UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge 2018

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Ultra running events (events longer than a marathon distance) are up 1,000% in the last decade according to The Guardian. Although racing events have the most visible presence, here in the Pacific Northwest there are a couple intriguing variations on the ultra running theme. Aspire Adventure Running, one of Northwest in Motion’s early supporters, offers challenging, supported, wilderness distance runs that are not races. Another intriguing alternative is the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge, a concept developed by Kathy and Ras Vaughan.

In contrast to cycling, women are well-represented in the running disciplines. Ana Hinz was the fastest female on one of the UltraPedestrian Challenge routes.

Last night was the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge’s 2017 awards party and 2018 kick-off party at Seven Hills Running Shop. There were about 50 people in attendance.

For all but the most exceptional athletes the term “ultra running” is a misnomer. Most participants actually walk or power hike most of the miles, which is why Kathy and Ras refer to participants as being “UltraPedestrians.” The winner of this year’s “Bad Ass” award was Brad Hefta-Gaub. Brad self-describes as a someone who, for most of his life, was unathletic and overweight. Now he’s doing epic ultra distance adventures. As part of one of the UltraPedestiran “mind-body” challenges Brad channelled his inner Gary Snyder and wrote a poem about one of his more memorable hikes.

As Ras Vaughan gesticulates, Brad Hefta-Gaub (left) reads a Gary Snyder inspired poem he wrote about one of his adventures.

Also in the audience were Chris Ragsdale and Jessica Kelley. Chris is a former ultra distance cyclist, and Jessica started out as a triathlete. Now Chris is focused on ultra running and recently completed the White Mountains 100 on foot. For 2018 Jessica is planning a solo month-long bike + paddling adventure in Alaska starting on the summer solstice. She earned just a bit of respect in the UltraPedestrian community in 2017 when she self-rescued after breaking her ankle 12 miles in to one of her adventures.

In the foreground, Jessica Kelley is planning a month-long solo bike and pack rafting adventure in Alaska starting on the summer solstice. Standing next to her is former ultra cyclist Chris Ragsdale. Chris told me his 11-year old son recently ran a 5:20 mile and probably won’t be able to keep up with him by next year.

How To

To participate in the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge, you announce which of the 19 (in 2018) approved routes you plan to do on the UltraPedestrian Facebook page. After your attempt or completion, you produce evidence and a trip report that documents the adventure. Some folks also use tracking devices during their adventures so that other UltraPedestrians can follow along. Registration links and the rules are here.

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