You’ve heard of marathons, mini-marathons, and half marathons. But have you ever heard of an ultramarathon?

Ultramarathons cover distances over 26.2 miles, typically 50 or 100 miles, and they are right up Brandon Whistler’s alley. Recently, Brandon held up the trophy marking his first ultramarathon victory, in the War Hammer 100-mile race in Kentucky. More on that in a minute.

Brandon negotiates some rough terrain during the War Hammer 100.

Brandon is a gym equipment design group supervisor at Draper. He originally took up ultramarathoning because he wanted to improve his running ability on obstacle courses. But once he started, he fell in love with the sport.

“I started my journey in 2016 with the 50k distance (31.2 miles) and worked my way up to 100 milers which I race mostly now,” said Brandon. “I run exclusively on trails which I enjoy the most. I train some on the roads, but the trails will always be my top choice.”

Yes, you read correctly. Not only does Brandon mostly run 100-mile races, but he runs them on trails, which can have varying conditions, surfaces, obstacles, and elevations.

“You get much better scenery when running in the forest and mountains,” Brandon said. “Dirt is much softer than asphalt and you’re getting a much better workout with the trails. I do some road running but it’s not my preference and pretty boring to me.”

When he isn’t racing or working, training takes up a lot of Brandon’s time. His training varies but includes running a mix of distances and times 5-6 days per week. Some days he might run 45 minutes, others several hours. And he mixes in other exercises as well, all with the goal of getting and staying competitive.

A topographical map showing the War Hammer 100 course in Kentucky.

“The grind is always with myself but if we’re racing together, I’m competing against you also,” he said. “I love everything about it. The training, the grit, the grind, the trails. The ultra-running community is like no other we all share a passion in our own ways. I’m highly competitive so I like testing myself to see what I’m made of.”

And Brandon is made of the right stuff. In his most recent outing, the War Hammer 100 (billed as one of Kentucky’s toughest ultramarathons) Brandon was one of only 10 out of 50 finishers. His winning time of just over 25:25 was more than six hours faster than the next runner.

Despite his success at War Hammer, Brandon still has his sights set on the trail ahead. One day he would like to compete in some of the sport’s most iconic races, the Hardrock 100, which takes place in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, or the Western States 100, the world’s oldest endurance race, which is run in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Brandon competing at the Grayson Highlands 50 in Virginia.

“I love training to get better at racing. I always hope to inspire someone along the way that we are all capable of so much more than we think,” he said. “I hope this inspires someone to step outside their comfort zone and chase down something they enjoy. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows but you have to want it to go after it.”

If you think you might like to give it a try, Brandon suggested searching online, but also looking into your own local parks and trails. And while there are a lot of web resources and books available for your initial research, in the end deciding if it is right for you comes down to the basics.

“For trail running, you’re going to want a good pair of trail-running shoes,” he said, “But the main thing is getting out there trying it out before investing into it too much.”

Who knows? If you decide to join in, maybe you’ll see Brandon out there on the trail. But it will probably only be a glimpse of him as he disappears into the far distance.

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