When I lived in Chicago I ran like there was no tomorrow. Sundays had me running long steady miles, Mondays were a set up for double-down Tuesdays, and Wednesday’s leg screaming repeats on the University of Illinois’s Circle Campus track provided the week’s endorphin highlight. A friend whom I trained with told me about ultramarathon running and thought I should give it a try. My first 50-kilometer trail run took place on a cool Kettle Moraine day. There were no cars to dodge, no pinballing between pedestrians, only bib-numbered souls encouraging each other along pine-scented singletrack.
As I got more involved in the sport I learned that family and friends crewed and paced runners at 100 milers. Crews wait at aid stations with fresh shoes and clean gear. Pacers get their runners up big climbs, run with them through the night, and keep them running in the morning light. For most of the race, however, the runners are alone and it’s possible to take a wrong turn far away from any help. There is one runner I’d like to tell you about, a unique runner who found me after I had gotten lost during a 50K in the Sierra Nevada.
Photo: Jeff Johnson