VA 24-Hour Ultra Run Against Cancer (a little long but I hope worth the read.) I’ve dedicated this race to those who are fighting cancer.
When I say I’m going to run for someone I don’t take this pledge lightly. This year I ran for my sister-in-law Stacy Diedrich. In August while Michele and I visited family we found out as she did that Stacy had cancer. For such devastating news, Stacy never let it get to her or interfere with our visit.
I toed the line this year with Stacy heavy on my heart. The first 26-miles of this race went well, I felt strong and more than capable of my second 100-mile finish in three weeks. Then as it often does in life and ultra running it all went away. From miles 30-40 I wasn’t sure I could run another mile let alone another 60+. My legs hurt, my feet hurt and at moments I just did not want to be out there. As the longer nighttime hours of daylight savings time lingered, I wanted to call it a day. Then I thought about Stacy and her family…my family.
How in my right mind could I give up? Stacy does not get to give up, she has to fight for herself and her family. She has to fight for her life. I thought about her, and I prayed. A whisper away from defeat, I set a goal of getting to a double marathon…maybe that would be enough. At 52.5-miles it got a little better, maybe I could get to a 100K. Maybe a 100K would be enough for me and for #StacyStrong. It hit me again…Stacy can not accept halfway, she can’t accept almost. Stacy’s goal is life not close enough. I prayed for strength. Somewhere after 62-miles, I knew I could do it. With a close eye on the clock, I would have to keep moving, stay positive, and stay ahead of the 1 lap an hour goal to reach 100-miles.
With a little help from my friends, pizza, and chicken nuggets things changed. I got to spend a few laps with my running family and I can’t thank them enough. On the outside other runners told me I looked strong, but inside there were moments I was crashing. For 75% of this race, I ran alone as I was never able to link up with my Run4Life team. Lindsey, Katie, Jeff, Wendy, Lewis, Jeff, and Steve…your laps with me came at just the right time. When I needed you guys you there for me.
After 99-miles the sun appeared as I ran out of a wooded section on the trail. As its warm rays appeared over the horizon casting a hue over a small body of water. I did something I never do in a race, especially in the closing miles. I stopped running and called my wife. Hearing her voice on the other end of our digital connection broke me. I told her how I struggled, how I wanted to stop…I told my wife how Stacy helped me and I hoped that my silly little run could help her. We cried…she thanked me for helping her family in this way.
With over a mile to go, I put my head down and got back to work. The finish line never looked so good. I’m so thankful that I get to do this, that I get to run and represent those who can’t, and maybe these miles have helped.
Not discounting the toll on humanity and the very real cost of lost in lives, income, and stability. But I wanted to take a look at how this challenge has affected the running world. I asked this question on Facebook, the answers helped motivate and inspire me.
Community: Not going against federal/state laws, but you “can” stay in touch with the community. I’ve been reading more running posts, watching more running videos, and cheering on the virtual races on SM to keep the connection going.
Goals: Times change, the world changes, and our race goals change. We might out in the long run that this time off from racing helped us redefine our long term running goals. I’m reconsidering my race calendar for the future.
Motivation: Without a finish line and some bling many are finding other motivation sources.
The New Normal: Running has so many outlets…this challenge may have opened doors long closed or never opened…providing new trails, challenges, and future success.
We each must face this challenge in a way that best suits our needs, our lifestyle, and our concerns. But no matter how you face the next day or the next mile, running is not, and will not be canceled if you head out the door.
Then the news appeared as a simple e-mail in my inbox.
“Dear Runners, It is with heavy hearts that we are canceling the 2020 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.
Due to the situation the COVID-19 pandemic has created in North Carolina, the state is cancelling all park permits for groups of over 100 people, which included our permit at Umstead……..”
I understand, respect and support the decision. But hold my Gatorade.
On the same day that the Umstead 100 should have been run, I set off on my personal endurance challenge the “NO VIRUS 100.” A solo ten-lap run around our lake community. To run 100-miles your why needs to be bigger than you. This run carried some extra weight. I carried a purple banner on my vest to remember Theresa (Terri) Banks and to honor my daughter Jessica.
