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Runner Interview With Melinda Howard – Ultra Marathoner

I’ve made a ton of great running friends on Social Media.  The running community is a great place to gain information about up coming races, make connections with other runners and find inspiration.  I enjoy using my little page in the community to introduce other runners to the great people I’ve made connections with.  Each person is much more than a Facebook post, a Tweet and/or a picture on Instagram…they are my running family.

Today I would like to introduce you to Melinda Howard.  Her posts make me laugh, have inspired my running, introduced me to a dog named Paxton and a little boy named Aiden.

Hello, Melinda.

I don’t remember just where we started following each other, but I have to say I love your sense of humor, impressed with your running and your dog Paxton.
MH: Well, I do!  It was on Twitter.  I started reading your blog and commenting on your posts.  At that time, I was so very intimidated by you.  Seriously!!!  You are a very accomplished Ultra runner and I’m just a middle aged house wife out in the country of Mississippi.  Sure, I love running but I’m definitely not an elite or gifted in any way, shape or form.  So, I’d read your stuff and think, “WOW!” 

mh(Melinda and her Most Favorite Husband)

Thank you for the compliment…When I see your posts on my timeline it feels like I’m seeing an old friend that has been part of my life forever. I’m glad we met..

Tell us a little about where you came about your sense of humor.
MH:I think my love of a silly joke or maybe the need to laugh so I wouldn’t cry, stemmed from some from some unpleasant experiences. Maybe the jokes and kidding were a reaction on my part to stem off unhappiness and/or bitterness?  I knew enough to realize that I had a choice.  I could choose happiness or choose to be a bitter, angry woman.  If I chose the latter, if would eat me alive and that didn’t sound like much fun.  I elected to be a happy person!

paxton(Paxton, I’ve never met Paxton but I can tell we will be BFFs)

I love the silly pun style jokes the most, tell us about Paxton.
MH:Now, Paxton~That dog is a hoot!  He’s the first Boxer I’ve owned.  I was looking for a dog that had a lot of personality and boy, did I get one! Holy Cow!!!  Paxton was a live wire as a puppy and as cute as they come.  He grew. And grew. And grew.  I think he’s still growing!  Maybe not in height but definitely in width.  LOL!!!  One of the things we discovered about Paxton is he is vain.  He loves to wear neckties!

And Paxton wears neckties?
MH:  As a matter of fact, he throws an absolute fit if you take his necktie off.  Goofy dog!!!  Instead of trying to explain how the necktie thing got started, I’ll post the link to a blog I wrote in 2015.  The blog was a reply to somebody who had asked me why my dog wore neckties: Paxton on GQ


How did your running career start?
MH:  I took my first steps in the C25K program on Labor Day 2011, 4 months before I turned 50 years old.  My sister asked me to do the program with her.  She wanted to do it but didn’t want to do it by herself.  At that time, I had been working on dropping a few pounds.  I was a *tad* overweight.  I’m 4’11″ and had been tipping the scales at 275lbs.  Bear in mind, at the time we started C25K, I had dropped 65-70 lbs already but I was still 100lbs over where I needed to be.  Before C25K, I had been doing water aerobics and some weight training.  I thought I was in pretty good shape and figured C25K would be a cake walk.  WRONG!!!

What has been your great accomplishment since getting on this running adventure?
MH:  Wow, I could think back to races I’ve run.  I could tell you about the wonderful and amazing runners I’ve been blessed to meet around the world!  I could tell you about getting off 13 medications. I think though, my favorite accomplishment has been the, “Congratulations Sweetie! I’m proud of you!” *accompanied by a hug and kiss* I received from MFH after the Coke 10K this past May.  The Coke 10K is, in my opinion, the best 10K in the state of Mississippi.  I very dearly love this race!!!

mhcoke(Melinda and her Coke 10k award)

The Coke 10k looked like a great race….and you picked up some hardware?
MH:  This year was my fourth year.  I had run 3 years consecutively but missed it last year (2016).  #1 Son was graduating from MSU the same day as race day.  That being said, I toed the line this year!  Such a fun race!!!  Each year the Coke 10K selects three local runners and presents them with the “Gold Standard Bearer Award.”  The criteria for this award, as the race states it: “Runners who have made significant contributions to physical fitness, either by action or example….ordinary runners who have done extraordinary things.”  Somebody, and I still don’t know who, nominated me for that award this year.  Holy Cow!!! they selected me to be one of the three people to whom they presented the award!

You run for a young fellow named Aiden, could you tell us about him?


About 3 years ago, I heard about a program called IRun4Michael.  IRun4Michael matches runners with people who physically are unable to run.  For whatever reason, they simply cannot get out there and experience the joy of running.  

You fill out a little questionnaire and then go on a waiting list and wait to be matched with your “buddy”.  It’s an incredible program!!!

Each buddy has his/her own unique set of medical challenges.  When I was matched with Aiden, I had to spend some time on Dr. Google to learn about a few things.  Bless his heart but he is a fighter!!!

