Have you ever thought you were climbing a mountain? Huge obstacles in life take on different forms and shapes. They can be finances, health issues, clutter, relationships, work or just life in general! Those obstacles have a tendency to start as molehills and become mountains. Many times, we do not put those mountains in our lives on purpose; they just seem to happen.
What happens when we do put those mountains in front of us on purpose?
Last weekend, Julie, Savannah, the Old Trapper and I got to witness what happens when 110 souls decided to run up and then down a mountain that they put in their life on purpose. We witnessed these 110 runners competing in the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon where these athletes truly began climbing mountains with mindset, heart and dedication!
In this post and podcast, I will discuss the following topics:
- What is an Ultramarathon?
- What is the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon?
- The Ultramarathon Community
- Running the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon – In their Own Words
The podcast will end with Danny (my son) and David (Julie’s brother) talking about the race and looking forward to the next marathon, even though they were sore and in pain the day after the race.
What is an Ultramarathon?
For many of us, running down the block is a major accomplishment (sad but true in current America). For others, the laurels of victory is running a marathon. This is usually a road race that is 26.2 miles long. Legend has it (and according to Wikipedia) that marathons “instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory.” Legend also has it that Pheidippides died after running his race and declaring victory! Pheidippides declaring victory to the Senate is where the word “Nike” comes from as well.
For others, a marathon is not challenging enough. They need adventure and a bigger Everest to climb. The marathon is a significant hill, but they want to push the limits and face the mountain. This special breed of runner is an ultramarathoner.
An ultramarathon is a footrace longer than 26.2 miles. According to Wikipedia, “there are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during [a specified] time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 31 miles (50 kilometres), 50 miles (80.5 km), and 100 miles (160.9 km), although many races have other distances.”
Yes, friends, there are people in this world that actually think that running 50 miles or 100 miles is fun and something they WANT to do whenever possible!
What is the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon?
The Last Runner Standing ultramarathon is a the second type of ultramarathon: it is an event that takes place during a specified time with the winner covering the most distance in that specified time. Runners have 60 minutes to complete a 4.2 mile loop, and if the runner fails to finish in that 60 minute period, they are eliminated.
The winner of this race is the last runner standing. It could be at the 20-mile mark, 50-mile mark, 100-mile mark or 150-mile mark. The winner is determined by who completes the course and is not eliminated, and there is no distance limit.
According to the Last Runner Standing Facebook Page, “runners can complete the course at whatever pace they choose, but they MUST finish the race and be ready to start the next race within 60 minutes. A new 4.2 mile race will begin every hour on the hour (10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and so on…) until only one runner is left standing. If a runner fails to make it to the start line at the top of the hour, that runner is eliminated.”
While this sounds challenging enough, there is a catch: the 4.2 mile race loop is up and then down Spirit Mountain Ski Hill in Duluth, Minnesota. According to my son Danny, it was 700 feet of elevation gain per loop up Spirit Mountain.
For those of us who are not local, Spirit Mountain is called “The Puker” by local mountain bike groups that use the hill in the skiing off-season!
Our Runners: Danny, David and Ty
In 2018, my son Danny ran a 50-mile race during the insane Minnesota Blizzard in April 2018. He ran 50 miles in blinding snow, up steep slopes, through mud and against 70 mile per hour winds. It was an incredible race, and at the end, he finished in second place for the 50-mile Zumbro Endurance Run!
With the Zumbro Endurance Run under his belt, Danny got his first taste of running an ultramarathon as a competitor, and he wanted to push himself to the next level. He completed the 12-hour Loopet Lopper and came in first place after running 61 miles. He even beat some relay teams (with several different runners making up the relay team).
For 2019, Danny looked at ultramarathon races in Wisconsin. He picked one in near Whitewater, Wisconsin, but it sold out before he could register. Looking closer to home in Minnesota, he found the Last Runner Standing Race in Duluth, MN, and decided to enter.
Danny had convinced his uncle David (Julie’s brother) to consider running ultramarathons, but David was running marathons in Texas. David agreed to run with Danny for portions of the 100 mile race in Wisconsin, but when that fell through, David agreed to run with Danny during the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon.