The plan was to run ten loops around our lake community. An aid station would be set up at our home and I would carry enough hydration/fuel to get around the lake. No big deal, I’ve run solo 100s before, right?
At 52-miles I thought my soul was being ripped out of my being. Laying on the garage floor, my breathing was out of control, my heart rapidly maxed out and I was unable to communicate with my wife. I could not see how I could take another step let alone another 50-miles.
It really was a perfect day until it wasn’t. Starting at 5 in the morning I pushed through the early hours right on plan for my first sub-20 hour 100. I was feeling great even running long sections of the loop making up lost time from the 10,000 small but merciless hills in our community. Each lap averaged over 800ft of gain over the 10.25-miles. logging 42-miles in under 8 hours I was cruising along destined for sure victory.
Then it got hot, my hydration ran out after forgetting to fill my bottle on the previous loop. And the heat took away my desire to eat. After a steep climb, the bottom began to drop out of my day. With nothing to drink, the heat reflecting off the blacktop and my belly empty I began to melt into a weaken imagine of my former confident self. Stumbling into my home base pitstop I was suffering from a caloric deficiency. I “Bonked” hard.
In runners terms, the Bonk is basically a complete shutdown of all of the body’s systems.
Bent over me on the floor of my garage my wife was pleading “Honey what do you need?” I couldn’t get an understandable phrase out, all I could mutter in undetectable tones was I didn’t know. I knew I was crashing but I couldn’t reason that what I needed was food. My race was ending as I was falling fast… Then out of the blue Bryan S. owner of Run N Tri Outfitters in Wake Forest, NC stopped by my house. This was unplanned, unexpected and so welcomed. Bryan was in the neighborhood delivering shoes when he figured he would stop in and say hi. It was about this point that the weight of failing with so many people around our community aware of what I was doing weighed on me. I could not fail, I didn’t want to fall short in front of my friends, my family, the community and at a distance my daughter. I knew I had to get up and get moving. Bryan was a big help. Walking the road leading to my loop he carried my food, handed me a slice of pizza and told me I would be okay. I figured if he could get me to the end of the road, I would in fact be okay.
We made it to the end of the road, and Bryan in a long sleeve shirt, jeans and nearly new shoes didn’t stop. This crazy guy who spells his name “wrong” ran, walked and hiked with me for 10.25-miles telling me the entire time how inspiring I was to him and the running community he built in NC. What….I was near death and I’m inspiring. If your running store owner doesn’t show up and run/walk/hike you back from the brink of death…you need to visit Run-N-Tri.
Over the night, my wife did 7 miles with me, and a neighbor Ryan B. whom I only met once before, and simply in passing, jumped in for 10.25-miles. An older couple Brad and Gil met me on every lap as I went by their house with water and smiles. Even into the 22d hour Brad and Gil were there! As I fought my way back from near defeat people kept telling me how inspiring I was. It was “the community” that came out to support me that kept me in the fight until eventually, I was running strong again. I finished my race by crossing over a chalk-drawn finish line signed by my friends and family.
At the end of a long day of constant movement, I finally sat still and let it all soak in. My wife then placed a handmade finishers medal (Thank you Katie) around my neck.
We did it…
I finished the 1st and I hope last “No Virus 100” with 102.50-miles in 24:39:00 but more importantly, I finished feeling like the most blessed runner ever.
Thank you, Lake Royale, Thank you Run-N-Tri Outfitters and Bryan. Thank you Ryan, Brad and Gil, Vince and Katie, Laura, Amanda and Ava, Rosie and Al, Lance and everyone who drove by, stood on their porches, waved, honked and offered me a bottle of water or a bucket of chicken and a cold beer.
Thank you, Michele……there’s no way I could have finished
Thank you, Terri…for putting up such a brave and courageous fight, for 19 years you fought your ultramarathon against breast cancer. As an X-husband, I simply stayed quiet and admired you from afar. Rest in peace.
Thank you, Mike…you gave Terri everything she needed. I respect you more than words could ever express.
Social distancing, solo running, virtual races and broken dreams. Is this the new normal for our running community.