I waited around 8 months to be matched with Aiden.  Once I was matched, it was love at first sight.  Aiden is the bomb!  His parents are awesome, too!!!  Aiden and I, we’re the best-est running buddies ever…just ask us!!!  We were matched April 9, 2015 and just celebrated our 2 year Matchaversary!  A year ago, after Grandma’s Marathon, MFH and I were able to pop by Aiden’s house and meet him and his family.  What a great time!!!

Aiden needs a buckle from a 100 Miler and I’m determined to get one for him!

Here’s that link:  Who Do YOU Run For? | I Run 4 Michael (IR4)

I notice you travel a good bit for your races, and I believe you’re going after the 6 marathon majors, how far along are you?
MH:The 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors, have given me a terrific opportunity to do just that.  Thinking back to those first tentative steps in the C25K program, never in my wildest dreams would I (or MFH, for that matter) think that in just a few short years we’d be traveling to Berlin, Germany, or London, England, so I could run a marathon!  Kind of wild, isn’t it?  Currently, I am half way through the WMM races.  I’ve run Chicago, that was my first one, in 2014.  When I ran Chicago, I had a concussion so I ran the race staring at the ground.  If I looked up, everything would spin and I would tip over.  I highly recommend Chicago.  I don’t recommend running it with a concussion.   In 2015 and 2016, I ran the Berlin Marathon.  I loved that race so much, it deserved a repeat!  This past April, 2017, I ran the London Marathon.  What an amazing race!!!  Just WOW!  To complete the WMM races, I still have NYC, Boston and Tokyo.  I’ll try again (5th try) for NYC through the lottery.  Boston?  I don’t have a prayer of getting a BQ so that will have to be on a charity bib and probably the same for Tokyo.  These are fabulous events and I dearly love running them!

mhlondon(At London, 8th from left wearing blue hat)

Any other running goals out in front of you, seven continents, 50 states?
MH:  As much as I love marathons, speed is not my friend and I’m not getting any younger.  I’ve been shifting my focus towards ultra running.  I ran my first 50K in July 2014 and fell in love with ultras!  The trails were so much nicer to my body and I love the solitude.  That, and people don’t give you a big frowny face if/when you walk! LOL!!!

I’m planning on taking a second stab at the 100 Mile distance this December.  I’ll be returning to Brazos Bend!  TROT (Trail Racing Over Texas) puts on some terrific events and I love heading over a few times a year for one of their races.  Last December, I ran the 50 Mile event.  I decided that it would be a great race to get me a buckle!  Aiden needs a buckle and I’m determined to get one for him!  #IRun4Aiden

There’s lots of terrific challenges out there, the seven continents, 50 states…I just want to see how far I can run. 100 Miles seems like a good place to start.  I’ll be 2 months shy of 56 years old when I run that 100 in December.  I get a kick out of knowing I’m one of the oldest women on the trail.  Weird, I know, but I love it!

What has been your best race and for comparison sake your worst?  What went right and wrong in each?
MH:I’d have to say my best race was my second 50K.  Things were perfect that day!  My training and nutrition were spot on.  The weather was ideal and I set my 50K PR that day.  What an amazing race!!!  My worst would have to be my first attempt at the 100Mile distance this past February.  The weather was great but that was the only thing that went right.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong that day, did.  You know how some training runs are horrible?  It’s the pits when that happens on race day.  Holy Cow, that was an awful race! 

Do you have a favorite marathon tip?
MH:  Start slow and then go slower.  The race day adrenaline will get you when the gun goes off.  Pace yourself!  Don’t start out too fast.  If you’re patient, in a few miles you’ll be passing the people who zoomed out when the gun went off.

The other marathon tip I’d give is to already be registered for another race!  Lots of people get the post marathon blues.  Your pour your heart and soul into training for a marathon. You’re on cloud nine on race day and for a few days afterwards but then reality comes back. It’s time to go for a run and you don’t know what to do!  Your training program for that race is done!  You’ve followed if for 16 weeks or so…a piece of paper telling you what to do and now, NADA.  I’m always registered for a minimum of two races.  As soon as I finish one, I’m all ready to set my sights towards my next exciting running adventure! 

If Hollywood made a move about your running life….who would play the starting role?
MH:  The first thing I thought of, what women actors in Hollywood are 4’11″?  Hahaha!!!

And lastly what words of advice do you have for someone who is thinking about taking up running/walking or a new fitness routine?
MH:If a person is thinking about starting running /walking or trying to be more active, instead of thinking about it~Do. It!  When I started I was still 100lbs overweight!  That’s a LOT of extra weight to be carrying and yes, it DID hurt, but I did it!  After a total of 3.5 years, I had lost a total of 170lbs.  I’m here to tell you, if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it!  Maybe just a walk down your driveway and back to the house.  Maybe a walk around the block! After a while, toss in 20-30 seconds of running!  Guess what, pretty soon, the running will start getting easier and you’ll do it a little bit longer….before you know it, you’ll have run your first mile and you’ll be doing the Happy Dance!!!  You CAN do this!  I have faith in you!!!

Thank you so much, for taking time out of your busy running adventures to allow us a peak behind the humor, the nutty bars and Paxton lovable face.

Please tell my followers where they can keep up with you on the social media outlets.

