Is it possible for a human being to run 100 miles? And live?
Yes, it certainly is! I could not have imagined this 20 years ago, but thousands of people (called Ultra Runners) have completed numerous 100-mile runs and races. And I happen to know a lot of them as friends and occasional running partners.
Since 1977, the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
has been held annually on the last weekend in June. This year’s race is June 26 – 27, 2010. It starts in Squaw Valley, CA and ends in Auburn, CA, and is the oldest and most famous 100 mile race for humans in the USA. Approximately 450 “qualified” runners and over 1500 volunteers particpate in this event every year. Many of the runners have already completed a prior official 100 mile race, while others qualified by running a 50 mile race in under 11 hours, or three 50 mile races in under 12 hours within a certain number of months. The winners typically finish in 16-17 hours, and the runners must finish in under 30 hours. There are a whole lot of people who are finishing just under 30 hours. They have worked the hardest to be there, and are often the most thrilled by the accomplishment.
I have a few friends running in this year’s Western States 100, incuding Mike Palmer from Berkeley, and Jan Soderqvist from Sweden, and a few others. All of them are accomplished ultra-runners, and have more than a few other hundreds (or even longer distances) under their belts. Good luck to all of you!
In 2005, I was a “pacer” at Western States for runner Joseph Maartens from South Africa, who was running his first 100-mile race. Pacers were allowed from mile 68 – Foresthill – to the finish. So I was responsible for helping Joseph complete the last 38 miles of the race. Starting @ 9 PM, we traversed wilderness and horse trails in California’s Gold Country – with our headlamps and backpacks filled with water and supplies – through darkness initially – with aid stations about every 6-7 miles – emerging back into daylight eventually and finally civilization as we got near to Auburn. Joseph finished the 100 miles in just under 28 hours – which earned him huge props with his friends in South Africa. It was an amazing experience. I only ran 38 miles – but Joseph and 2 other friends from South Africa ran the full 100 miles! Yes, there were lots of blisters afterwards, but so many smiles!
It’s just awesome when you break through barriers and accomplish something that most people think is impossible. Of course, Joseph and all of the other runners didn’t just become ultra-runners overnight. It took years of training and running longer and longer distances with friends and support – nobody can do this alone. But it’s completely possible, as all of these finishers prove! And I didn’t become a Western States pacer overnight either. I had already completed many marathons and some very challenging 50K’s. I was confident enough to take the next step up. I think it’s important to keep on taking that next step up. It can be baby steps – it doesn’t matter. Just keep on taking that next step forward. And if you temporarily end up going backward sometimes, just know that you can always change the direction again and move forward.
I wrote a race report for my 2005 Western States 100 experience, that my friend, fellow pacer and prior Western States Finisher – Steve Reagan – posted on his website. If you are interested in reading about my very awesome experience pacing a Western States runner, go to:
And remember – if you can conceive it, and believe it, nothing is impossible.