Many of us did not see this coming, but when the largest moneymaker on the planet shut its doors (Disney World) I knew the world was going to change. Then the race cancellations came, Boston, Umstead, Western States and I fear “Leadville.”
What can you do?
Myself, I continue to run and train with the faint hope that my goal race, Leadville Trail 100 will go on but I’m worried. I’ve been training with an eye on tomorrow, whatever tomorrow looks like. For me to run at the level I need to I have to be chasing a goal. And in times like these, I believe that is important for all of us.
Focus on the health benefits of being active. If you can’t get the social fix that running brings to your life never lose focus on how running improves your physical/Mental health. I enjoy running alone or with a group and racing keeps me focused but for the short term we may have to find other forms of community.
So whats next?
Are virtual races, and personal running challenges the way we will test ourselves in the future? When the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC got canceled instead of sitting idle I ran 26.2-miles on race day to get my 38th marathon in. Many other runners online have posted similar runs including one guy in the UK who ran around his backyard to get in his marathon completed. I’ve also seen many folks participating in personal challenges whether it being the “3 x 4-miles a day challenge or backyard ultras.” Are “FKTs” going to be the next big wave to stay motivated? Will “Peleton and Zwift” style treadmill races going to be the new standard of competition? Can you see a world where “I-Marathons” catch on the way NASCAR and INDY CAR have embraced virtual racing?
What will the new running world look like for you?
The world and RUNNING will survive this challenge, but it’s going to change. How it changes and whether you continue your running journey is up to you. As long as you run you’re a runner. Races will change, the virtual race organizers will fill the void. I can see a world where if you post a Strava segment over a prescribed distance you’ll earn the bling that so many of us collect. I see FKTs being posted more often and over more routes. I see PRs on treadmills being the next benchmark much like a “BQ” time standard. And I see a day when our races return.
We will shape the new world..Running and otherwise. Stay focused, stay safe, keep running, embrace the change and you’ll be ready for the future.
Trying to keep up with the Jones… We are all searching for that little something extra. That something magical to shave a few seconds off our personal record. A little extra edge to make that mountain climb a little less tasking on our legs. That extra zing in our lungs to finally take home the age group award. We strive to be a better runner.
But what is it that makes you a better runner?
Is it the shoes? Sure,
a lot on money has been spent on developing the latest high-tech innovation,
but as flashy as a new pair of kicks may be.
Will new shoes really make you jump higher, run faster or laydown those
long run miles with less bonk and more victory?
Is it the watch? I love all the “run” data that is available today. At our fingertips is more than a timepiece, we can map our routes, record our pace, and log our segments. Does all that wealth of information help to improve the run experience? We can find out a lot about our performance as a runner, but does it make the beauty of the solo run any more breathtaking?
Is it the hot new outfits? All the cool colors, flashy prints, and corporate logos help to make me feel like part of the “in” crowd or the A-list. I may feel the part. I may look the part, but does wearing that latest shirts, shorts or leggings make the run any more performance building?
What makes you a better runner? Improved form? New
levels of fitness?
For me, it’s my attitude.
When I run for the pure pleasure of feeling my body moving,
I run better.
When I run to get lost in nature, the miles have more purpose.
When I run to bring someone along on my adventure, the experience
When I get outside to celebrate life, a life I’m blessed to be able to move under my own power, I move easier.
When I run for someone who can’t. I enjoy life just a little bit more.
What makes you a better runner…not faster, not more accomplished or able to run longer. Share with us, what makes you a better runner?
2019 – A year that would best be described as a year packed full of challenges, turmoil, self-doubt, and rebounds.
GOALS/RESULTS: Yearly Mileage: 2500/1897.6, came up short* Avg. Monthly Mileage: 200+/158.3, came up short* Avg. Weekly Mileage: 50+/36.4 came up short* Set Monthly PR 250+/Nope Set Week PR 62+/Nope… Complete the Leadville Trail 100/DNS*****
Other assorted PR/Milestones Ran 100 miles for the 1st time at the 2019 edition of the VA 24-hour Ultra Run Against Cancer I ran the Cleveland Marathon in a nontypical running outfit I ran 100.6-miles at the Cape Fear 24-hour endurance run I finished and published my 3rd running themed book, “UNFINISHED” and ran my 4th JFK50.