Melinda is a great member of the running community, a outstanding friend and an even better person!  I highly recommend following her running adventures….and Paxton to.

Thank you,


Running – What Scares You? – Ultra Marathon

They live under the bed.  They hide in the closets and in the darkest corners of our minds.


What scares you?  Clowns.  Monsters.  Jason or is it the undiscovered creature that roams the Northwest, AKA Bigfoot?

I’m often asked how do you stay motivated, how do you add some spark to your running routine?

It’s simple I run the races and race distances that scare me.

Medoc Stairs

 (Medoc Mountain Trail Marathon)

Let’s say for the sake of this example that you comfortably and routinely run the half-marathon as your favorite, most frequently ran race distance.  To stay motivated, to add a little excitement to your training and race calendar, sign up for a Marathon.  Are those half-marathons ran predominately on road courses?  Then seek out and find a trail half marathon to add some spice to your calendar.  Or conversely, do you run the majority of your half’s on the trails…sign up for a road race.  By switching up the surface and terrain you’ll find a new outlook on your training and race preparation.

Tired of the Marathon, jump up to an ultra marathon race.  There are a number of race distances above the 26.2 mile benchmark to challenge and inspire you.

If you do not want to change up the length of your races seek out locations, elevations and terrain challenges that are a bit scary.  This unknown portion of the race will help you focus your training, varying your expectations and exercise some running disciplines that you may have overlooked or forgotten about.


(JFK 50 miler)

What race, scares me?   It’s a great race, but the JFK 50 Miler scares the crap out of me.  It might be the 15+ miles leading to and including the Appalachian Trail section.  Or maybe it’s the rapid decent at the Weaverton Cliffs…or the marathon distance on the tow path.  No matter what it is this race I love and hide under the blankets at the same time.

What race scares you?

My first run at the JFK50

My second run at the JFK50 with friends

My third run at the JFK50


Running to Remember the Fallen – Ultra Marathon – USAF – Wrath 11

Just over 12 years ago, 31 March 2005, I pulled into the parking lot of the 352 Special Operations Group, RAF Mildenhall, my duty section while in my last year of an overseas tour.
The last four years the Global War on Terror had been in high gear and the SOG was in the fore front of operations in Europe and the Middle East. During that time I was the superintendent of Deployment Logistics. In simple words, I was in charge of putting the SOG assets in a position to inflict our will on the enemy. We did it very well.
Something this morning was different. The parking lot was full and the building was buzzing with activity. At this time of the morning, this was not the norm as I was always one of the first to work.
Walking the hallways, making my way to my office I knew something was just not right. Was there another terror attack against the U.S., England or a European ally? Or something worse?
Before I could make my way to my desk, my worst fears were confirmed…we had lost an aircraft, and all those aboard.
Today, I Run to Remember the crew of WRATH 11 an MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 7th SOS. I also run for ALL THOSE who have given their life to defend this GREAT country.

Rite Aide Cleveland Marathon – Runner – Cleveland, Ohio

The 40th running of the Cleveland Marathon was…in a word OUTSTANDING.

I’ve spent much of the last 29 years moving around the country and the world.    I grew up in Erie, Pa, then joined the military.  During my 20 year military career I lived in various locations.  After hanging up my Air Force uniform I was fortunate to land an excellent job in a new location.   The last 9 years I’ve been commuting to and from my job, the word “Hometown” had lost much of its meaning.  My roots in anyone one place were never deep.  Yet, something was always a constant during this time.


(Always Connected)

I’m not from Cleveland.  I’m a Browns fan first and foremost.  With my love for the orange and brown I’ve spent a lot of time in Cleveland and have a ton of friends there.  Over the years, with many visit for Browns games, I have grown fond of the city.   In 2013, I ran the Cleveland Marathon for the first time and to be honest it was just another race. The 2014 edition, the 40th running of this great race was different, I felt like I came home.



THE EXPO: This year I was fortune to team up with Jill Grunenwald, another inspiring author to have a booth on the expo floor.  Jill wrote a book capturing her tales from running at the back of the pack with “Running with Police Escort.” I had my book “Running to Leadville” available as well.  “Running to Leadville” is a fictional story based loosely on my life and also a story about what it takes to run 100-miles in the high Colorado Rockies. I had a fun time meeting runners, readers and fans of my work. It was enjoyable to be “part” of the Cleveland Marathon Experience and not solely a consumer of the event. THANK YOU to all who stopped to talk about running, asked questions, and picked up copies of my book. It was great to meet “face-to-face” many of my SM friends and to make new ones.


Yes I’m the geek who forgot to take off his reading glasses before the race and ran the entire race with them around his neck.  My wife, Michele still thinks I’m cool and Guinness Book verified I ran the fastest marathon ever wearing reading glasses.  So I have that going for me….

THE RACE: A marathon is not easy. Although the race organizer repeatedly broadcast over the expo PA system that this year’s course was easier than past routes, I still found the 26.2 miles challenging. Maybe it was the fact I was coming off a 100-mile effort at the Umstead Endurance Race (1 April) or maybe it was the 75-miles at the 24 Hour Run Against Cancer in late April. Or maybe it was two days on my feet at the expo, but the marathon and mile 22 respectively got the best of me.

