On Sunday morning, runners stretched, bounced and shivered as the cold wind blew strong in the 32 degree temperatures on the shore of Lake Waramaug at the 7:15 a.m. mandatory runners meeting.
In the picturesque setting, race director Carl Hunt gives the warning to about 120 anxious runners of all ages, shapes and abilities. They are at the start/ finish line at the State Park of Lake Waramaug in Connecticut.
“Stay on the side of the road, police will be patrolling the course, and if they see you running in the middle of the road, they will write down your number, if I get your number three times, I will have to pull you from the race,” Hunt warns them. Some of these runners are prepared to run a 50 kilometer race, some 50 miles, and others 100 kilometers.
In this intrepid group were three runners from Granville who made the three-hour trip to take on the challenge – Heidi Whitney, Lou Pauquette and John Enholt.
“Watch out for yourselves, watch out for each other;” Hunt’s warning seemed to be the mantra of the day. When asked who was a first time Ultra Marathoner at Lake Waramaug, the majority raised their hands.
Today would be a test of ability, not only of the body, but of the mind as well. The 50K race required runners to make the loop around the lake three times with an additional out and back of about 12.4 miles; the 50-mile race required six loops with an additional 4.4 miles, and the 100K was a grueling seven loops with about 14.5 additional miles.
In Ultra-Marathons, (billed as any distance above a marathon distance of 26.2 miles,) finishing the distance is more of the reward than any medal. Finishers of the 50K and 50 miler received finisher’s medals, but the 100K finishers took home silver belt buckles, the “swag” Ultra runners crave.
As runners looped around Lake Waramaug on a 7.6 mile loop, they cheered for each other, offered each other support, and even a push up the hills when it came time. Support teams fanned out along the lake whether with an individual runner, or with the race crew. They braved the icy, harsh wind and cold temperatures to be there with a water bottle, can of soup or even a change of shoes when the runners needed them.
Heidi Whitney ran the 50K course, 31 miles, in 5 hours and 46 minutes. Heidi was pleased overall with her experience, saying that all of the volunteers at the race were very nice, and she was happy that Lou didn’t get lost.
Speaking of Lou Pauquette, he ran the 50-mile course in just under 7 hours, securing a second place finish overall. He said that the weather was beautiful, the lake was beautiful and it was great to have helpful and happy volunteers who spent over 10 hours on the course. It was a great challenge, and it was great to be part of a small number of runners that do Ultras.
Lou also said that “ultras aren’t really about trophies and awards; they are more about pushing yourself to the limit.” John Ehntholt ran the 100K, 62.1 miles, in 9 hours and 2 minutes, also finishing in second place overall.
John said he “found the race to be just what you are looking for in an ultra marathon — a well-marked course, plenty of friendly volunteers and a race director that cares about putting on an event with the runner’s best interest. There will always be struggles out on the race course that you’ll have to overcome personally — just like in life itself.” He summed up the experience with the thought “and through that struggle you learn and grow.”
As the runners finished their mammoth tasks they were greeted at the finish line with photos, hugs, food, water and comforts from their support crews in the form of sweats, blankets and even beer. Whether walking out their legs cramps or falling to the ground in pure exhaustion from running anywhere from four to 11 plus hours, you saw more elation in the runners than anything else. They achieved their goals, overcame obstacles physically and mentally and they have finished.