Monthly Archives: April 2018

America’s First Ultramarathoner – Daniel Boone


America’s first Ultramarathoner?

You can’t be a marathon runner long before you read something about the legend of Pheidippideas.  According to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, Pheidippides ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians and later died.

True or not it is universally accepted that Pheidippideas was the first marathon runner.

But who was the first ultramarathoner?

Could it have been Daniel Boone?

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I have just recently watched a History channel series on “the Men Who Built America – Frontiersmen which highlighted the lives of men like Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crocket, Andrew Jackson and perhaps the first ultramarathoner…Daniel Boone.

The show is very informative, entertaining and highlights a period when our country went through great growing pains. I can’t capture all of Boones highlight here but venture to say he played a significant role in exploring and settling what is modern day Kentucky and lands west of the Appalachian/Blue Ridge Mountains.  One event from his life stood out to me as a ultramarathoner.  January 1778, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Licking River.  While Daniel was hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Chef Blackfish.

Eventually Boone and his men were taken to Blackfish’s town of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the Gauntlet.  As was their custom, the Shawnees adopted some of the prisoners into the tribe to replace fallen warriors; the remainder were taken to Hamilton in Detroit.  Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself, and given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle).

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On June 16, 1778, when he learned Blackfish was about to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 150 miles in five days.  The History channel portrays this run for freedom and Boonesborough to be on foot. If true, and I have no reason to doubt the research that went into this project.  Boone would have had to travel 30+ miles a day to reach the settlement.

What I find fascinating is that he did this without proper running shoes, without proper food/water, dressed in mostly heavy animal skins as clothing, while trying to evade capture and without chip timing or race photos.

Can’t get enough of Daniel Boone the Ultramarathon, I found this race which as it sound may run along parts of the trails Boone himself used during his 150 run.  Check out the Yamacraw 50k. 

My coonskin hat off to Daniel Boone, if not the first, certainly one of the first ultramarathoner in US history.


Umstead 100 an ultramarathon or the battle of a lifetime


Some races leave an impression on your soul.

Some people accomplish things that you’ll remember the rest of your life.

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 (Eric H)

The 2018 running of the Umstead 100 provided the perfect backdrop for epic memories.

A few of my best running friends were running the 2018 Umstead 100 and I volunteered to run the last 50-miles with one of them.  The final half of a 100 mile race can be some of the most challenging miles a runner will ever face.

A week out from race day the weather forecast looked great, mild temps and sunshine.  As the big day approached that all changed.  A cold front would be moving across the east coast from the north and would deliver rain with dropping temperatures beginning nearly as the race would start.  Standing in the lodge before the race, we all joked about how hard this day could be.  I stood among my group of friends, some veterans to the 100-mile distance, some rookies and a hand full of crew and pacers.  We all made light of the forecast, trying to discount the challenge that laid out in front of them.

As the race director announced the start of the race would be in a few minutes we moved to the door and out to the starting line.  Seemingly as we exited the building the clouds opened and the rain began to fall.  Next we heard the call, 3…2..1 Go!  A pack of nearly 250 runners were off, us non-runners retreated quickly back into the dry race headquarters and got breakfast.

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The pacers and crew planned to meet our runners at the end of every 12.5-mile loop, to help them refuel, rehydrate and to lift our runners’ spirits.  We would do that eight times.  After the first lap, as our runners began to return to the start/finish line you could not but notice hidden among the early mile smiles and hopefulness some early signs of despair.  Yes, everyone was doing well, everyone was putting up a fight…everyone was overcoming the deteriorating conditions, but the conditions were taking their toll.

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 (Jason K. and Eric H)

As I looked into their eyes with each successive lap, like dog years the 12.5-mile loop was taking more of a toll.  It simply was the worst weather conditions this race had ever been held under.  When my runner made her fourth loop it would be my turn to join the party.

A 100-mile race is a battle against your will.  I tried to capture this drama in my book Running to Leadville.  A captivating account about a lost soul, a small Colorado mining town and a 100-mile trail race that changes lives. A tale that will take you to the top of Hope Pass and beyond.

Running 50-miles compared to everyone who braved the elements all day is nothing.  If anything, it provided a ring side seat to the battle of the century.  While I paced my runner for 50-miles…

I got to see determination stare me in the face.

I foresaw a relentless drive to reach a goal.

I saw someone overcome their body as it resisted the desire to run.

I was witness to someone not letting an injury defeat them.

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(Elisa and Jill)

I witnessed the near defeated bounce back from the edge.

I felt the hurt of failure.

I had the opportunity to run with some of the toughest people on the planet.

I observed the human spirit survive.

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 (Myself, Andrea – finisher, David G. Hank S.)

I stood next to victory and triumph.

I got to see the human spirit WIN.

AND I was personally reaffirmed to the notion that you don’t know what you are capable of until you set out to do it…