2017 Cleveland Map

2017 Cleveland Strava Map

 (My Strava Map)

As I posted on my Instagram account, few starting lines have captured my attention the way the Cleveland Marathon starting line did. Standing in the center of Cleveland, next to the Q and near Progressive field with the famous banner of Lebron in front of the crowd of racers I was hyped and ready to get to work. I thought the starting line would get to congested with all the races (marathon, half and 10k) starting at the same time, but I was wrong. The beginning of the race rolled out without issues and it was fun running with members of all race distances prior to making the split.

18556528_10213165678724910_1876440767873417334_o (1)

My wife walked the 10k and got to hang out with some “Super Heros.”

After running the city portion of the route, I quickly learned the course had some teeth to it. This was not an easy course, there were hills, turns and a mentally taxing out and back section that tested your mettle. And I enjoyed it. Later I heard some feedback on the SM circuits that some people were complaining about various aspects of the race and I’ll be honest I don’t get it. The marathon is not supposed to be easy. If the route has hills, you run them. If the course makes some twists and turns, you fight through them. If there is a long out and back section, you power along it. If you did not eat right, stood on your feet for two days and forgot to hydrate properly in the days before the race…you don’t complain…you run the best race you can.


Did I mention it rained….

The Cleveland Marathon did what it was supposed to do. The race provided a fun, entertaining tour of downtown Cleveland while making you earn the finishers medal. I finished short of my sub-four marathon goal, with a time of 4:04:06. I earned that time, I suffered to get that time and I had a wonderful time doing it.

pacers at cleveland

Hats off to the four hour pace team, pictured above, whom I ran with for much of the day.  I think their names were Ally, from Pittsburgh, and Angel, from Cleveland.  They did an outstanding job leading the four hour group.  One runner commenting that this was the best tour of the city he had ever had.  Ally later stopped to help a runner with serve cramps around mile 22, I stopped as well to help get this guy stable and left him my water bottle.


THE SWAG and POST RACE PARTY: I loved the finishers shirt and medal.  This was my 20th marathon and I have run nearly 50 ultra-events, it takes a lot to make me look at either more than once. BUT I really liked the design and color of the shirt and medal…they go together. I did not stick around for the party in Public Square, I was beat, soaked to the gills and wanted to get back to see my son (who is stationed in Cleveland with the Coast Guard) we had a chicken wing date. From what I could tell on my walk back to my car many enjoyed the post-race party.
Well done Cleveland, you hosted an outstanding race.  Although I don’t plan to move north anytime soon (too cold for my bones) I do consider this race my hometown race.

Disclosure: I was selected to be a race ambassador for the Cleveland Marathon and received a free race entry. This DID NOT influence this post in anyway. I tell it like it is…period.

Ultra Marathon Running – My 8th Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer

Once again I would run the Ultra Marathon which began my ultra marathon running career, the Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer.  This would be my 8th running of this great ultra marathon in Newport News, Virginia.  If you run a race long enough you will see and experience just about everything.

18192458_1591195744224909_1614413725968285807_o(The 5th edition of team Run4Life)

I’ve run my first 50 mile race, and my first 75 mile race at this event.  This race has also motivated me and prepared me for my first 100 mile finish.  I’ve run this ultra marathon in wind, near constant rain, extreme cold and now in what felt like the very depths of a volcano.

I love everything this race is about.  Finding a cure to a terrible disease.  Running with friends.  Being part of a great running community.  Seeing newcomers, including kids, reach their goals and become part of the fitness lifestyle.  Supporting team members as they break barriers and set course and State records.  Watching as “super seniors” establish benchmarks for our most valued members of the running world.   To have the honor of captaining a team that has won the event three out of four years, setting a course record of 914 miles in 2016.  And to witness an ultra legend as he fights to continue doing what he loves.


 (Jason K, Me, a 93 year old WWII Vet (his name escapes me),
Josh D. and Eric H. the conductor of the pain train)

BUT…this event eats my lunch nearly every year.

The First Marathon – The forecast for the weekend predicted temperatures in the 90s.  I found that hard to believe after all the 757 had experienced a stormy, but cooler than normal spring.  During the days leading up to the race I hoped the weather man had gotten his signals crossed up.


 (At times I wondered if this was a 24 hour run or swim)

My plan early on was to hang with friends, Eric and Josh following a eight and two run/walk plan Eric produced that would give us a fighting chance to reach 100 miles.  Within the first miles of the day the temps were in already in the low 70s with high humidity.  I could feel the effects of the heat and knew I would not be able to keep up their fast pace for long.  After two laps of chasing them around the 3.75 mile loop course I had to adjust my plan of attack.  To counteract the heat and humidity I throttled back in an attempt to conserve myself for the wee hours of the night.

I passed the marathon distance at 4 hours and 45 minutes into the day.

