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  • 16 Mar 2017 6:02 PM | Anonymous


    photo by Tim Van Orden

        Within the space of two weeks we have completed two championship snowshoe races—Worlds in Saranac Lake, NY and the Northeast Snowshoe Championship at Prospect Mountain, VT.  While balmy temperatures at Worlds encouraged shorts and tee shirts, we plunged right back into winter again at Prospect.  Temperatures hovered just above zero, with an aggressive wind chill bringing out the neck gaiters and jackets once more.  While the sketchy snow conditions at Saranac went hand in hand with the warm weather, this prolonged dose of spring pretty much destroyed Prospect Ski Center’s  base layer, leaving us with icy remnants—but at least no mud!
        In truth, the real champions of both events were the race directors who refused to fold but boldly played the cards they were dealt.  For it is one thing to postpone a local event, but not good form to delay a championship where elite athletes put in serious training and travel mileage.
        Prospect Mountain Race Director Tim Van Orden was relentless, facebooking snow-covered trails, pairing himself alongside local celebrities like Bob Dion to add a touch of credibility to his persistent enthusiasm.  Behind the scenes, however, certain sections owed their viability to discrete shoveling, an operation that took place without the help of an entire town as was the case at Saranac.  A toast to Vermont self-reliance!
        Still, despite our faith in New England ingenuity, unease set in when well past Bennington, Karen Provencher and I spotted only occasional snow patches as we ascended the mountain road.  It was truly eerie—no breath-catching icy ascent, no semis jackknifed in front of us.  We pulled into a naked dust-brown parking lot, populated by a mere smattering of cars.  No XC skiers were in competition for prime real estate—they apparently had more sense.  Trust in your RD notwithstanding, we wondered how Tim had managed to pull off those facebook shots.  Coming from someone who not only packs the requisite shovel in his car but also an ax to chop down small trees, you just never know.
        Once inside the lodge, the main topic of conversation was—Big Surprise—“What should I wear?”  Normally, we are pretty good at dressing but the conditions were weird.  It was really cold and really windy and we had no idea if the revised course would position us mostly in or mostly out of the woods.  Then too, the start was something akin to the Antarctic Marathon—thin snow cover whipping across solid ice. It is difficult for common sense to prevail over visual impact.                                                 
    Dave Dunham, having just returned from one of his legendary pre-race excursions said he was sweating out there.  But then how many of us run as fast as Dave?  Jamie Howard who braved ran the Citizen’s 5K before his main event, returned to add more clothes, grumbling that he never really got warm.  My arms could barely keep pace with my mind.  I listened to Dave and subtracted a layer.  Then I quizzed Jamie and added a different layer.  Eventually I compromised by pulling off my long sleeved tee and substituting my thin Dion vest.  That seemed to work fine.  I would like to say that was the result of careful planning but it was just dumb luck.
        The course was well marked with spray painted arrows in two different colors clearly separating the two-way traffic on the wider trails. But really I had no idea where I was going.  To me, the affair was a haphazard maze where folks of different speeds intersected each other in carefully regulated traffic patterns.  It was handled so skillfully that I never got lost, but I never really knew where I was either.  I kept hoping for the zigzag downhill leading to the finish, which of course didn’t happen, as the steep slopes were more suitable to sledding than snowshoeing. 
        As this was our final race, we had a great collection of practical awards and I walked away with an orange Dion hat and a prized bottle of Shagbark Hickory Syrup—maple syrup with a pedigree. 
        As we pulled out of the parking lot, we were caught in the vortex of a dust storm, reminding us that a brown spring, or perhaps a climate-change desert was in store.  Then, two days later, Saratoga was gifted with two feet of snow and Woodford double that amount.  Just like the snow that fell after Worlds, but a lot more.  Is this a pattern?  Should the advertised date of a race be merely a ploy with the real event scheduled a few days later? At any rate it seems like we should somehow take advantage of all this snow with another event.  All we need is an adventurous race director with a real date and an alternative.

