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What does ChatGPT know about ultra running?


ChatGPT answers questions about ultra running

By Henry Howard


There has been lots of interest in ChatGPT, an AI app that quickly answers questions with more context than standard search engines. It is extraordinarily fast and its answers are generally accurate, however though there are inconsistencies and other issues for sure.


I decided to put ChatGPT to the test, asking it some general questions about ultra running. How well did it answer the questions? Read on to find out. These question and answers are unedited, other than a few notations I’ve added for context.


Me: What is ultra running?

Bot: Ultra running is a type of long-distance running that typically involves running distances longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). The most common ultra distance races are 50 kilometers (31 miles), 50 miles, 100 kilometers (62 miles), and 100 miles. There are also multi-day ultra events that can cover hundreds of miles. Ultra running requires a high level of endurance, mental toughness, and preparation, as runners often face challenging terrain and weather conditions. It is a popular sport around the world, with organized races and events ranging from small local runs to large international competitions.


Me: Who does ultra marathons?

Bot: Ultra marathons are typically performed by experienced long-distance runners who have significant mileage and endurance training. These races, which typically include distances greater than 26.2 miles, require a high level of mental and physical stamina, as well as discipline, perseverance, and determination. Athletes who participate in ultra marathons come from a variety of backgrounds, including both amateur and professional runners, and many are individuals who are seeking to push themselves to their limits and achieve new levels of personal growth and achievement through their participation in these challenging endurance events.

ultra training in the mountains

Me: How do I train for an ultra marathon?

Bot: Great question! Training for an ultra marathon requires a lot of dedication and preparation. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Start by building a solid running base: Before you begin training for an ultra marathon, you should already be comfortable with running regularly. You should have a solid base of at least 30 to 40 miles per week for several months.

  2. Increase your mileage gradually: You'll need to gradually increase your mileage over time to prepare for the distance of an ultra. Add no more than 10% to your weekly mileage each week to help avoid injury. (My note: The 10% “rule” is a relic of the past. Increasing one’s mileage should be based on the individual runner’s fitness level, injury history, experience and other variables)

  3. Incorporate strength training and cross-training: Strength training can help improve your running form and reduce the risk of injury, while cross-training such as cycling or swimming can help improve your cardiovascular fitness without putting too much stress on your legs.

  4. Practice your nutrition and hydration: Nutrition and hydration during an ultra are crucial. Practice using and consuming the foods and fluids you plan to use during the race in your training.

  5. Rest and recovery is key: Make sure you're getting plenty of rest, sleep, and recovery time throughout your training.

  6. Train on similar terrain: If you know the terrain of the race, try to train on similar terrain during your long runs. If there are significant hills or elevation changes, include those in your training.

Remember to listen to your body and adjust your training as needed to prevent injury. Good luck with your training!


Me: During an ultra race should I start as fast as possible?

Bot: As an AI language model, I cannot provide advice for your health or safety. However, in general, starting an ultra race as fast as possible may not be the best strategy. Ultra races can be demanding and require endurance, so pacing yourself is crucial. Starting too fast can lead to burnout later in the race, increasing the risk of injury or not being able to finish the race. It is recommended to start with a steady and comfortable pace, saving enough energy for the later stages of the race. It's always best to consult a trained professional for advice on training and race strategy. (My note: I was curious how the AI bot would respond to this. A good response. Well done, bot!)


Me: What ultra races are the best for a beginner?

Bot: If you're a beginner in ultra running, there are a few ultra races that are good to start with. Here are some of them:

  1. 50K: This is a popular distance for beginners and is a great stepping stone to longer distances.

  2. Trail races: Trail races, especially those with technical terrain, can be a great way to ease into ultra running. They often have slower paces and can be more forgiving than road races.

  3. 12- or 24-hour races: These races can allow you to complete a specific distance within a set time frame.

  4. Local races: Look for local races that are shorter in distance, and have shorter cut-offs, allowing you to build up your endurance before taking on longer distances.

  5. Virtual races: With the recent pandemic, virtual races have become popular. This may be a great way to start as you can run on your own time and pace, making it less intimidating for beginners. (My note: This seems outdated as virtual races have fallen off in popularity.)

Remember to always start slow and build-up gradually to avoid injury. Good luck on your ultra running journey! (My note: The bot didn’t address what my question was after so I rephrased it for the next query.)


American River 50 aid station

Me: What are the names of specific ultra races a beginner could do?

Bot: Here are a few ultra races a beginner could consider:

  1. American River 50 Mile Endurance Run: This race takes place in California and offers a relatively flat course, making it a good option for beginners. (My note: The race website lists the elevation gain as 5,626 feet, which I wouldn’t consider flat.)

  2. Javelina Jundred: Held in Arizona, this 100-mile race offers a desert course with minimal elevation gain. (My note: The race website lists the elevation gain as 1,580 feet for each of the five loops. Again, I wouldn’t consider that minimal.)

  3. Cloudland Canyon 50k: Taking place in Georgia, this race offers a scenic and relatively mild course.

  4. Gorge Waterfalls 50k: Held in Oregon, this race offers beautiful scenery and a slightly more challenging course.


It's important to remember that even "beginner-friendly" ultra races require a significant amount of training and preparation, so make sure to properly train and consult with a physician before participating in any ultra race.


Me: Would you ever run an ultra?

Bot: As an AI language model, I am not capable of running or participating in an ultra marathon. However, I am designed to assist in many different ways, including providing information, answering questions and helping with tasks.





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