20 laps

 (The loop course at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail was in fantastic shape)

50 Miles - From the 26.2 mile point forward it was getting harder and harder to keep up the eight and two ratio.  I had fallen off the back of the Eric and Josh train early on.  With the increasing heat of the day I simply could not run at the pace they were moving at.  I dropped the faster pace for running the long segments and walking the crossover sections. This eventually gave way to running and walking as my body would allow.  My walks were at a 14:30 to 15 minute per mile pace coupled with fast pit stops I was able to stay on pace for 100 miles for most of the day.

18217393_10210829946997064_7824110_n(Wendy and Kimmy shared my 500th mile with me)

One highlight of the day was reaching my 500th mile at this event.

The heat of the day was getting to be a real factor.  The effort to keep up a good pace was taxing me when I ran and the recovery time was much longer.  I struggled at times to keep up the run/walk ratios, but I was still feeling confident.  I turned my 50th mile at 10 hours and 19 minutes into the event  at a respectable 11:14 pace.

60 Miles -   If there was a point where the wheels came off the wagon it was somewhere between miles 50 and 60.  As the hours drew on and the combined effects of the heat, humidity and the time on my feet mounted I began to feel the bottom fall out.  In years past I’ve lost the 24 hour war at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail for physical reasons…the 2017 edition I was losing on the mental front.  I’m going to be 100% honest.  Just 28 days removed from my 100 Mile PR at Umstead…I just did not want to suffer again.  It was growing harder with each lap to get myself back out on the trail.  The laps got lonelier and lonelier as the race field got thinner and thinner  and with each time I took to the trail I knew I was fighting for my race life.

I reached the 60 mile mark at 13 hours and 04 minutes into the event.

67.5 and the finish.  I did something at mile 67.5  that I rarely ever do during an ultra-marathon.  I sat down.  On my 18th lap, 15 hours and 19 minutes into the race I was mentally broken.  The heat of the day won, I was beaten.  I was tired. I was worn out, hurting and soaked to the skin.  I had been soaking wet for more than 15 hours.  In truth I wanted to be anywhere else but there.

I was done.  Sitting in camp, I had been off my feet for five minutes when a friend and former team member Lloyd said he would go out with me if it would keep me in the fight.  Being two laps short of my fall back goal of 75 miles I asked Lloyd if he had two laps in him.  He told me he did and we headed back out onto the trails.

18156623_1172367826207583_3221564753755021645_o(Receiving my 500 Mile Jacket from RD George N.)

I finished the race with 75 miles at 17 hours and 38 minutes into the 24 hour event.  I was once and for all done.

Buckles – Medals, Trophies and that “second” Boston Marathon medal…oh my

I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for race bling about as bad as anyone.  I like getting something to signify the accomplishment of running a race.  I understand it’s not an award for my stellar performance…it is a token of the accomplishment .  It’s a souvenir for “completing” a race.   Nothing more…nothing less.


Some would say that receiving race medals is the same as every kid getting a trophy for completing a soccer season.  But I don’t believe so.  Most youth sports are competitive.  Standings are kept, the seasons are designed to produce a champion, and all star teams are selected.  In adult running their is a competitive side but 99% of those who enter a race have no shot at winning, myself included.  Our victories are not measured against the other runners but against real competition.

Our victories come against some of the toughest competitors in life, our work schedules, our family commitments, our health challenges, demons from our past and our genetics.

My issue comes in the latest internet meltdown over the runner who choose to “take” two Boston Marathon medals to give one to his wife.  Read the original story here and the update one here with an apology from the runner.


Did she deserve a token for all her commitment to her spouses goal, for her efforts in support of her husband reaching his goals?  I’m sure she did…

What bugs me is this is what is wrong with our society…where someone “choose” to take something because they thought they had a right.  He, this random runner, thought he had a right to something he did not pay for, deserve or was warranted.  This fellow runner wanted something and against all standards of right and wrong took it.  That is my issues.

I recently finished my second 100 mile race at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run and by rule you do not get a buckle for multiple finishes.  This race only awards buckles for first time finishers.  I disagree with this rule after all I paid the same entry fee and I completed the same 100 miles as the first timers.  After 21 hours, 36 minutes and 36 seconds when the race director greeted me with a buckle in his hand, a buckle I wanted so badly…he asked me if this was my first finish.   I told him “this was my second.”  My heart sank when he put that buckle away.

I’m not telling this story for anyone to say how great Brian is….but to point out let’s start doing what is right by society.   I would hate to forever look at that second Umstead buckle and know I took something by deceit.  To me that second Boston medal and the internet attention it has gained will forever tarnish this runners accomplishment.


I got my second Umstead buckle…I mailed in my request and paid the”extra” $35.00 for it.  It arrived yesterday!  I earned this buckle and my wife earned it as well.


(Michele and I after my first finish)

I love you Michele…

Umstead 100 – Ultra Marathon Racing – Running – It takes a village

Umstead 100 – Ultra Marathon Racing – Running 100 Miles It takes a village


Heading into my 2nd Umstead 100 I knew things were going to be different.  That first 100-mile ultra marathon race was a door to a whole new world.  It was also a door that I knew I would have to pass thru pretty much on my own.  For that race I had my wife as my crew (her first-time crewing for me) and my good friend George and new friend Ben as my pacers for the final laps.  Although I had run with George many times I really had no idea what to expect out of a pacer nor what I could ask for.  Running 100-miles was new and having a support team was new.  I finished that race well in front of my goal with a time of 22:51:05.  You can that race report here.

