Ian Parlin and Emma Barclay have collected several belt buckles from completing Trail Monsters running club’s 100-mile wilderness challenge, the Georgia Jewel 100 miler, the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, among other ultra marathons. Parlin said he wears one every day to work to remind him he can “get through anything.” Submitted Photo

In the ultra running community, a commemorative belt buckle is akin to a traditional trophy.

“(A belt buckle) is kind of a silly little prize,” said Ian Parlin, an ultra runner from Portland. However, he explained that a “cool” belt buckle can be a part of a runner’s motivation for choosing a particular race.

Most runners don’t actually wear the belt buckles, but Parlin said he wears his to work each day as a reminder of his accomplishments.

“If I’m having a hard time with something, I’ve got this little reminder at all times,” Parlin said. “And it’s like, if I can get through (bad) weather on the top of the mountain in the middle of the night at 90 miles, when all I want to do is curl up and go to sleep, if I can get through that, I can get through this day of work . . .  I can get through anything.”

He said that some belt buckles can be as large as dinner plates, but most are smaller.

The belt buckle tradition stems from the sport’s connection with long-distance horse racing.

“The parallels from those rides to trail 100-mile ultras are many,” writes Davy Crockett, an ultra runner who researched the shared history of endurance horse trail rides and ultra marathons. “Much of the experience and practices of those rides became part of trail 100-mile runs that were established in the 1970s and ‘80s,” specifically the “procedures of aid stations, course markings, trail work, crews, medical checks, and of course the belt buckle award.”

The Western States 100-mile Endurance Run is the oldest 100-mile trail race in the world, originating in 1974. At the time, 100-mile road races were already established, but Western States was the first to organize a race run predominantly on trails.

The inspiration for the California race came from people who chose to run, rather than ride on horseback, the annual 100-mile Western States Trail Ride.

Similar to the horse race, belt buckles were given to participants who finished the race in less than 24 hours. The tradition continued on as other endurance races were organized.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: