Frequently Asked Questions

Preface

The information on this page is not a traditional style FAQ, but a loosely assembled collection of tidbits about Across the Years, with supplementary information about 24-hour and multiday racing in general.

Across the Years History and Background

How old is Across the Years?
The 2014 edition will be the 31st running of Across the Years. The first was in 1983. In that year founder Harold Sieglaff presented an Easter 24-hour run in the spring, and followed that in December with the first year-end run which has always been called Across the Years, with various descriptive words added to the title. There was no race in 2009.
How did Across the Years get started?
ATY’s founder is Harold Sieglaff, who was age 72 on his most recent visit to the race in 2006. Harold accumulated over 2400 lifetime miles at the race. Originally Harold directed the race, but he delegated that job to others several years ago.
Harold participated in almost every race until 2006. The last few years he ran he walked it wearing street clothes. Because of his knee problems, Harold did not return to the race after 2006. Harold passed away in 2015 and at the 2015-2016 Across the Years runners ran laps in his honor (foregoing getting credit for the lap on their own results) and accumulated over 100 miles. A 100-mile buckle was presented to Harold’s wife.
For several years, and through 2003, the race was put on by Arizona Road Racers. In 2004, the event once again became an independent operation. Starting in 2010, the race is put on by Aravaipa Running, with many of the long-time volunteers and organizers acting as helpers and advisers.
The race’s format has not always been as it is today. The first year there was a 6-hour race (with one runner), and also 12-hour and 24-hour races on December 31. The 6-hour and 12-hour events were dropped. Until 1993 the race was held at Washington High School in Phoenix, after which it was moved to different locations, most recently Nardini Manor from 2003 until 2010. In 2004 it took off in popularity, no doubt in large part because of the world’s new-found ability to get the word out on the Internet.  The race was moved in 2011 to its current home at Camelback Ranch – Glendale, a state-of-the-art spring training facility for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 6-day race made its return in 2013 and has continued since.
Where does the name Across the Years come from?
The origin of the name should be obvious, given the traditional date of the race. All races include the last day of the calendar year and continue through midnight on New Year’s Eve, thus “across the years,” and also across whatever other time markers happen to apply. In 1999 there was a six-day race to celebrate the coming of the new millennium. Needless to say, we won’t be having another race across the millennia for quite a while, but for several years after 1999 the full name of the race was given as Across the Years, Decades, Centuries, and Millennia 72-, 48-, and 24-Hour Run, Walk, Eat and Nap.
The current full name of the race is Across the Years Multi-day Footrace, but it’s usually referred to simply as Across the Years,and by netizens as ATY.

Miscellany and Tips

Has the course distance been certified?
Yes.  The course is USATF certified at 1689.5 meters, certification number AZ11005GAN.
Note that the path is certified as a road, not a track, because of its construction, which means that any records set will be road records, not track records.
How was the certification done?
The method used to calibrate the Camelback Ranch loop and achieve certification is set forth in the USAT&F Road Race Course Measurement And Certification Procedure booklet.
Should a national record be set on the course, the course may be independently validated by the USAT&F.
How will I know how far I have run?
Please don’t bug our hard-working timers for readings of your mileage! Check the display monitors after any lap to see your total laps, miles, kilometers and race position.
What is the winter desert weather like?
During the days expect anything from downright chilly (low fifties or even upper forties) to too warm (mid to upper seventies, rarely even low eighties). At night it has been known to get below freezing, but lows in the upper forties are more common.
From December through January is the rainiest season in the Phoenix area. It is often overcast.
Will I be able to set up a tent on the site?
Yes. You will be able to set up on the large grass field outside the aid station or on the back side of the course by parking your vehicle in the dirt.
Will there be any other type of shelter available?
Yes. A large heating tent will be positioned near the aid station and runner area for keeping warm in the chilly nights.  Runners are invited to socialize with each other in the tent and warm up before returning to the course.
Will there be adequate bathroom facilities at Camelback Ranch?
We could hardly hold a six-day race there if there weren’t. In addition to a permanent facility next to the course, there will be numerous portable restroom units at several points along the course. These restrooms will be lighted at night and cleaned out several times during the event.  Showers will be available for a short period after each race, a short walk from the runner area.
Will the running path be lit up at night, or will I need to bring a headlamp and/or flashlight?
The track will be lit with a combination of permanent and portable lighting units. You are free to bring supplementary lighting if you wish, but it is not required.  We recommend a personal light for use at your personal area.
Will runners be able to set up personal aid stations?
There will be adequate places in the grassy runner area to set up tables and chairs to put out items they can grab as they run by.  The dirt lot on the south side of the course is also available for backing a vehicle up to the race course.  Runners are not permitted to place personal tables and items anywhere else on the course.
What will be supplied at the aid stations?
There will be no shortage of food to eat at Across the Years. In addition to the usual race fare, there will be delicious meals served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Previous years’ meals have included M&M pancakes, french toast, grilled cheese, quesadillas, spring rolls, sushi, lasagna, pizza, and chicken cordon bleu. A kitchen just behind the aid station will be operational, and if you ask the volunteers nicely, they will no doubt be glad to heat things for you, including items you bring for yourself, if there are particular foods you prefer. Vegetarian, vegan & gluten free options will be available, please ask!
Will I be able to invite my non-competing relatives or friends to do laps with me for a while?
Please see the Pacing & Guest Laps section on the Race Information page.
Do you recommend using gaiters on this course?
Whether to wear gaiters to help keep dirt and debris out of shoes is a matter of personal choice. The path at Camelback Ranch is primarily a dirt road, providing plenty of reason to consider wearing them.

General Information on 24-Hour and Multiday Races

Why run fixed-time events?
People have wondered what point there is to running around a track all day. Most runners who have tried it, even those who remain primarily fixed-distance and trail runners, admit that fixed-time running has a specialized appeal that is unlike other types of running. To quote one well-known director of trail races:
I see a lot of advantages to fixed time events, and especially ATY. It’s a great confidence run for people just getting into ultras to see how far they can go. It’s good for older and slower runners who have a problem meeting cut-offs. It’s something a young runner can enter. It’s a highly social event. It’s a good way to find out how fast you can run a certain distance. If folks can’t see the benefits, if they dismiss fixed time events as “boring,” they’re missing out.—Geri Kilgariff
What sort of person does these races?
Ultrarunners differ in character as much as any other cross-section of humanity. The sport does not appeal to many young toughs from the backward-hat, tattoos, and muscle shirt crowd of extreme sport lovers. (Many of those people find they can’t do it!)
Generally, persons who take up ultrarunning and stick with it tend to be highly self-motivated, willing to challenge themselves, and disciplined. There seems to be an inordinate number of persons from scientific and professional backgrounds in the sport. In addition, ultrarunning appeals more to older runners than to younger ones. I am not aware of any reputable research that has been done to verify that either of these claims is true, and if so, why.
Isn’t age a disadvantage in distance running?
Intuitively it would seem to be so, but the reality is quite different. At this writing Yiannis Kouros is 50, is still breaking records in almost every event he enters including a world record for 48 hours at Across the Years in 2005, and wins almost every race he runs by astonishing margins of hours or tens of miles over whoever finishes next. In 2001 Sue Ellen Trapp became, at age 55, the most elderly person to win a national championship running event at the Olander 24-hour race, winning it for the sixth time. (“Elderly” is the word chosen by the one giving out the awards.) At age 81, ultrarunning legend Helen Klein was still breaking world age group records by large margins, and running better than many competitors 30 and 40 years younger.
Kouros, Trapp, and Klein may be exceptional, but it is also statistically verifiable that the median age of runners who participate in ultras is quite a bit higher than those who participate in shorter races. Participant ages in the 2001 edition of Across the Years broke down as follows:

  • Ages of those who ran the 72-hour in ascending order: 28, 35, 40, 41, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 54, 55, 57, 58, 62, 63, 63, 64, 67
  • Average: 51.1
    Median: 49/54
  • Ages of those who ran the 48-hour in ascending order: 38, 41, 43, 50, 50, 51, 53, 57, 71
  • Average: 50.4
    Median: 50
  • Ages of those who ran the 24-hour in ascending order: 15, 17, 24, 28, 31, 32, 32, 33, 33, 33, 34, 34, 35, 37, 39, 39, 39, 40, 40, 41, 41, 42, 43, 43, 43, 43, 43, 44, 44, 44, 47, 47, 50, 50, 51, 51, 52, 52, 53, 54, 55, 55, 56, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 65, 69
  • Average: 44.1
    Median: 43
Interesting, huh?
Do people run the whole time, or are they allowed to walk sometimes?
The ability of ultrarunners varies dramatically. A few world-class runners are able to run pretty much the whole time for 24 hours and even up to 48 hours. People in that category are few and far between, but they do tend to show up at races like Across the Years.
Although these events are called running races, the traditional term for the technique employed is “go as you please,” meaning competitors are free to run, walk, sleep or do whatever they want, but the clock never stops. The reality is that almost everyone walks at least part of the time, and some people for most of it. When such events were held in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they were often referred to as pedestrian races, which seems quaintly archaic, but is probably a more accurate term to describe them than running. It is even possible for diligent racewalkers to win the 48-hour and 72-hour events.
Do the runners get to have rest periods?
Across the Years is not a staged race where time is accumulated over several periods of activity. The clock runs continuously. It’s a true race in that whoever gets the farthest in the time allotted is the winner. What competitors do to keep themselves moving is up to them. Some just keep on going, even if very slowly.
How far do they go?
The world record for 24 hours, held by Yiannis Kouros, is 188.59 miles. But it may be a very long time before anyone breaks many of his records.
Giving the ladies equal time, the world record for 24 hours is 158.63 miles, held by Mami Kudo, and Sumie Inagaki holds the 48-hour record at a remarkable 246.74 miles
In case you were wondering, no world records are kept for 72 hour races, only course records. Therefore, anyone who enters the 72-hour race is running for fun rather than glory. As a consequence, until 2004, the course records were probably a bit softer than they would be if world-class runners showed up regularly in hopes of setting records. As the race’s reputation increases, this is changing.
It is often a goal of middle ability runners to get 100 miles in a 24-hour race. Doing so is a substantial accomplishment.
Do runners sleep, and if so, how much?
Well-trained and motivated runners sometimes find it surprising how little sleep they need. After all, it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re exercising. Many 24-hour runners will go the whole night without sleep, in the realization that they are in a race, and when they are not moving forward they are not logging distance. Some will nap for a couple of hours. Others demand more sleep.
A very few 48-hour runners are able to go the whole time without sleep, but those this writer has seen who do have been zombies when they finished. In 2003 Jan Ryerse won the 72-hour race without sleeping at all, and Geesler’s 300-mile run was accomplished with about an hour’s sleep, by his estimate—not counting time he may have been sleeping while running!
Almost anyone planning to go longer than 48 hours must consider sleep periods as a part of his or her strategy. Some 72-hour runners have even been known to leave and go to a motel or home to get a few hours sound sleep before returning refreshed. Others will nap a couple of hours at a time in tents.
What pace do most people run?
Paces vary from swift to barely moving. Most people slow down as they get tired. It seems to be a universal phenomenon for runners to slow down significantly during the late night hours, even though the temperatures are cooler, no matter how determined they are not to. Our body clocks are built to shut down that time of day. Then amazingly, when the sunlight returns, everyone comes to life once again. Experienced runners find that they sometimes return to nearly the energy levels they had on the first day during the daylight hours of the second and third days.
It’s not hard to do the math. If the average distance accumulated in 24 hours is 70.79 miles, they have to travel at an overall 20:20 pace. That’s a slow walk, but it does not allow for potty stops, gear changes, and tending to other necessary matters. Any time a person is not moving at all, the average pace per mile tends to rise quite rapidly.
What about eating and going to the bathroom?
Ultrarunners are human beings with normal bodily functions that must be attended to. In order to sustain energy, they must eat more-or-less constantly, as much as 300 calories or more an hour, perhaps three or four times as much in a day as they would normally consume.
It’s inefficient from a racing standpoint to sit down to eat. Therefore, most runners will eat foods such as energy bars and high-carbohydrate snack foods while on the run, and often can be seen eating a full meal on a paper plate while walking around the track in order to avoid wasting time.
In shorter races, runners tend to concentrate entirely on carbohydrates because they convert to energy quickly. Most ultrarunners also take in plenty of fats and protein. They need to eat normal food as much as possible during a race, and lots of it, including soups, yogurt, sandwiches, pizza, and various hot dishes.
