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Photos © Tom Sperduto except where noted

What makes someone run an ultramarathon? Photographer Tom Sperduto says the eyes have it.

“I think when you meet an ultra runner you can see it in their eyes,” says Sperduto, who has been shooting an ongoing photo project on these peculiar athletes. “At least I can, and it’s one of the reasons why I began shooting portraits of them.”

The Edison, New Jersey-based Sperduto recently completed a series of before-and-after pictures of competitors in the grueling Grindstone 100-miler in Swoope, Virginia, which he says is “the hardest 100-mile race east of the 100th meridian. (Above and below are a couple of examples.)

“These ‘after’ portraits were shot less than five minutes after the subjects completed 100 miles,” he says. “In their eyes I see a sense of accomplishment and almost euphoria. I have heard many ultra runners talk about this.”