• Real-World Geography: Donald Buraglio
    Don Buraglio is an ultramarathoner.

    Photograph by Stuart Thornton

    By Stuart Thornton

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Donald is an ultramarathon runner. An ultramarathon is any foot race longer than a typical marathon, which is 42 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards) long. He has competed in many races in the U.S. state of California, including the 161-kilometer (100-mile) Western States Endurance Run in Squaw Valley, the Miwok 100-kilometer (62-mile) Trail Race in the Marin Headlands, and the Quicksilver 80.5-kilometer (50-mile) Endurance Run in San Jose.

    Donald is also the rehabilitation manager for the Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice in Monterey, California.

    EARLY WORK

    Donald says he didn’t compete in endurance sports growing up. “I was kind of a team sports kid,” he says. “I was the basketball/baseball/soccer player growing up.”

    While attending J.K. Mullen High School in Denver, Colorado, Donald gravitated toward classes in human biology and anatomy. “When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a doctor,” he says.

    Donald pursued his interest by majoring in exercise physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and getting his master's degree in physical therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    After competing in traditional endurance running events, including the Big Sur International Marathon in Big Sur, California, and the Vineman Ironman Triathlon in Sonoma County, California, Donald began entering ultramarathons. His first was the Carmel Valley 50K (31 miles) in Carmel Valley, California, in 2003.

    MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

    “It’s pushing your body to the point where you question whether you can carry on—and then pushing on.”

    MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

    Donald says it is very difficult to override your body’s instincts to quit when you are competing in ultramarathons. “It’s basically pushing through your body telling you to stop,” he says.

    HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

    “I think of terrain and the characteristics of a certain outdoor area.”

    GEO-CONNECTION

    Donald says he determines which ultramarathons he will enter by looking into geographic features of the course—the amount of climbing in the race, the type of technical terrain, and the beauty of the region.

    Terrain also dictates where Donald chooses to train. “I just try to find as many hills as I can,” he says.

    He carries a GPS receiver when going out on long training runs. “I pretty much use it to figure out how far I run,” he says.

    Before running an ultramarathon, Donald looks over topographic maps of the race course. “That’s so you know where a hill will be at what point in the race,” he says.

    SO, YOU WANT TO BE AN . . . ULTRAMARATHONER

    Donald suggests entering other running competitions first. “You can do a lot of trail races that aren’t ultras,” he says.

    He also says it is beneficial to develop other outdoor interests, suck as rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking.

    GET INVOLVED

    Donald says that by volunteering at running competitions or assisting racers, individuals can become interested in ultramarathons. “The people who aren’t ultra-runners can get into it by supporting someone in a race,” he says.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anatomy Noun

    structure of an organism.

    biology Noun

    study of living things.

    characteristic Noun

    physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

    determine Verb

    to decide.

    endurance Noun

    ability to accept and deal with hardship.

    exercise physiology Noun

    study of a body's physical reaction to exercise.

    geographic Adjective

    having to do with places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    GPS receiver Noun

    device that gets radio signals from satellites in orbit above Earth in order to calculate a precise location.

    gravitate Verb

    to move toward or be attracted to something.

    headland Noun

    point of land, usually a steep cliff, that descends into a body of water.

    hill Noun

    land that rises above its surroundings and has a rounded summit, usually less than 300 meters (1,000 feet).

    Encyclopedic Entry: hill
    instinct Noun

    natural motivation or behavior.

    marathon Noun

    42.195 kilometer (26 mile, 385 yard) foot race.

    master's degree Noun

    level of education between the bachelor's and the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.

    physical therapy Noun

    regimen for management of or recovery from physical disability.

    rehabilitation manager Noun

    person who oversees the activities and procedures of a facility where people with injuries and illnesses can find help.

    terrain Noun

    topographic features of an area.

    topographic map Noun

    map showing natural and human-made features of the land, and marked by contour lines showing elevation.

    triathlon Noun

    endurance sport involving any three athletic events performed in a rowusually swimming, bicycling, and running.

    ultramarathon Noun

    any foot race longer than a typical marathon (26 miles, 385 yards).

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