How do you train for one of these races?
This question is the subject of books. Techniques vary greatly, and personal opinions are widely available for free. Advanced information is dispensed by professional coaches at great cost to consumers.
Some runners will tell you the only way to train for a race like Across the Years is to run it once. You will learn a lot that you can apply to the next time you do it.
One does not simply go out and start running 100 miles a week or doing 16-hour training runs every couple of weeks. Most people who run track ultras have been running consistently for years at fairly high mileage, and have competed in shorter races first. A balanced training program that includes at least one weekly long run, some mileage base building, and a modest amount of speed work for strength, will suffice for most runners. One of the most surprising things runners learn as they branch into ultrarunning is that the amount of extra training necessary to do it is not much more than they need to run shorter distances. Some runners have been known to do reasonably well with a mileage base as little as 30 miles per week. Runners cannot expect to win the race with that little training, but may find themselves running tens of miles further than they have ever run before on race day.
Ultrarunning is a highly scientific sport. It’s not about gritting your teeth and gutting it out. A well-trained ultrarunner will read the literature available and get information from other runners. Over time he will find himself becoming knowledgeable about the science of running—physiology, nutrition and fueling, fluid and electrolyte replacement, caring for the endocrine system, muscles, knees, quads, hamstrings, lower back, the need for weight training and heart/cardio fitness, preventing muscular overbalances, skeletal problems, watching for signs of injury to joints and ligaments, such as in and around the Achilles tendons and ankles, being alert to potential medical problems with kidneys, pulmonary emboli, heart arrhythmia, caring for feet, preventing blisters, breathing, sleep, and many other details. Being ignorant of these matters is a good way to get hurt and have a short career (and possibly a short life) as an ultrarunner.
How do you prepare for sleeplessness?
The answer to this question is good news. The only way to prepare for sleeplessness is to get as much rest before the race as possible, including nine or ten hours the night before the race. It is neither possible nor necessary to train for sleeplessness by practicing staying up all night. Doing so merely depletes one’s vital energy, and brings no training benefits in return.
Some ultrarunners disagree with this advice, and maintain that having the experience of going through the night a couple of times provides valuable psychological training, teaching runners how to cope with it.
How do they measure the distance run in a fixed-time race?
Imagine the problem that would exist if everyone started in one place, then headed down a road or trail for 24 hours. How would you signal the time to stop? How would you measure the distance when some runners go 150 miles and others only 20? Because of these problems, the only reasonable way to measure a fixed-time event is to have everyone run laps on a short course where the distance of a single lap has been accurately measured, preferably certified, and to count the laps each runner has traveled. In some races, partial final laps may be measured to within a few centimeters, at the runners’ option. Final partial laps are not counted at Across the Years, but the lap count is recorded using a chip system, so is quite accurate.
What differences are there between running 24 hours and multiday?
Different runners will say different things. Some 72-hour runners will tell you they get to have three times the fun.
The longer a person goes, the more incumbent it becomes upon him to include walking and sleeping in his race strategy. It also becomes more necessary for him to eat normal foods. A few runners may be able to get by on typical race food for as long as 24 hours, but before long a person is going to need and want soup and sandwiches and chili and stick-to-your-ribs chow.
It also takes more gear to run a multiday. How long can you stand to live in the same sweat and filth saturated clothing? Some people also change shoes, and a few even take time out to take showers during the race.
Pacing is much different in a multiday race. Statistically it has been shown that even elite 48-hour runners cover about 65—70% of the distance they will go the first day, then hang on for dear life until the end. Some runners walk most of the time in the later stages of the race, particularly late at night, and even plan it that way. The elites, of course, just keep on running, but even Yiannis Kouros eventually slows down at least a little.
What about recovery and additional sleep afterward?
This writer’s personal experience has been that as little as four hours of deep sleep in a real bed after a hot shower following a race is sufficient to get through the rest of the day following a 72-hour race, and that thereafter no more than eight hours (a normal night) is necessary, even right after the race.
Total recovery is quite another matter. A well-trained runner may be able to run an easy two or three miles the day after a multiday. Getting out the door to walk a mile or so is better for some persons than total rest, and helps speed recovery, because it helps to stretch out sore muscles and keeps one from getting too stiff.