JANUARY: I opened the year hosting the 7th annual Ultra Crazy New Years Run at Umstead State Park in Cary, NC. This gathering was our biggest and best yet with close to 35 runners joining us in an “almost organized” self-supported training event. The “almost” organized part nearly got me in trouble. Going a little above self-supported, we had all the trappings of a race but without the $$$$ or special event permit, (ooopps). Looking like more of a race then unorganized training run the State Park Rangers were a bit upset with me. The running joke of the day was that I would be thrown in jail once I completed my 50-miles. All in all, we had a great time and will be back with proper permits and following all the North Carolina State Park rules.
UPDATE: the 2020 event had near 70 runners…..and proper permits!
2019 50-mile Ultra Crazy Finishers Jillian Breitwieser Karl Breitwieser Andrea McHugh Claire Cochrane (our new friend from DD100) and I (Brian Burk)
The Leadville Race Series lottery results were posted, and I was officially informed of my return trip to PBville to take on the Leadville Trail 100. In little over 8 months, I believed I would be back on 6th and Harrison St. chasing that coveted Leadville buckle. Little did I know my running life would take a drastic turn.
FEBRUARY: As the iconic Don McLean song “American Pie“ goes “But February made me shiver. With every paper, I’d deliver. Bad news on the doorstep. I couldn’t take one more step.” In my search for vertical and training opportunities for Leadville, I headed to the Uwharrie mountains with a few friends. The goal for the day was simply a 20-mile training run and north of 2,000 ft of vertical. Descending from the first trip to the summit my toe clipped a rock causing me to go full superman into the surface below. This section of the trail was littered with leaves and rocks. As luck or lack of luck would have it directly in the path of my now airborne body, and more concerning my left knee was a very jagged and well-weathered rock. For a moment that seemingly lasted forever…time stood still.
Laid out on the ground while trying to catch my breath, I seriously wondered if I had broken my leg or was it potentially much worse. Once the shock and extreme pain subsided, I noticed my running pants were already spotted with blood. I nervously inspect the wound. At first glance, I believed I had dodged a bullet.
On the bright side, after I got my wits together, I ran 18.5 more miles and in the short term though I was still on the road for redemption in Leadville. Little did I know, this tumble set off a series of events that threatened my very running career.
MARCH: From that fateful day forward running was very painful. After many stressful miles and three doctor visits, I received the news that I did not have any structural damage to my knee. Although in the words of my knee specialist; other than tearing a ligament or breaking a bone that the point of impact was at the absolute worst location possible. He had a technical name for it but in “Brian speak.”
The rock impacted my knee right at the termination point of the patellar tendon and the tibia. Although everything was intact, I now had a golf ball size lump on the impact spot and a very painful running gait. With a caution that I should let pain be my guide and a statement that I could not make it any worse, I was excited to run the Wrightsville Beach Marathon.
Wrightsville Beach Marathon: Nearly a perfect race weekend greeted the running crowd. Before the marathon, I had a successful book signing at the EXPO while meeting fellow runners and a few social media followers. No matter how my knee felt I was very excited to run 26.2-miles and hopefully prove my knee would hold up.
My knee did well for 21.5-miles until it didn’t. I held onto a sub-4 pace for most of the race then a pain in my right hip of all places became too much. A collateral effect of my gimpy left knee I believed caused my right hip to flare up. This new issue forced me to run-walk the remaining 4.7-miles to the finish. My 28th marathon finish was in books but the door to a troubled year was cracked even wider open.
APRIL: The ultra-running community provides many opportunities to meet and interact with new people. I met Clare at the Devil Dog 100 in 2018. She ran the 100k, I ran the 100-miler. Early in the rain-soaked race, we shared a few miles together. During our conversation, she mentioned her plan to run the Umstead 100 race. I explained that this event was held nearly in my backyard. After a few miles of Q&A I offered my help as a pacer if she needed someone. I was lucky enough to be able to help her run her first 100-mile race.
