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What Is Trail Running, Ultramarathon, And Ultrarunning

Language can be a bit confusing in the running world at times.

For those interested in off-road running and beyond-marathon distances there are a few terms tossed around that can cause a bit of head scratching at first. The often inter-mingled terms are trail running, ultramarathon, and ultrarunning.

What do each of these terms mean and are they the same?

Trail Running

trail-running-wacoTrail running can simply be broken down to running on a surface other than concrete or asphalt. This could include grass, rock, sand, or dirt and could be located anywhere from a national park in the Rockies to alongside your local highway.

Key component: No(minimal) concrete or asphalt.

Trail running events can be of any distance such as one mile, five km, 100 mile +, or multi-day.


The ultramarathon is a running event that covers a distance greater than a marathon and can occur on any and all surfaces.

Key ingredient: Longer than a marathon (26.2 miles).

Ultramarathon events could include various running flavors such as 50km trail, 50km road, 24 HR, or multi-day.


See ultramarathon above.

An ultrarunning and ultramarathon event are the same. At least I haven’t been able to determine a difference.

How Do They Mingle?

As you can see these terms have a related yet sometimes unique relationship.

  • Trail running event (>26.2 miles) = Ultramarathon
  • Trail running event (<26.2 miles) ≠ Ultramarathon
  • Ultramarathon (road/trail) = Ultrarunning (road/trail)

Hopefully this helps clarify a few of the pillar words of these growing yet fairly intimate endurance sports.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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