Sore muscles are not all that need recovering following a long ultra. A person may be back to running easily in a few days, and training normally within a week or so. In contrast, the endocrine system gets taxed to the limit during an ultra, and takes three weeks or longer to recover adequately. During that period, a runner may find himself far more susceptible to illnesses than normal. Unless you enjoy being sick, make a special effort following an ultra to consume vitamins, get enough sleep regularly, and avoid stress, drafts, germs and contact with sick people, or anything else that tends to make you ill.
What happens to your feet?
They get tired. Sometimes they get blisters. Learning the techniques of foot care and blister prevention is a large part of the science of ultrarunning.
Don’t you get tired running for so long?
No, never.
Just kidding, folks! Of course we get tired. These are endurance races. Battling against tiredness is the whole point. There is the physical ache and tiredness of muscles, joints, and bones, being tired of endless heavy breathing and pounding heart, there is the mental tiredness from doing the same thing for hour after hour, and there is tiredness from lack of sleep. Add them together and you have one huge case of utter exhaustion. Doing well in a multiday is largely about learning to cope with the problems as they occur, and to get beyond them. The tiredness is a kind that can at the same time be exhilarating, when accompanied by the great satisfaction returned from rising to face challenges, overcome obstacles, and make goals. Some runners believe the happiness that comes from this ranks among life’s greatest moments.
Isn’t it still true that the faster runners win?
Looking at the big picture, that is a true statement, because the winner is the one who goes the farthest in the time given. To beat all the others he or she has run faster than all of them, at least overall.
Don’t forget that 24-hour and multiday races are essentially endurance contests. Many runners who excel at short distances cannot handle the longer runs, and drop out. Those who are able to keep on trudging along may be able to accumulate the mileage necessary to beat someone faster because of having greater endurance. It is in long fixed-time races that the old tortoise and hare principle reigns supreme, with the result that many intrinsically slower runners with stamina and grit are able to surpass the speedsters.
At ATY in 2001, the great and gracious ultrarunner Ann Trason thrilled us with her presence at the 24-hour race. In the course of the day she set five world and national masters records, then went down in flames and quit the race by early evening, with an accumulated mileage of just over 80 miles, a total that made her a better-than-average mid-packer. By comparison, this writer is one of the slowest of the slow, but 80 miles was less mileage than I acquired in my very first 24-hour race. There is a lesson to be learned there: RFP (Relentless Forward Progress) pays off big time.
Don’t people get bored running endlessly?
No doubt some do. If it’s not fun, don’t do it. All the ultrarunners I know do it because they enjoy it.
This writer has long believed that boredom comes from within. If a person is unhappy with himself or has little of interest to offer to others as a person, then he is likely as bored with himself as others probably are with him, but are too polite to say. There can hardly be a better opportunity to meditate on life’s problems, commune with one’s Creator, and generally get one’s head in good working order than in those hours spent running. Perhaps to persons for whom these activites are not important, spending time running is boring.
In addition, at a race such as Across the Years one is never alone for very long. In a short time everyone present recognizes everyone else and people get to know one another. Bonds are formed. With 75 or so runners running around a short loop one is rarely more than a few feet from a new friend to be made or an old one whose acquaintance can be cultivated and renewed.
Does it help to use a portable music player?
Some people run multiday races while wired to an MP3 player. It’s certainly not against race rules to do so. Others have no use for them, and regard them as simply another thing to have to lug around. As Sheryl Crow sings: “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad!”
Can anyone run a race of this sort?
Across the Years is an all-comers family of races. No minimum distances are set to qualify as a finisher. Technically, anyone can enter a three or six-day race, run, walk, or crawl one lap, and be able to say he competed in and “completed” a 72-hour or 144-hour footrace. Persons who take up precious race slots to fulfill frivolous fantasy goals are not likely to earn the respect or admiration of other runners, and it’s doubtful that those who do it get much personal satisfaction either.
Any person who hopes to make a serious effort at racing for 24 hours or longer is well advised to do so after at least a few years of consistent running and completing races, preferably including one or more shorter ultramarathons, and following a period of extended training specific for the event. Running an ultra is not simply a matter of showing up, gutting it out to the finish, and then getting a few days rest at the end. The price one pays in damage to one’s body, including his or her endocrine system, can be significant. It must be frankly acknowledged that there is danger in running ultramarathons. We cannot recommend that you accept the risk lightly.
If you are considering running such an event and have never done so before, train well, read the literature available on the subject, and seek the advice of knowledgeable runners who have done it before you. There is no glory in foolishly engaging in self-destructive activity.