Meanwhile, Danny connected with his high school friend Ty, who was getting back into running. Danny convinced Ty to run in this Ultramarathon. Even though Ty had never run a marathon, he decided to give this a shot.
The three runners had different goals and preparations for this race, and we will cover that in a future podcast with the runners.
The Ultramarathon Community
As I witnessed Danny’s training and the runners in this and other races, I made some observations about ultramarathon runners and their community:
- Planning and Training – Failing to plan is planning to fail. No one gets up one day and decides to run 100 miles or climb a mountain. The only way to get to that level is through solid planning and training. Runners need to come up with a plan for training to run that distance, getting enough proper nutrition during the race and changing weather conditions.
- Dedication, Habits and Mindset – To run these kind of distances in this incredible terrain with variable weather conditions, you have to train your body and mind. You have dedicate yourself to the task, develop habits through continuous practice and training and adopt a can-do and never-say-die mindset. Nothing can stop them. David Goggins is absolutely correct: you have to adopt a “can’t hurt me” attitude and core belief.
- Insanity of the Ultramarathon Community – Who are these people? Where do they come from? They are a special breed. While I could write and podcast for hours (ahem, it has taken a while to write this), they love to challenge themselves. This is the stuff our ancestors wrote stories, songs, and poems about in the ancient world! These people love to work out, no matter what. Some work out twice a day. They get that workout in no matter what time they have to get up or what the conditions are like outside. They are there, running and pushing themselves to the limit., and to them, it is normal to do so. To NOT push yourself to the limit is a failure.
- Kindness and Openness of the Ultramarathon Community – All of the people we have met and talked with at these races have been incredibly kind and open. From the organizers to the volunteers, the runners, Road Crews and the fans, everyone has been really great. We talked with these folks and congratulated them on their efforts, shared in their misery and cheered them on to the finish line. Through the Small Scale Life Instagram Feed for this race I have had conversations with Jesse Itzler (part of David Goggin’s story, thanks Rich Dierks) and Runner Karina (who was the Last Woman Running at the race). While the runners are a bit off their rocker, they are the people you want to be around.
- Creating Memories and Bonds – During the conversation that you will hear at the end of this podcast, you will hear Danny say something profound to David. When I asked them what they liked most about the course, Danny said that it was special running with David and making those memories together. This was the longest that the two had run together, and that is a really great memory to make together. When we consider where we have been in the past, this statement really hits home. It was ALL worth it: everything. If nothing else, it was worth it just to have these moments now and in the future. That is what this is all about: making memories and bonds with people who are close to you and living life to the fullest together. Well put, Danny. Well spoken.
I would like to congratulate all the runners in the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon. It was amazing, and I cannot believe the conditions of the trail. It is just amazing terrain in Duluth, and while we were there, we have incredible weather.
I also have to congratulate the overall race winner and second place finisher. The winner was Brandon Johnson who ran 129.27 miles in 31 hours. The second runner up was Brian Corgard with 125 miles in 30 hours.
Just to put this accomplishment in perspective: at the end of the race, Brandon Johnson climbed 24,300 feet. Mount Everest (29,029 feet) is only 4,730 higher than Brandon’s effort during this race! Simply amazing!
Also, I want to do a shout out to Runner Karina who finished 54.2 miles in 13 hours. She is the Last Woman Standing in this Ultramarathon. Congratulations!
Congratulations to all who ran this race! You are amazing. There really are no words to describe this accomplishment!
Running the Last Runner Standing Ultramarathon – In their Own Words
To close this podcast, I am going to let the runners speak from themselves. While I missed a REALLY GREAT discussion between Danny and David on Sunday evening after the final runner completed the course, I asked them both some questions about the race and running. They answered my questions, and while they were incredibly sore from the race, they started looking ahead to the next race: the Twin Cities Marathon in October this year.
This is raw, unscripted audio from our living room in our house in Minneapolis, and I can’t wait to get them on the show to talk about this race in more detail. Stay tuned for that!
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