Umstead 2017 would be different for two reasons. One I would have a village behind me and the second I was running for someone else.  In the 3 years since my first adventure at Umstead a lot has changed.  I’ve grown a small social media following in the ultra running world.  I’ve moved to the Cary/Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina, home to the Umstead race.  And I’ve become a member of an ultra-running family that cares for and supports each other.  I would enter my second third 100 mile race with a support village behind me.

This village did two things.  First, it set me at ease knowing I was going to be in good hands.  I had 100% confidence in my crew/pacers.  I also knew that I would have a larger extended support system out on the trails if things got tough.  That is one thing about the ultra-circle we run in, many are willing to sacrifice their race to help you if you are down and out.

17630035_10210432097733010_8819019766113425322_n(Eric’s wife and crew Jenn,  with my crew Andrea and Elisa)

The goal for the day was to run a smart race, a well-paced race and a race that would give me a chance to reach a new PR.  But mostly I wanted to run a race that would not let me fail.

Pre-race my support crew of Andrea and Elisa arrived at my house Friday night and after settling in we went over race logistics.  We covered my pit stop plans, what my re-fueling needs would be and pacing for the final 50 laps.  I knew that my crew would be dedicated to my success but I was a bit overwhelmed with the level of sheer desire I felt from them to help me reach my goals.  These were not two girls who had been suckered into helping me, I could tell they were bought into my success and cared deeply for me.

Read about Andrea’s Umstead 100 finish here.

My plan was to run the first four laps at sub 2:30 per lap pace.  This would deliver me at the halfway point at 10 hours.  From there I would pick up pacers for the remaining four laps, Elisa would run lap 5 and 6, Andrea lap 7 and 8.  My goal for these final fours laps was to run at a sub 3:00 per lap pace.  This would have me finishing at 22 hours, 51 minutes ahead of my PR.


 (Early on in the day, and no they are not….)

Pit stops would be as fast as possible.  I told the girls during these stops, as much a possible I did not want to stop moving.  I created lap bags each containing the food, meds, and snacks I would need for the next lap.  We also made plans to take advantage of our ideal pit location (red dot on map) where I would see them twice on the completion of each lap, once going into the HQ loop turn around and again on my way out.  On the inbound leg, I would hand them my water bottle, and any requests I had for the pit stop.  These girls were on it…



 (2018, going to get some buckles for these two)

When I returned on my way out they had everything lined up and ready to go.  Since I was picking up rocks in my shoes they had a chair ready and removed, cleared out and had my shoes back on in seconds.  Once back on my feet one or both would walk along with me as I took on food/meds until I was ready to be on my own again.  They were FLAWLESS!

F L A W L E S S. 

I kid you not over the course of the day I was off my feet maybe 15 minutes…and I doubt if it was that long.  I owe them a ton of love, respect, and thanks.  I knew they were going above and beyond the call of duty when I heard one of them in a the middle of a shoe clean out say, “I don’t even touch my husband’s feet.”  These girls will forever be my trail sisters.  Much love and respect.

Lap 1, 12.5, miles, 2:20:19/2:20:19
Lap 2, 25 miles, 2:21:48/4:42:07
Lap 3, 37.5 miles, 2:27:11/7:09:18
Lap 4, 50 miles, 2:39:16/9:48:35

The first four laps went off much as I wanted except, it was hotter than we liked.  I say we since I was running with a good friend Eric H.  Eric is a few years younger than me, and in all fairness in much better shape.  What I had on him is experience.  I have several runs over the 50-mile distance…including two 100 mile finishes.  Eric is much faster than me but had yet to pass the 50-mile mark.  My goal was to slow him down on the opening 50 without cramping his style while gaining from the faster pace.  I knew it would be a delicate balance.

It worked…  We ran together, told stories, talked about life and the later stages of the race.  The best thing was that we achieved all of our pacing goals without blowing out my legs or without messing with his cadence.  I really enjoyed the miles we spent together.

You can read Eric’s recount of the race here.

17553407_10155212566281204_5696616247671609604_n(Half way home…and 50 to go!)

Half way home and this is where the race gets serious.  During our 50 mile pit stop and a few after that I would look over at Eric and he did not look so good.  I got in and out so fast that many times I was a good way down the trail before we would catch back up with me.  In the later stages although he was running strong I wondered when the wheels might come off for him.

Lap 5, 62.5 miles, 2:42:04/12:30:40
Lap 6, 75 miles, 2;49:13/15:19:53

I was not ready for the wheels to come off for me.  On the return trip from the airport spur I got very concerned.  Over the course of maybe 3 /4 of a mile I got hot.  I felt weak.  I struggled to keep up my leg turn over.  The next thing I knew I had fallen off the back of our group.  Eric and Dewy (his pacer for the final 50) and Elisa were a good 50 yards in front of me and I was losing ground.  I had been drinking and eating…so I had no idea what was going on but a wave of heat had overcome me and I thought for a moment that this is how the race begins to come apart.  I made my way back to the intersection of the headquarters loop and the main trail.  Slowly I cooled off enough to stay at a steady pace knowing that if I could make it to the first unmanned aid station…there would be cold water to help with my condition.