I’ve been fortunate to help two runners reach their first 100-mile finish. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my running life. To help a fellow runner reach their goal and to give back to the running community is an awesome way to spend the day. I vow that one way or another, running or volunteering…I will be at the Umstead 100 from now on.
Virginia 24-Hour Ultra Run Against Cancer and team “Run for Life” what can I say. We rock. We set course records. We had five runners reach 100-miles. And as is becoming a custom we won the team event AGAIN. Unfortunately, 100-miles comes with some issues. My knee and hip stayed a bay for most of the day, but two days after the event a new problem arose. The inside of my right foot became very sore. As is my practice I went to the intern and thought I found the culprit and it looked grim.
MAY: An annual trip for Michele and I. Once again, we headed north and took on the Cleveland Marathon. This year, Michele walked the 5k and half marathon while I ran the marathon. I originally wanted to and signed up to run the “challenge series” but with my compromised knee/hip and foot giving me fits I backed down and “only” ran the marathon distance. My 29th marathon, but this was going to be different.
On perhaps the hottest day of the year, I ran 26.2-miles of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in full Cleveland Browns ensemble. From top to bottom I was geared up for a game on the gridiron not to run the city streets of a marathon race. Sporting an NFL regulation Browns “game-used helmet of #90 Mark Word, “FanSince 71” jersey, game-used pants, socks, bright orange shoes and carrying a regulation NFL football. On this day I did not set a PR, but boy did I have fun with the longest touchdown run ever……….
will be running the Cleveland Marathon in 2020 to once again
run in full Browns Glory! COME
RUN with me and get a DISCOUNT when you use my special discount code BB2020.
JUNE: With every run, I was hopeful the nagging issues with my knee/hip and foot would disappear. Unfortunately, what happened was that my compromised gait birthed more issues. With Leadville looming on the calendar, I pushed my injured body much further than I should have. My running life came unglued during a routine run.
After an easy 2-miles of a 7-mile run the pain became so unbearable that with a broken will I had to shut it down.
With a little downtime and wanting to stay connected to the running world, I began to create custom running award displays. You can check out my works here at Ultra Wood Designs.
JULY: I spent the remainder of June and all of July spinning miles at Planet Fitness avoiding the LUNK alarm and wondering if I would be able to reclaim any form of running. As the days on the calendar progressed Recovery, Leadville and the Morgantown marathon were looming presences. Would I recover? Should I defer my race entry to Leadville? Could I bounce back to enough to regain some running form to run the marathon in Sept?
Finally, the days on the calendar forced my hand, I had to make the call. With a heavy heart and nearly defeated spirit, I deferred my chance at redemption and postponed my return to Leadville until 2020.
can pick up the book that started my call to the mountains, Running to Leadville
a story that will steal your heart, and uncover the drama of a 100-mile race
while simultaneously captivating your thoughts around life, love, relationships
AUGUST: smack dap in the dog days of summer, when I should have been immersed in the Leadville charm, eating High Mountain Pies (pizza), I was cross-training and hoping the endless miles on the stationary bike would pay off. 6-weeks out from the Morgantown marathon there was a gleam. On a routine day, of a normal week, I laced up my running shoes and wondered if my legs would hold up? One major question haunted me, was the time off enough? Or was my knee worse than I had realized? On a hope-filled summer day, I ventured out on an easy trail run and awaited to find out if my body had repaired itself? With every step, every footfall I hoped I still had some miles left in my tank…and I feared finding out on the next landing stage of my stride that this comeback attempt would prove my running days were over.
5-weeks out from Morgantown I a training plan that I hoped my legs could hold up to and that I could get back on to the comeback trail. 4-weeks out I put in 35 miles of slow and easy running miles. When the end of August rolled around I was hopeful.
SEPTEMBER: 3-weeks until the big day and my life began to fall into the normal pattern of marathon training once again. Although this time I knew farewell that in the days leading up to marathon Sunday a lot could go wrong. 2-weeks out I was able to put down 47-miles including a strong 15-miler. Normally a taper week the marathon I ran the furthest, I had all summer, 15.5-miles. From 15.5 miles to a marathon…not sure this is in any training plan.
