Wednesday, June 23, 2021
For many years I thought about how cool it was that National (now Global) Running Day always fell around my birthday, June 3rd. Kelly Maurer our training director, former Annapolis store lead and friend, has this obsession with being epic. She has been epic and has attempted races that feature ultra-length and mental challenge. When Charm City Run was searching for something EPIC to do on National Running Day, Kelly had an idea for a 24-hour race in the Annapolis Towne Centre. As we know and appreciate, runners are a little funny, perhaps a little nuts, and to insiders, just the right amount of crazy.
Kelly’s idea was a one-mile loop around the Annapolis Towne Centre. Whoever runs the most in 24 hours wins. The loop ended up being a little shorter but Charm City Run Timing effectively measures total mileage with its chip-timing system. Our pledge to the runners and ourselves has always been that at least one Charm City Run team member would be running the whole time. We have had a sign-up sheet where Charm City Run team members from all six stores pick the one-hour slots that they want to run.
The race is completely on concrete and there are a few curbs that you have to get up and down. These are factors that you do not think about much until the lonely and tired hours of the race. The nice benefit of the one-mile loop is the easy access to bathrooms, aid stations, the store and your car. There is a spirit to this race, and I think to ultra-racing in general, that is hard to describe. Everyone is rooting for each other. These races attract all walks of life from the accomplished endurance athlete to the walker. I believe that ages have ranged from high school to over seventy. Due to the length of the race you talk to everyone at some point and during the dark hours it is hard to ignore the authentic encouragement and the all-for-one, one-for-all feeling.
My story is pretty simple although my loved ones think it makes no sense, but remember we are just the right amount of nuts. When I turned 48, I started thinking that it would be neat to celebrate my 50th and Global Running Day by running 50. As you all know COVID changed everything. Our COO, Tom Mansfield had begun the calendar year by saying he would run every day in 2020. He did. When COVID hit I wanted my own goal and that was to run 5 every day for a year. I did for 5 months before a calf injury ended the streak. I remember exactly where I felt it go on the long sloping drive up to Loyola-Blakefield. Another loss at the hand of the Dons.
I got better and worked out almost every day but when we knew the 24 hour Run This Town was on and that I would turn 50 in the middle of the race I had no choice. I had to do it. Some smart people encouraged me to just do 50K. 50 is 50 right but here is the problem, I do not live in Europe and I just thought I had to do 50 miles. I went on a few longer runs 8-10 miles and felt fine. I did not think I could run 50 at that pace but I felt fine. Otherwise, I kept working out every day. I tried not to change too much.
I figured that even if I walked the whole thing I could do 50. I was not concerned about time. This was a journey and not a race and since we were open for business for 24-hours I would not be holding anyone up. I thought about sending my plan out to everyone and asking them to come join me for a while and donate something to their favorite charity but in the end, I decided to keep my plan mostly to myself and the CCR and Levinson families. If people were there to walk and run with me…great. If not, I would enjoy the journey in a little bit of peaceful isolation as well. After all running is something I do mostly alone. I find it incredibly peaceful and for the most part it keeps my mind right.
While I had asked for a little bit of advice here and there, I did not have a good plan the week before so I called on my secret weapon, the Charm City Run Family. John Leonardis and Brian Nasuta are mostly retired ultra-runners who have experienced the highs and lows of the distance. They have made all the mistakes and learned a lot from them. Kelly Maurer is still quite active and so calming and nurturing. She walked me through the plan step-by-step. My favorite moment is that I was shopping for single-serve Tailwind and I mentioned to Brian that I would need like 40 of them to get me through and he grabbed his head and started laughing uncontrollably. Needless-to-say, I ended up buying a 50-serving bag and bringing my own cooler.
John Leonardis (Frederick Leader) gave me a bag of magic beans and told me to take 3 in the morning and 3 in the evening and week of to increase it to 4 and 4. I took some but not that many. John told me to keep it simple. Wear the clothes you start with the whole time and do not sit down.
Brian Nasuta (Footwear VP) told me to stop running the week before and go slow and not run a single a hill. He also said to keep my legs up as much as possible and nap the day of. We do not get a lot of napping opportunities around here, but I tried to chill and watch some TV before I went down to Annapolis.
Kelly told me to drink Tailwind every 1-2 miles and eat at least every hour. She told me that Honey Stinger Waffles were good.
Meghan Fugate (Coach and Assistant Manager in Columbia), who was doing the race, talked to me about peanut butter and jelly.
I was intimidated by the distance, but I was most concerned about injury and feeling sick. I knew that in terms of fitness I could walk 50 but I was also nervous about my calf and knees, areas that have broken down on more than one occasion. Whenever I stay up late now my stomach hurts. I think it happens when you get old. Not only would I be up all night, I would be running. I was real concerned that I would get sick.
When I arrived in Annapolis people were milling around trying to ignore the pre-race jitters and then I saw the signs. My team had made happy birthday signs on the course as well as some joke signs about getting old. I laughed and felt the love but also knew that now everyone knew. Will went through his pre-race announcements and announced my goal. OK now it was game time. The founder of Danny’s Fund then spoke about how much the race meant to her and described the Danny Fund mission. That relaxed me a bit or at least distracted me. This day and this event were not about my birthday.
The rest of the story is boring for you and exhilarating for me. I went slow and ran or walked the entire time and finished in less than 12 hours barely. I had no goal of going the entire 24 hours. When I finished the lap that got me over 50, I would walk away, and I did.
When my folks came down, I walked. When my wife Kara of 22 years came down, I walked. My son Ben came up from DC and planned to stay with me for 3 miles and stayed for 8. He was there from Miles 17 through 25. We laughed, we hugged. We talked about life. We ran but never the hills. This was the journey I wanted. Kara came at mile 39 and we walked a while but then we started running a bit. She left to take Ben to the train station and then I saw her come back.
She said, “He can take an Uber I am finishing with you.”
Tom got me started. Brian, Kate and Dawn came down to finish with me. Kelly was always there telling me to eat. It is amazing how time can get away from you. Kelly ran with me when I needed it and left me alone with my music when I needed that. As an afterthought I threw my AfterShox in the bag and I loved listening to music for part of it. I listened to the playlists my daughters had made for me over the years and thought about them.
I drank Tailwind every mile. I had a Honey Stinger Waffle, Clif Shot or bite of Peanut Butter and Jelly every 40 minutes to an hour. I did change my shoes once.
I ran the last mile and celebrated with my CCR family and my wife and best friend. It was all that I could have imagined and more. I love how much Kelly loves this race. It was a journey and I got to spend it with most of the people that mean the most to me. For those of us that are a little nuts, it was the best birthday party ever.