17634562_10210432106813237_4613676494477197484_n(It was some where around here that it (I) got hot…)

It worked thus began the tradition of dumping cups of cold water over my head for the next 45 miles.  At every remaining aid station, I would take a few sips of cold water from one cup and dump a full cup of water over my head and around my neck.  This worked like magic.  I kept this up for the rest of the night including on the final lap.

Lap 7, 87.5 miles, 3:00:08/18:20:02
Lap 8 100 miles, 3:16:34/21:36:36

Looking back on lap 8, I think I gave up on myself.  I knew I had a good time in the bank, my legs were fired, my left Achilles (which had been hurting nearly all day) was killing me.  During that last lap, I gave a little time back to ensure I did not blow up on the final lap.  My main goal for the day was to finish…because this race I really ran for someone else.

My Mom.

My Mom passed away 27 December 2017 and I ran for her.

My mom had a hard life.  Things did not always go as planned for her.  She made the best of her situations and lived life on her terms.  She tried her best to provide for my sister and I but she was a single mother when it was not cool or had the support of the community.  Still she worked hard, and gave up much of her own dreams to provide for us.  And She was always there for me.  She was not fond of my running extreme distances fearful I would hurt myself.  After-all “I was her little boy.”  Although concerned she always wanted to hear in great detail about my adventures.  I would often call her from the starting lines of marathons, during races, or after the Grand Canyon to tell her where I was.


 (Nancy Jane Burk, my Mom)

She was on my mind all day.

I wanted to finish for her…

Mom, I finished!


(To My ROCK STAR crew, Elisa and Andrea, Thank you!)

A Few Steps Aways – Running – Life – and Tomorrow

With the advent of fitness watches, the world is concerned with their step count.  In the course of a day without even bringing up the topic I hear a number of times “I got in 10,000 steps today.” Or “I’m 1,000 steps short.” and “I need to walk/run a few more steps tonight.”

DCrainmaker(Image borrowed from DC Rainmaker)

After my 8 mile run tonight, I looked at my gps watch noticing that I had moved 18,724 steps…seeing that number on the face of my Garmin I wondered where these steps had taken me.  And more importantly where are they taking me?

It’s not the steps…it’s the result.

A single step can move you

One step closer to your goals.

One step further away from “the past.”

One step from hurt, anguish and regret.

One step closer to restoring relationships.

Improved health.

One step further away from mistakes.

Closer to where we can stop running from the ghosts of our past.

One step from surrender.

One step closer to someone who loves you.

One step nearer the new you that you want to become.

One step closer to open arms.

One step closer to the finish line.

Life is not made up of major movements.  Few things in this world can be corrected changed or their course diverted with one massive, singular, course changing movement.  Most victories, battles, and achievements are set into motion by taking one step.


Runners helping Runners – National Brain Tumor Society and the Boston Marathon

Running the Boston Marathon is a goal for some, for others it’s about LIFE and DEATH.


Ryan Robertson’s story about both.

March of 2010 seems like an eternity ago, but it’s a month I’ll never forget.  I was feeling great, training for some summer races, and had a week long rock climbing trip planned to Nevada at the end of the month. After going out for a run one day, I noticed that the left side of my face felt slightly numb. After a few days of increasing numbness, I checked in with my doctor who suggested an MRI.

Feeling completely confident that it would turn out to be nothing, I was shocked to learn that, at the age of 25, I had a type of brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma. Even more devastating, was finding out the tumor was nearly the size of a tennis ball. In less than 24 hours, my general practitioner contacted Dr. Allan Friedman at Duke, considered by many to be the top brain surgeon in the world. As you can imagine, Dr. Friedman is incredibly sought after and busy. He wasn’t taking any appointments that day, but after seeing my MRI, agreed to meet with me right away.


Two months later I underwent brain surgery with Dr. Friedman and another world renowned brain surgeon, Dr. Fukushima, who happened to be teaching as an adjunct professor at Duke. The surgery was scheduled to take around 6 hours but ended up lasting 13 as the doctors worked with meticulous precision trying not to damage nerves that could have left the side of my face permanently paralyzed. Thanks to their skill, expertise, and precision I came out of the surgery with great results. The entire team that worked with me at the Duke Brain Tumor Center was phenomenal. Within a couple months of surgery I was back to running, rock climbing, and working my way through graduate school classes. I’m incredibly thankful for the results of my surgery, but unfortunately, being diagnosed with a brain tumor doesn’t always end the same way.

I consider it a great privilege to be able to run the Boston Marathon and raise money on behalf of the National Brain Tumor Society. Funding for research is continually leading to better treatments for brain tumors and the hope that a cure will eventually be found. Please join me in this continuing journey and the fight against brain tumors. I was incredibly thankful to have this world-class facility just a few miles down the street. Beyond the high caliber of everyone I’ve had the pleasure to encounter at Duke, the thing that impressed me most was their level of knowledge, skill, and teamwork. Their cutting edge research and technology gave me confidence that everything would work out. I would wish the same peace of mind for anyone diagnosed with a brain tumor.