    By laura clark
       

  • 06 Mar 2017 2:51 PM | Anonymous

    The Hidden Life of Trees: They Feel, How They Communicate, by Peter Wohlleben.  Greystone Books, 2015.
    Deep into a difficult trail race, I always seem to recall this common quote:  “I ran by the trees as if they were standing still.”  This is, of course, meant to comment on the fact that my death-march legs were at least faster than the steady trees of the forest.  For we all know that trees are stationary beings.  Or are they?
    Read Peter Wohlleben’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees, and you will come to doubt that surface assumption.   In the early 1990’s Dr. Suzanne Simard, a professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, discovered the underground web of roots, fungi and electrical impulses that enable family groups of trees to communicate with each other, care for sick members and parent young saplings. 
    In plain, wonder-filled language Peter Wohlleben, a manager for primeval German forests, also explains how trees warn their neighbors of an impending insect attack so they can be ready with the proper defense secretion to kill the invaders.  Not only that, but the health of a community depends on compatible tree species that will fill in when the weather is less than idea for a particular family group.
    And trees do move in a sense as they send their seedlings out on the wind to create the next generation.  With our miniscule lifespan we hardly notice.  But trees, who live for thousands of year, have plenty of time.
    Although not mentioned in this work, it is but a short jump to wonder about cauliflower.  Does a cauliflower communicate with its garden mates?  And what would this mean for those who choose vegetarianism as a way of preserving life?  Food for thought.
    At any rate, read this book and the next time you are running alone in the forest and imagine a tree speaking to you, pause to reconsider.  Perhaps the fairy tales were more reality than myth.
        Reviewed by laura clark






  • 06 Mar 2017 2:50 PM | Anonymous

    The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running, by Adharanand Finn.  Pegasus Books,  2015.

        Upon his return from Kenya (Running with the Kenyans), A. Finn posted an impressive series of PRs in a variety of distances. But two years later and pushing forty, he has stalled.  Was that to be it then?  Unlike the rest of us who might turn to yoga, an online coach or a vegan diet, Finn naturally turned to another country (and another book!), setting his sights on Japan where elite half marathon times would be considered world-class anywhere else.
        Japan’s national obsession is not the Super Bowl or the World Series but the ekiden race --- the focus of high school, collegiate and corporate teams and a valid excuse for a spectating holiday for anyone else.  With ekidens ranging from a few hours to several days, living in Japan would be like being plopped down into an intense Ragnar experience, but without the lighthearted fun.  These runners are focused and serious, with nary a painted van to be found.  The pressure on Japanese teammates and coaches is intense, so much so that athletes burn out well before the age of twenty-five, felled by hard pounding on the roads mental staleness, thus curtailing their showing on the international stage.
        It is into this closed world that Finn goes to seek running redemption.  What he gets is mental training in persistence and ingenuity as he seeks to join a Japanese team, battling the isolationist, rigid mores of that society.  He learns that ekiden rarely gives you the rush of competing against the hordes.  Instead, everyone is handed a front-runner experience , excellent for developing mental toughness but difficult to maintain over long isolated stretches of road. 
        And it is in just such a focused, narrow environment that Finn “discovers” flow, first detailed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his landmark book , Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. He learns that when he runs at a deliberate pace, he connects to his environment, like the legendary Japanese marathon monks.  But when he moves into fourth gear, tunnel vision narrows his focus away from scenery, aches and pains and random thoughts.  “Then running changes from an exploration of your environment, a chance to drift like a leaf on the wind, to an exploration of the depths of your soul.”  And you don’t have to be a champion to do so, just the best that you can be.

        Reviewed by laura clark

  • 02 Mar 2017 6:39 PM | Anonymous
    The scene opens on a crisp, snow-sun morning with Jen Ferris in the Camp Saratoga parking holding her IPhone above her head, trying to get reception so she can show Maureen Roberts the winter that she is missing.  Maureen, in the Caribbean, was jealous.  We felt sorry for her on her sunny beach.  Are we crazy or what?!  When Maureen commented on the beautiful snow, Jen replied, “No!  Look!  We have heated bathrooms!  I guess we are crazy after all.