Morgantown Marathon, Yes it’s hilly and I do not recommend the “injured to a marathon in 6-weeks” training plan. It worked but….
OCTOBER: After surviving the marathon my next goal was to see if I could build up the miles and return to the ultra-marathon stage. The Cape Fear 24-hour endurance run would be the perfect venue. My initial “A” goal going in…a 50k. Ok, maybe…50-miles. A 100k if everything went well. 100-miles…that’s crazy talk! Why not?
first a runner, but also a storyteller.
My 3rd book focuses on relationships as much as it does on running. Just as the JFK50 stretches your abilities as
a runner with three varying course terrains, I wanted to stretch myself as a
storyteller. I believe I did just that
while paying tribute to an Iconic race.
UNFINISHED — Sometimes a run or race is more about life than we ever imagined. A story about running and relationships. 15.5-miles on the Appalachian Trail, 26.3-miles on the C&O towpath, 8.4-miles of rolling country roads and two lives forever interconnected. Get your copy today or share with a friend.
DECEMBER: My 5th finish at the Seashore Nature Trail 50k in Virginia Beach. Running and finishing an ultra-marathon is special. Seashore was my first ultra…a race I nearly DNF’d. I learned a lot since then, I have met a ton a great people, ran a lot of miles and experienced a lot of life. It was good to come back to where it all began. It was a great day to return for my 5th finish and earn a 5-time buckle. Tops on my list was seeing so many friends…experiencing the freezing cold tidal waters, running with reindeer ears and living in all that the day had in store.
For all that 2019 was…it was a success!
What were your 2019 highlights… Leave us a comment and tell us all about them.
Some races have a loyal following because of the unique and challenging terrain on which the course is run. Some races establish a strong culture based on the community of runners who return year after year. Some races build their reputation from the history of the event. The JFK 50-Mile Endurance Run has it all.
The JFK 50 runs along a horseshoe-shaped “point to point” course covering three very distinctive landscapes. From the town center of Boonsboro, Maryland the historic route covers 15.5-miles along the Appalachian Trail, 26.3-miles on the C&O canal towpath and 8.4-miles of rolling country roads leading runners to the final destination and the finish line in front of Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, Maryland.
(My Strava data, start to C&O and C&O to finish)
Along the Appalachian Trail runners transverse over asphalte roadways, and single track trails infested with gnarly rocks while climbing 2,461 feet of total gain reaching the top of South Mountain, the highest spot on the course, at 1,795ft. At around 14.5-miles the course takes a rapid descent via staggering switchbacks at the Weverton cliffs. Surviving the AT runners take on the 26.3-miles of the C&O canal towpath. Although seemingly flat the towpath climbs over 300 feet. At approx. 42-miles hopeful finishers depart the towpath at Dam#4 and begin the 8.4-mile run to the finish. With the finish line in sight and with nearly 8-miles of rolling country roads behind them finishers have to climb one last hill .25-miles from the finish. The JFK course offers something for everyone. This historic race will test all those who want the coveted finishers medal.
For some finishing, the JFK 50 is a rite of passage. For others running the oldest UltraMarathon in the nation is a yearly tradition. The finishers’ “clubs” start with 10-years with a handle full of legends having completed over 1500-miles on the course with a leader having finished 49 JFK races.
The JFK 50 Mile Endurance Run was first held in the spring of 1963. It was one of numerous such 50-mile events held around the country as part of President John F. Kennedy’s push to bring the country back to physical fitness. Held for 57 consecutive years the memorial run is a benchmark of East Coast endurance events.
The 57th edition was my 4th running of this great event. Not that I am an elite athlete or would ever threaten to win this event, but I do have some secrets to success I would like to share. Race reports 2014, 2015, and 2016 (PR)).
Secrets to finishing the JFK 50-mile Endurance Run
Without burning out your legs, advance during the early road miles.
Always move w/purpose, when not running hike at a fast pace.
When on the “non-rocky sections” of the AT make up ground. Run when you can, and pass when you can pass.
When on the “rocky sections” land your footfall light and quick.
Have a plan for the C&O…I choose to use an interval approach, 5/1 run/fast hike.
Don’t allow the C&O to put you to sleep…make the run parts of your interval count.
