I've been bashed on here. And I've been bashed on ultra running sites (iRunFar etc) and ultra runner blogs.
Considering how many less people run ultra marathons (compared to road races like half and full marathons and 5km/10km), I'd say that the ultra-folk have been more critical of me as a percentage. This is kind of ironic because many in the trail running community say they are "laid back and open and welcoming to all"....the vast majority are, but there are always some very, very critical folks.
There is a certain "us vs them" attitude when it comes to a new road/track runner (who may have run in college) decides to move up and try their first 50-miler or 100km or "gnarly mountain race." The older establishment and people that have been doing trail ultras for a long time "vs" the 20-something who ran a 2:20ish marathon or a low 14-min 5km. To the "pure trail" runners these "fast roadies" have been slowly invading over the past 5-10 years. I even made a film/video on it called "MUT Runner." I think sometimes they like to see us epically fail at 100-milers (And we do at lot of times...especially me...in the 4 that I have tired). The sheer distance and duration can be humbling. Guys that couldn't crack 2:30 in a road marathon or 32-min for a 10km can beat me at a long-trail ultra sometimes.
Likewise there is a certain "us vs them" attitude when an (older) ultra runner rants about how much harder a 100-mile trail race is [compared to shorter races] and says that the track runners on here don't know real distance running pain. The pure track and road guys don't like races where people are "powerhiking" and carrying fanny packs full of gels. It is hard to relate too unless you've done it. I've walked at times in almost every single ultra with more than 10,000 of climbing and 50-miles in distance. Like in a road marathon you can hit the wall very hard, bonk, and experience some fairly severe cramping or stomach distress when you really push yourself. A long race will strip you to your core whether it is 12.5 laps on a 400m track at Vo2max or 105-miles in the alps at 12-min mile pace.
Of course what I wrote above about "us v. them" are stereotypes somewhat. Most people that have been around the sport of distance running in general (whether it be a track 1500m or 100-miles in the mountains) have a decent amount of respect for what it takes to run far...but also to run fast. If they know structured training, intervals , tempos and long runs they should have some respect for Any Surface and Any Distance. It all hurts when you push yourself 100%. A 10km is not twice as hard (or even harder) when compared to a 5km because it is a longer distance. The pain should be a constant. Burn yourself with a hot flame or slowly roast over a bed of coals.
Of course also the competition depth is far less in most ultras (which are trail-mountain races usually). There are less numbers in ultras! Everytime I toe the starting line of a mountain-ultra-trail race I think I have a chance to win. Now it is quite tough at the most competitive ultra in the world (Comrades) and I've been very, very far off the lead pack at races like UTMB and Western States. But I honestly thought I at least had a chance of winning....and I will keep trying to win races like those ultras.
However, when I toed the starting line at NCAA DI XC, or the Boston Marathon or the Olympic Trials Marathon I knew I had a 0% chance of winning. I was going for "top 40 or top 20" or just sub 2:19:00. When you run these times on a road and track (and place where you do in these types of races) you know exactly where you stand. I know I don't have the talent to run a 2:10 marathon and I never did....even a sub 2:19:00 is enough of a challenge now...but so is finishing UTMB or Western States well.
this and this wrote:
I understand that most people have real jobs, families, vices, addictions, responsibilities, genes, etc. that prevent them from making big commitments in training just to run fast. I understand why ultras and other events are a haven for the masses, as it would be somewhat embarrassing and disruptive to get lapped 4 or more times during a 5000 on the track.
Ultras are not a haven for the masses. Take a look at any regular old 5k, half marathon or marathon. Those are the havens for the masses. Any ultra I have ever been to has a higher fitness level than average by far. Now when you look at the elite level, no they don't but of course they don't. Why would an elite bother? They are too small to have any money, they don't fit into any kind a training plan and they would just be risking injury which could cost them money. Nobody who is fast enough to compete at a marathon distance would bother with an ultra unless they were independently wealthy. That doesn't make ultras a joke or non competitive. Who on this board is legit ever competing with the elite field? If elites show up to any race you all are getting smoked. If they don't you have a shot at winning. Competition is competition and it can be fun even if you don't get a group of paid runners who take off at the front of the field.