mt. Hood 50: There’s nothing quite like racing 50 miles around Mount Hood in mid-July for countless picture-worthy vistas. The race takes place in mid-July and, thankfully, is mostly shaded. The course follows the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail, which was intended for hiking and is well maintained. Trail running shoes are still recommended, however. With a 5,630-foot elevation gain, serious training is also highly recommended.
Entry Fee: $95
Mountain Lakes 100: A newcomer to the Oregon ultra scene, the Mountain Lakes 100-miler covers technical trail running, scenic mountain vistas, and passes more than 25 lakes. Sixty miles of the race takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Entry Fee: $250
Running an ultramarathon is no joke, and training for one is even a bigger challenge. However, once you’ve made up your mind and put in the months – or years – of hard work, you owe yourself a course that is as stunningly beautiful as it is daunting. This will be a run of a lifetime for you – why not assure that the scenery is heavenly? Just don’t forget your Running Lens Sports Glasses!