How can you help?  PLEASE visit Ryan Robertson’s Crowd Rise page and make a donation.  Any amount helps…lost for a number, 26.2 sounds good.


Marathon – Running A Sub Four Hour Marathon – Myrtle Beach Marathon

Running a sub-four hour marathon in a dream location.  There are some races that you size up and target for a good day.  The elite runners call them goal or feature races.  Coming off my second sub four-hour marathon at the City of Oaks Marathon in November, I wanted a spring race that would provide an opportunity to repeat that performance.  Myrtle Beach Marathon with is advertised flat and face course seemed like the perfect stage for another sub four or maybe even a new personal record.  Myrtle Beach Marathon on March 4th become my feature race.  Then the winds of fate had their say.

cover photo 2017

With a fully loaded race calendar I opened the doors on the month of February on target and hopeful of a good showing in the March marathon.  Then during a simple five-mile run my right calf painfully locked up for the second time in five days.  It was if the cold hand of the Grim Reaper himself reached out and put the touch of death on my spring running plans.  I was days away from a 40-mile mountain race and a month out from my goal race at Myrtle Beach.  I thought for sure all was lost.

With much uncertainty, and after three weeks off I nursed myself back and toed the line at 6:15 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning.  I stood there in the corral amongst numerous others complaining about the cold.  Also weighing on my mind was the fact that my longest run in the last four weeks had been a paltry eight miles.  I questioned if I would get through this race in one piece.  I also questioned if I would be smart enough to limit the damage if something did go wrong.  One thing for certain I would find out soon as Myrtle Beach offers a flat, fast and fantastic marathon experience.


FLAT - With Myrtle Beach’s relatively flat course I was thankful I would not have to put my calf to the test of climbing a lot of hills.  From the get go the course lived up to its billing.  What elevation changes the 26-mile course could offer up could have been measured with a 25-foot tape measure.  At the end of this race I would not have the excuse that I lost time on the hills.  In fact, during the race my main thought was wondering if my right calf would let me finish.  If my wonky calf held up I was determined to not leave anytime on the course.

FAST - Heralded as South Carolina’s fastest marathon course, I believe that statement to be 110% true.  Outside of the already mentioned flatness of the terrain, there were no awkward sections of the course that I felt cost me time.  Yes, there were a few out and back sections but those had wide sweeping turns that did not bog down my leg turnover or cadence compared to some races I’ve run where I had to downshift into first gear just to get thru the hairpin curve.

If you’re looking for the BQ time or a personal record I can’t think of a better venue them Myrtle Beach.

FANTASTIC – I had a great time in Myrtle Beach.  From the expo, where for the first time I was there as a vendor promoting my recently release book Running to Leadville, to the starting area, the course, the finish and the local community support.  Everything was spot on…normally at some point during my previous races there had always been a moment where I said “what the heck was the Race Director thinking?”  But I failed to have that moment this weekend.  My wife even commented that I did not have my typical race blow up moment this weekend.

I honestly had a great time at this race.  I met a lot of nice people at the expo, got to hang out with a great Running store with Roanoke Island Running Company, sold and signed a few books and ran the entire race without calf pain.  I had a FANTASTIC time in Myrtle beach and running the Myrtle beach Marathon.




U.S. Military Endurance Sports team long sleeve tech shirt
OPEDIX compression shorts
Injinji trail socks
Nike Air Pegasus shoes
Garmin 920 GPS watch
Sleefs USA arm warmer
Running Buddy pouch to carry my phone
GU strawberry banana gels
Nathan handheld with 20 oz bottle of lemon Gatoraid and gel mix
Julbo sunglasses
Recovery Drink by Cocoa Elite
Race Dots – No Pin Holes

RESULTS: My calf was never an issue, I might have felt it around mile 8, or it may have been my mind playing tricks on me.  I ran a perfect race, kept my pace under control, refueled before it began an issue, stayed on my hydration plan.  The result…a marathon personal record time by over two minutes.  I ran a 3:56:06 at the City of Oaks, at Myrtle Beach I bested that time with a 3:53:47 cutting 2 minutes and 19 seconds off my time.  More rewarding for me was that I was able to back up my 2nd sub-four-marathon 3 months later with my third, SUB-FOURS back to back.


When I posted on Facebook live how happy I was with my sub-four finish a number of running and non-running friends asked why I seemed so happy.  I normally don’t judge my race times against others, or against established times by other runners.  For me the sub-four marathon is the mark of validation that I’m a serious marathon runner, or serious runner in general.  I’m not implying that this standard is a measure on others…it is a standard I impose on myself.  It’s a point of validation for me and me alone.

My thoughts on pre-race nutrition and race strategies on aid stations.


EXPO:  This was the first expo where I was part of the event.  I had the great fortune to hanging out with Shane and the Roanoke Island Running Company who helped me make my book Running to Leadville available.  I also got to meet a lot of great people.  If you would like a signed copy you can get one direct by clicking here.

A sub-four-hour marathon for me is victory…