Concentrate on the mile you’re in.
Make the pit stops short & make them count, drink/eat before you’re thirsty/hungry.
Power hike the climb off the C&O and then run everything that is downhill or flat.
Be ready for that final push.
And most importantly breath in your victory and finish.
Running was something that did not come naturally. At a young age, I had some speed, I was a quick little kid but lacked the discipline to build endurance. When it got hard, when I ran out of gas and I gave up.
Writing was something I enjoyed early on but I lacked the skills and knowledge to format my stories correctly. Inturn my English teachers tore up my papers with flaming red critiques and destroyed my desire to take further abuse.
Running later in life opened new doors. I conquered the lack of self-confidence and endurance. I found I had the ability to run the long and hard-fought miles. I found I enjoyed the challenge of pushing my limits during the long run. Each new distance, each race held a story within its self. New terrain, new challenges inspired me to try and capture the memories. In running I may have found the true me, and I found a voice.
I’ve been asked why I write… It’s obvious that I’m not an English major, The comas may be misplaced and my sentence structure could be off.
I write to entertain and to tell a story that may inspire. To encourage others to look at life from another perspective. I write to uncover the drama of life and the epic ultramarathons. I write so that others may find strength in relationships and running.
UNFINISHED will take the reader along another journey of the human spirit and along the racecourse of the JFK 50 mile endurance race.
“the magic of the JFK 50 Mile, Brian Burk “gets it” and catches the true flavor of the JFK 50 Mile in his novel “Unfinished.” Enjoy the journey!
6-weeks to a 100-mile
finish (I do not recommend this training plan to anyone…)
All was going well until Feb, 2019 when during a run I caught a root/rock with the toe of my shoe. The result was an impact to my left knee on the very sharp edge of a rock.
Long story short…no permanent damage, but significate trauma to the point where the patella tendon mounts to the tibia. The result of this misstep kicked off a series of injuries. Being a bit stubborn, I ran two marathons (Wrightsville Beach and Cleveland) and a 24-hour race where I logged 101.250 miles while in quite a bit of pain and on a compromised gait. The result was my left knee became unstable, I developed sciatica pain in my right hip and my right insole was stressed to the point that I could not take a step without being in pain. With Leadville and redemption on the horizon, I tried to power through it.
By the second week of June…I could not stand running in pain anymore. I thought for sure my running career was over. I visited my DR, and a sports chiropractor. I took anti-inflammatories and stretched, but nothing worked. Desperate the only thing I could think of as my next step was a “hard reset.” I had one hope…to shut it down. Would taking the summer off reset my normal running gait and heal the trauma?
For 8 weeks I cross-trained in an effort to maintain some form of fitness. 5 days a week I pedaled a stationary bike, rode the elliptical and slowly worked in brisk paced walking. 3 weeks before the Morgantown Marathon I started running again and a funny thing happened.
My knee responded while the sciatic and insole pain stayed at bay. I had hope. With a bit of nervous anticipation, I toed the line in Morgantown prepared to put my body to the test. 26.2 miles later I crossed the finish line tired, physically wore out by the hills and challenged from an abnormally hot day, but I finished. I had hope.
Approximately 20 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes and 38 seconds later I crossed the finish line at the Cape Fear 24-Hour Endurance Run in Lillington, NC having completed my 6th 100-mile run. I finished 6th overall and 4th male.
During my summer running vacation, I thought I was done. At one point I felt like a part of myself disappeared, and a connection to the running community was gone. At times I felt lost.
What did I learn?
You’re always a runner. Being a runner is as much a state of mind as it is an action.
Our bodies need to heal.
Never lose faith in you… (I recommend this to everyone)
A marathon with a bit of a punch. With social media hashtags like #yesitshilly and #conqurethiscourse I suspected I was in for a challenge.
Whether you run the Marathon, the Half Marathon or the Mountain Mama 8k you’re in for a tough and challenging race. For your efforts, you’ll receive support that rivals or surpasses any big city marathon. I ran the marathon on a warm Sunday morning and found the support around the race very helpful and welcoming.
