New story form the Star Tribune:
It was around mile 76 of 106 that Steve Andersson decided he was done running. It was 2016, and he was three-fourths into the 171-kilometer Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, best-known as UTMB, a race in the French Alps that is one of the largest and most-celebrated trail races in the world. But Andersson’s day had been rough. With temperatures in the 90s, the 33,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss) had taken a toll on his legs. The sweat had left him so chafed it felt like he was wearing sandpaper underwear.
So he called his wife, Carrie, to tell her he was struggling and might drop out. She said she would meet him at the next checkpoint, then drove two with their three children and waited.
“Watching people come in at that time,” she says. “It was just human carnage. The tent is full of people who are there, but they’re not there.”
When Andersson staggered into the aid station, he told her: “I’m done.”
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I don’t want you waking up tomorrow and second guessing this.”
Read the rest here.
Last weekend, I got to run the 6-hour race at the FANS 6/12/24 hour ultra. (Wasn’t quite ready for a full day.) It was a great event, with great people for a great cause. Here’s my story from the Star Tribune that ran before the race. Congrats to Sue Olsen for hitting her mark! (And the results are in.)
Early one day in the summer of 1995, Sue Olsen went down to the Lake Harriet and lined up with about 50 other runners for the “FANS 24-Hour Ultra Race.” At 8 a.m., they started going around the lake, which they would circle for an entire day. As an ultrarunner (and future holder of the U.S. 48-hour record), Olsen was not out of her element. Except that on this day, she was nine months pregnant.
“I sat out in the hot part of the day,” Olsen says now. “And I slept some in the night. Back then I would normally be running 130 miles, but I only ran 62 miles. So I was taking it easy.”
The next day, her son John Miles was born.
This year, at age 61, Olsen, of Burnsville, returns for her 28th race, having accumulated 2,914.5 miles (exact mileage matters) since her first FANS. She followed the event as the race moved to Lake Nokomis, then to Fort Snelling State Park, which is where she hopes to be the first runner to top 3,000 miles when the race begins June 2.
Read the rest here.
Last fall I ran the Wild Duluth 100k. Here’s the race report from Ultrarunning Magazine:
The sky was dark and the ground was dry when we arrived at the shore of Lake Superior for the ninth annual Wild Duluth 100K on October 21, 2017. There were 74 of us with our crews, gathered at Bayfront Park, only half of whom would finish. There were thunderstorms forecast but it was still calm and clear at 6 a.m. when the race started. We left the lake behind and came to Enger Park, a 530-foot bluff that looks out over the city. The trail was a sheer mile up, and almost immediately back down, which was what the whole day would be like as we followed the Superior Hiking Trail south. Along the way, we would slowly accumulate 10,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss). The air was cool, and in the dark, the trail flags easily reflected the path. After about an hour, the sun rose red over the lake.
Read the rest here.
A new column at Minnesota Monthly, where we’ll be talking about trail running, ice climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, logrolling and more:
Hunt Jennings had been in town for three days researching Minnehaha Falls, checking the conditions, and monitoring the creek’s water level. On the morning that things looked right, Jennings quickly assembled a local safety crew and, before the park department could stop him, set his boat in the water just above the falls. Within seconds, he paddled over its 53-foot drop to make the first official descent of the cascade. Jennings, who lives in Tennessee but frequents a family cabin in the Boundary Waters, is a professional kayaker—he went to a special high school for kayaking—and knows how to do these things.
Read the rest here.
From Scientific American
When the starting gun fires at the Olympic track in Rio de Janeiro, there is little doubt who will be in the lead. In the Men’s 1,500 Meters Asbel Kiprop will be up front. In the women’s 5,000 meters Almaz Ayana will run away, and she may also take the 10,000 Meters. In the marathon Helah Kiprop will push the women whereas Eliud Kipchoge will be the one to watch among the men. In the Men’s 800 Meters, David Rudisha will likely hold his title and maybe break his own world record.
In other words most of these races will be dominated by runners from, or with roots in, east Africa—namely Kenya and Ethiopia, with a few Eritreans and maybe a Ugandan also standing out. Mo Farah, currently at the top of the ranking for 10,000 meters, was born in Somalia and raised in the U.K., and now trains in the U.S. Bernard Lagat, who just won the U.S. 5,000-meter Olympic qualifier (at age 41) is Kenyan-American.
East African runners have dominated for the two decades since Kenyans started winning in the mid-1990s, followed by Ethiopians shortly thereafter. This has lead to great soul searching on the part of former distance powers like the U.S. and U.K. Yet reasons for that dominance remain hotly debated, and science has had little definitive to say about it.
The reigning theory in the West is that runners from east Africa have some evolutionary advantage over runners from other backgrounds.
Read the rest here.
A few years ago I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska to spend time with Marko Cheseto, a Kenyan runner who lost his feet to frostbite. Now that story, Runner, Interrupted, has been chosen as one of the Runner’s World “Selects” to help celebrate 50 years of great stories. For the occasion, I did some follow-up report on where Marko is now: Currently he is focused on qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games in the 200- and 400-meter events (the latter is currently the longest event available for double amputees).
At the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, last April, he competed against double amputees, single amputees, and a blind athlete in the 200 meters, and while he finished last, he ran a PR of 24.36. Last October, he was scheduled to travel to Qatar with the Kenyan Paralympic team to run the qualifying rounds for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the Kenyan government pulled the team’s funding at the last minute, and the trip was cancelled. Cheseto has since set up a GoFundMe page in an effort to secure training and travel funds for Rio.
For now, he’s training around his full-time job as sports coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Alaska—and his growing family. In 2014, Cheseto married an Alaskan woman who also attended the University of Alaska; the couple now has a 10-month-old daughter. That same year, Cheseto’s younger brother Henry joined the University of Alaska cross country team. As a freshman, Henry led the team to five first-place finishes and, in 2015, finished third at NCAA Division II Nationals. Cheseto is also working on a book about his life with writer Andy Hall, author of Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak.
You can read the story here and you can help Marko get to Rio here.
A story I’ve been working on for two years, Runner, Interrupted, just hit news stands in the February issue of Runner’s World:
The sounds of the city grow faint. The air smells of pine, and the wind whispers through the branches. The Alaska Pacific University Trail is rough with rocks, and Marko Cheseto struggles for balance as he runs. Looking for even patches in the dirt, he chooses his steps carefully. Each one is a decision. Once, when he had feet, he flew through these woods. He flew through them faster than anyone ever had.
Cheseto, 30, remembers how things once felt beneath those feet: the light touch of the track, the roll of the trails, the give of the red earth he grew up running on. He remembers how far those feet carried him—from a tiny village in the Kenyan Highlands across the world to Alaska and a new life as a star runner. He remembers how they propelled him to victory. Sometimes, he forgets he doesn’t have those feet anymore.
But not today. Today he remembers. Today he’s wearing metal feet inside his running shoes, and they are no match for real feet that slide over rocks and roots like water.
Cheseto has run this trail countless times since arriving at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2008. It was through these woods that he pushed himself and his teammates and helped forge the Seawolves into a national force. And it was here that he took that last run, the one that transformed him from the greatest runner the school had ever known into… someone else.
Read the full story here.