Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running 25 Hours

Recently, while perusing the GUTS message boards, I came across this:

“Hey, my 25th birthday is on January 30th and for my birthday challenge I am going to run 25 hours!! I will do so at Roswell Area Park starting the morning of the 29th at 8am. My car will serve as my aid station & any fellow ultra runners who would like to stop by and run some miles, bring food, support etc.”

The ambitious man’s name was Jon Obst and I quickly send him a note saying I would be there to help him out. Having read many 100 mile race reports, I knew that the pre-dawn morning hours are usually the hardest. So it was that I set my alarm for 3.30 a.m. this Wednesday morning to drive up Roswell and help pace Jon. It was so early that the 24 gas station by my house wasn’t selling coffee yet (waaah?), so where else can you go get coffee at such an hour? That’s right, Waffle House! For those of you not aware, WaHO, as it is affectionately called by many, is a Southern institution. They have outstanding hash browns, grits and, well, waffles. Arriving at WaHo, I knew I was the only person in there already up. Everybody else was still up.

Grits, anybody? Ok, coffee will have to do this morning.

Driving up to Roswell, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. After all, I had never met Jon. And here I was going to run in some park in the middle of the night wit a guy I had never met. (Smart!) Arriving at Roswell Area Park, I quickly found Jon’s car. The GUTS sticker and WS100 license plate frame sort of gave it away.

It was cold that morning. A massive storm front with high winds had passed through late the previous evening. How did they run through that? Incredible! Tuesday had been a warm day with highs in the 60s, but now the temperature had dropped to the low thirties with strong wind gusts. The wind chill must have been in the 20s or even teens. I was shivering and just waiting. All of the sudden I see a woman staggering towards her car completely exhausted. Was she running with Jon? It turns out she was. Heather had driven down from Louisville do to this challenge with her. But this was a low point. 80+ miles, a 35 degree temperature drop and driving rain will do that to you. I helped Heather change her gloves, which were soaking wet, to two pairs of wool socks to keep her hands warm.

Soon after Jon arrived. He gave me a bear hug, clearly stoked to see me (hey, why wouldn’t you be?). Jon seemed in much better shape than Heather. His dad had been running with him throughout the whole night. Other runners (friends, GUTS members, etc.) had joined in the fun the previous day as well. Ultrarunning is definitely a team sport. No doubt about it.

Jon competing at the Mountain Mist 50k 2008 last weekend.

After a quick bite to eat, we were off. I felt a little awkward at first. Never having paced anyone over such a distance or having attended 100 mile run, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to encourage as best I could. But after few minutes the ice was broken. Jon was running at a surprisingly fast clip (Heather, too). With walk breaks, we were doing about 14 or 15 minute miles. Jon and I talked a little but quickly the conversation was mostly between me and his dad (he had a little bit more energy).

I learned that Jon was diagnosed a ype I diabetic (he was checking his blood sugar every hour) at age 19 right around his first marathon. Since then he has moved on to ultras and already conquered the 100 mile distance. Boy, oh, boy, what an inspiration. His determination, I could tell, was fierce and he had a wonderful attitude even at this late stage in the game. Only three days prior, Jon had competed at the Mountain Mist 50k and placed 28th in a super-competitive field. The 4:16:53 he laid down on a hilly course at the Fat*ss 50k is further evidence of his incredible ability.

Jon finishing Mountain Mist

Overall, I spent a little over two and a half hours out there and left at the break of dawn. And I think I made a new friend. Congratulations, Jon, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

(I really wish my camera hadn’t died on me, I would have loved to have taken more pictures. I'll upload the two I did take later on.)


Adam said...

That was sweet. What a way to start the morning. Was this a local guy that maybe you can latch on to and run with down the road? It would be good training for your first 100 miler next year...did I just say that.

runningtwig said...

What a great story! And how awesome for you to go out there and take part. I just turned 31...don't think I could run that long - my 2 hour run today was enough!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

very nice of you, especially when so cold. hopefully Jon can crew a little for you some day. Congrats, Jon, if you ever read this. I need some sort of official organized event to put myself through that much sleep deprivation.

Rahn said...

Nice. I saw this posted on the GUTS forum a while ago, unaware of who anyone was and if I'd ever meet them.

Jon is the same person I talked to recently at the Pinhoti 100. Nice guy, and inspiring. I think I even ran about a 100 yards with him at one point while taking pictures.