The Run4Kids Ultramarathon and Relay is open to extremely fit and/or extremely crazy individuals as well as teams, who must complete 100 miles in 24 hours or less (there is a 4-hour extension for any individual runner who has reached 80 miles by the 24-hour mark). Our team consisted of twelve runners -- a combination of our school's staff and family members. We set up "base camp" at about 7AM, preparing for the 8:00 start. My brother Bobby took the first shift, covering twelve laps around the half-mile track. We rotated throughout the morning, some of us running three miles, others going a bit longer. By the early afternoon, we'd run about thirty miles -- well ahead of the pace needed to reach the century mark.
|Theresa cruising along.|
The afternoon shifts were a bit of a grind due to the midday heat, especially on the back stretch of the track. We took shorter turns, about two miles or so each, and made sure to keep hydrated. It helped that three of our teammates arrived at two o'clock, relieving others who had signed on for the morning shift only. The "fresher" runners definitely were a factor in extending our lead, which ended up being critical down the road.
|Taking my turn on the night shift.|
As a side note, during the mid-afternoon I was preparing to take my turn so I shed my sweatpants. Naturally, I had my running shorts on under them, but this didn't stop one of our hilarious teachers from making the comment, "Wow. I bet there aren't too many principals who have taken their pants off in front of four teachers."
Yeah, they're a riot.
|Me and Bobby taking a break.|
Our primary goal accomplished, it was now time to focus on the Golden Shoe. With a lead of about eleven miles, it seemed like all we'd have to do was keep a runner on the track and we'd pretty much walk to victory.
And that's when Thomas the Marathon Machine showed up.
I was on the track, cruising along at a comfortable pace, enjoying the soothing sounds of Jack Johnson playing on my iPod when out of nowhere this slim-but-incredibly-fit guy in a red shirt went flying past me like a Serengeti lion in pursuit of a barbecue sauce-slathered gazelle. When I finished my shift, I asked my wife Theresa, "Who the hell is that guy?"
"Yeah, he's a ringer another team brought in. We just found out. He runs ultra-marathons all the time."
|Thomas, closing in on us little by little, smiling the whole way.|
Keeping a close eye on the live results tracking, we saw that Thomas was closing in by about one mile every hour. We figured that he had to pass us about twenty times in order to catch up. From two o'clock to about four, our lead had been cut to eight miles. But our team fought through the pain, the fatigue, the sleepiness, and kept on giving our all. It was an impressive display of heart and determination, to say the least. The focus remained on only one thing . . . "Don't Let Thomas Pass!"
It got to be pretty funny after a while. To save our energy, we eventually adopted a "one mile per shift" strategy. One teammate would go as hard as he or she could for two laps, and then the next runner up would take over. There were only about six of us left at this point, as several members of the early crew had called it a day, including Bobby who departed at about 2:30 in the morning. I was on the track, going as hard as I could, when Thomas cruised up alongside me.
"This kind of makes it fun, doesn't it?" he asked.
"Easy for you to say," I wheezed back.
"Well, I was hoping I'd be able to make up a few more miles before you guys realized what was going on."
"Oh no, we caught on to it right away. Hey, since we're just chatting here, how about you let me pass you one time, just so I can say I did?"
"Sure." He sped up a bit to get about ten yards in front of me, then he backed off. And I passed him.
"Thanks," I said as I jogged by.
"No problem, talk to you later," said Thomas as he re-passed me and sped off into the night.
|Getting our medals at the 100-mile mark. It was 2:00 in the morning.|
I was up next so I figured I wouldn't even make it to the first turn before Speedy McSpeedster overtook me again, but when I got there, I heard no one coming up on me. Turn two . . . nothing. Surely he'd catch me on the back stretch. But no, I made it through my two laps with no sign of him.
"Where'd he go?" I asked when I got back to our base camp.
"Right after he crossed the line behind Theresa, he started walking."
"Seriously? We're wearing him down! He's human!" It reminded me of that scene in Rocky IV where Rocky lands a punch to the Russian's head, opening a cut. "HE'S BLEEDING! HE'S CUT! HE'S NOT A MACHINE! HE'S JUST A MAN!"
The next time around, Thomas walked off the track to get a drink and take a break. We added two miles back onto our lead during this time. When he walked by me going back to the track, he fist-bumped me and said, "You guys are wearing me out. Keep it up!"
He's way nicer than Ivan Drago.
Still not feeling completely safe with our lead (Thomas regained his energy and increased his pace to his Usain Boltish levels in no time), I texted my brother Bobby at about 5:00:
"IF THERE'S ANY WAY YOU'RE RESTED AND CAN GET BACK HERE WE COULD USE YOU TO CLOSE THIS OUT."
|Tired, but victorious, we proudly accept the Golden Shoe.|
And sure enough, at 6:30, with an hour an a half left to hold the lead, we saw Bobby walking across the parking lot. A loud cheer went up from the rest of our team.
Okay, a medium cheer. We were tired.
Bobby took over from there, and ran six miles in the next hour or so. More than good enough to seal the victory. At the final gun, our team had covered 131 miles in 24 hours. Thomas's team (and to be honest, Thomas was the only member we saw after midnight) finished about ten miles behind.
As tired as we all were, I think our whole team appreciated the dedication and effort we put forth as a team. Some of us logged a lot of miles, others were fresher during important stretches, and others still gave it their all early in the day when we were able to build a lead. Every single teammate was a key piece in the overall performance. That's what teamwork is all about.
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the great work done by Kara and the rest of the 100-Mile Club crew in putting together an incredible event. The facilities were outstanding, the food was great, even the t-shirts were top quality (and really cool!). And of course, the medals and trophy were awesome!
We can't wait till next year . . . and of course, we WILL be implementing the 100-Mile Club at our school in the very near future!
Orange County Marathon
Newport Beach, CA
May 5, 2013