Updated: Oct 12
Written by: Tomas Morgan
In the world of extreme endurance sports and ultramarathons, few names shine as brightly as Zach Bitter's. A resident of Austin, Texas, known as the fitness capital of the world, Zach has not only redefined the limits of human endurance but has also brought the sport of ultramarathon running to the forefront of public consciousness.
Zach's journey into the world of ultramarathons is a testament to the power of dedication and passion. But before delving into his ultra achievements, let's take a closer look at the man behind the incredible feats.
Born and raised with an innate love for movement, Zach Bitter grew up in an environment where physical activity was the norm. His parents expected him to stay active and engaged in various activities. However, it wasn't until later in life that Zach found his true calling in running.
In high school, he tried his hand at both short and long-distance running. Surprisingly, Zach discovered that he excelled in the longer distances. This unexpected success ignited his passion for running and set him on a path he had never envisioned.
As he entered college, his initial institution lacked a track and cross-country program. However, a transfer to another college in his second year led him to a team where he realized that running was not just a recreational pursuit but a craft with endless lessons to learn. Having teammates with more experience proved invaluable to his development.
Despite his early success, Zach Bitter never harboured ambitions of going pro or competing at the Olympic level. His journey into ultramarathon running began at a pivotal moment when the sport was starting to gain traction. Not only did Zach become one of the leading figures in the sport, but he also built a thriving business around it, contributing significantly to its growth.
Zach's appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast have played a significant role in introducing ultramarathon running to a broader audience. Thanks to these appearances, more people now understand the incredible challenges and triumphs that come with the territory of ultramarathons.
During the podcast, Dave asked Zach the question of what's harder: golf or MMA. While he admitted to having no firsthand experience with MMA, he drew parallels between sprinting and distance running in track and field to explain the differences. In golf, you have time to dwell on your mistakes, whereas in MMA, you must quickly move forward, much like distance races vs. sprints such as the 100M dash.
One of the common misconceptions about ultramarathon running is the belief that runners consistently run without stopping. In reality, the pace, course, and individual preferences dictate whether runners walk, hike, or run. Stopping briefly, especially to use the bathroom or refuel, is a common practice, and it doesn't necessarily hinder overall performance.
Furthermore, Zach challenged the notion of the "positive split," which suggests that the second half of a race is slower than the first. He explained that this might not always hold true, especially in ultramarathons where multi-day splits and strategic rest can come into play, helping runners maintain their pace.
As for what goes through his mind during the last few miles of each run, he emphasized that it varies depending on the day and his condition. Sometimes, he's focused on preserving energy after an intense first half, while in wild races like one in 2019, he's capable of running his quickest last ten miles ever, showcasing his ability to push boundaries even in the face of extreme fatigue.
Bitter's journey from a multisport athlete as a kid to the forefront of ultramarathon running is a remarkable tale of dedication, passion, and perseverance. He has not only redefined the sport but has also used his platform to educate and inspire others to embark on their own journeys of endurance and self-discovery. Zach's story serves as a testament to the power of the human spirit and the boundless potential within us all.