The packet pickup was located at a Dicks Sporting Goods superstore that was easy to locate. To be honest, I missed the feel of a true race expo. As runners, we suffer in training and on race day…the expo is a time to enjoy our journey to the starting line, make new friends and to celebrate. The volunteers were very helpful. I was in and out in no time with my race gear in hand.
The start of the race and finish of the race was held at the West Virginia University Coliseum and for logistics reasoning, the event restricted parking at this location. Offsite parking with a free shuttle service was provided for racers, family and spectators alike. This service went off like a well-timed military operation. I arrived just after 5:45 and by 6 a.m. I was at the starting line without delay.
Race day morning support included late registration, packet pick up and dry bag drop off. All the pre-race activities and announcements went off without overdue fanfare. Some races tend to drag out their opening remarks thanking every corporate sponsor and elected official. The Morgantown Race Director kept it simple, patriotic and to the point. Thanks to this “Just the facts” approach the race started dead on time.
With any city-based marathon there tends to be a lot of twists and turns as you navigate, residential streets, greenways, waterfronts, and commercial zones. This course was well laid out and easy to navigate. As someone who finds it easy to get lost…I never questioned which way the Morgantown Marathon route traveled. Every turn was well marked with signs at the intersections and yellow arrows painted on the road surface. Where the street crossings may have gotten congested with traffic, numerous course marshals were on hand to direct traffic, ensure the safety of the field and encourage the runners. I never once felt like I could make a wrong turn nor in danger from the traffic. “Thank you to all the Volunteers…..”
At each mile marker along the course, there were “Hero Mile” signs dedicated to honoring our military heroes. A major benefactor of the race is the nonprofit Operation Welcome Home, an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families overcome barriers to employment.
The web site promised water stations every 2-miles…well, they may have over-delivered. On a sweltering day, I’m sure that was a survivor for some. The aid station volunteers were very helpful having water and Gatorade at the ready. A bonus was the high energy support the volunteers provided in the latter stages of the race when an encouraging word or upbeat attitude can help renew someone’s race vigor.
Looking to find that extra edge during your next marathon or any race for that matter? Check out my book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter) available on Amazon and this blog.
#Yesitshilly When I got home I reviewed my Strava data and surprisingly found that the analytics for the race only reflected 1572 feet of gain. With legs still reeling from the days’ effort, I thought for sure the elevation profile would have reflected more vertical.
From the start, the race features numerous rolling hills leading up to a sustained climb starting around mile 6 which builds up to a rapid and quad killing downhill at mile 9. From here to the halfway point were more rolling hills and another rapid downhill into the 13.1 benchmark. Surviving this opening act the in middle miles featured a “relatively” flat section that allowed for some upbeat running.
A laughingly but not funny 20th mile aka “The Wall” appeared right at the entrance to a cemetery. I considered making it my “final pitstop” but I had fought too hard to get to this point I wasn’t going to be laid to rest just yet. At another round of rolling hills from miles, 17 to 22 led up to the last challenge of the day.
The Morgantown Marathon course builds up to a final crescendo when you face perhaps the hardest closing mile of all the 65 races of marathon plus distance I’ve run. After the flattest section of the day, mile-25 features a gut-wrenching trek uphill. Not your cookie-cutter course this race has character, this course has spirit and this course proves that until the bitter end.
#Conquerthiscourse This race will challenge you. This race will challenge if not with its pure
vertical, then with the unrelenting fact that it’s not flat.
#RunMotown The rolling terrain takes a toll on your legs. lungs and authors a marathon story worth telling.
Stumbling through the finishers chute I was very relieved to be finished, fini, complete, finito, done and very happy to be greeted by a cold drink, wonderful finisher medal and unlimited slices of pizza! The finish line featured a mini beer garden, food tent and some local vendors. Just like my morning shuttle experience, transportation back to my car was quick and easy. Stepping off the bus I put a stamp on my Morgantown Marathon Day!
I would recommend this race for anyone looking for a challenge, to anyone looking for a race with some character, or someone looking to break out of the cookie-cutter marathon experience. If you’re looking for a BQ or your next PR…dial in your fitness, get your legs in shape and you could post an epic time on a challenging course.