        At any rate, Camp gets my Barnyard vote for Most Improved Race.  Not for the snow, but for the fact that we had indoor bathrooms with two m/f stalls in each compartment, heated with underground coils.  No more dashing out to the end of the parking lot and waiting in the cold to use the porta potty!  No more smelly outhouse facility!
        Wintery enough to seem like winter, no one missed the -20 degree wind chill of the previous year.  Alice and Don Zeiger, on station at the road crossing were actually recognizable, not bundled in multiple layers.  Folks were enjoying their lunch sitting outdoors on the picnic tables, which I had previously shoveled free of snow.  How many folks shovel their picnic tables anyway?  Not a single hand warmer was distributed and I even came home with extra firewood!
        Winners were awarded snow-blue crowns and the rest enjoyed a wide assortment of raffle prizes.  Chloe, the Newfoundland came in once more as First Dog, having hiked a race-director approved shortened course in respect for her advanced age.  At 11 years young, in human years, 77, she was the oldest participant.
        Once more we all enjoyed the food and kitchen service provided by Peggy and Patricia Keefe in memory of Andy, a lifelong snowshoe enthusiast.  If we squint, we can almost see him there, enjoying his friends and his customary hot chocolate.
        It is amazing how fast the snow went.  The next day it was slush and for our Wednesday Night Owl Prowl, most folks opted for yaks rather than Dions.
        Stay tuned for next year as I will again try for Most Improved with a change to the finish line.  Enough of that steep hill descent with the screeching left turn to the finish.  Time to make it more gradual and conclude at the Flagpole.  Should have thought of that years ago!

        Think Snow!
            laura

  • 09 Feb 2017 5:36 PM | Anonymous
         According to a study by Columbia University researchers, the longer you mull over a decision the more likely you are to choose the wrong option.  In other words, go with your gut feeling and get on with your life.  This is what I should have done the week before Winterfest as I tried to map out a snowshoe-friendly course.  Normally, the choice is obvious, but this, sadly,  is not a normal winter in our region (once more and with feeling).  What made the verdict so difficult is that the first part of the route was marginally doable.  But by the pool area things deteriorated and so I scouted farther afield, spending wasted time jumping from snow patch to snow patch before I reluctantly threw in the ice bucket.

                Even so, I stubbornly clung to marking the Ferndell bypass route up the steep hill just in case Saturday evening granted a winter reprieve.  Jamie Howard, our intrepid webmaster (www.dionwmacsnowshoe.com) emailed me this helpful bit of advice, “If you’re taking a long time, you probably know that the right decision is the choice you don’t like, and you’re putting it off hoping things will change somehow.”  …But remember that year, once upon a time and long ago, when things looked especially glum and we actually were gifted with a surprise snowfall on Saturday evening?  While the park could still accommodate casual snowshoers and skiers, those willing to take a roundabout tour and walk gingerly across bare gravel and pavement, it would be a disaster for folks intent on barreling on through.  Or at least for their snowshoes. 

                IRunLocal, one of our sponsors, should have set up shop at the race site.  They would have sold out of traction devices.  Fortunately, folks brought extras and everyone was accommodated.  Still, it was a beautiful sunny day, and goodness knows we haven’t seen much sun lately.  Hero Dad Scott Starr brought along his wife and three kids.  The youngest remained with Mom, while the others circled the quad beside Scott until he finally bent down and piggybacked the younger of the two.  I traveled alongside until the end of the loop when he jettisoned the kids and went on to achieve 13th overall.  For him, the family experience was more important that first shot at the raffle prizes.

                London Niles, who became a Dion series member as a pre-teen, mentored by various participants as he gained skill and height, is now in college.  He brought his youngest sister Solitaire, who was excited to choose Winterfest for her first 5K race. London would always wait and cheer for me along the course after he finished and, true to form, as he headed back out to run in with Solitaire, warned me of an icy spot just ahead while uttering those famous lines, “You’re almost there!”  Just like the old days, except this time, naturally, I knew every inch of the course.

                It was remarkable how many finished within a second of each other.  Stryder Shaun Donegan beat mountain runner Tim Van Orden by a mere second.  The same for Jim Schertzer, Mason Collins and Derek Zwickle; Vince Kirby and John Webber; and Jennifer Ferriss and Maureen Roberts. Many others were separated by no more than a few seconds.  Hearteningly, we have progressed from attracting a random kid once in a while to hosting six 14-and-under participants.  That is all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that we had 45 total finishers and 13 year-old Jackson Katusha grabbed 7th place, just ahead of the first place woman, 59 year-old Peggy McKeown.  So never say you are too young or too old!

                The real heroes of the day (besides Scott) were the course marshals who guided racers around a building construction course change and then, once sweep Pam Delsignore passed through, evaluated the situation and played musical flags, placing themselves at other potential trouble spots.  As we all know, racing eats up your brain cells, so as I circled the route, I congratulated myself on having the foresight to reposition the orange jackets. Until I eventually realized that the volunteers had gotten the big picture and had coasted on their own momentum.

                Which is the amazing thing about directing a race.  Despite all your planning, there comes a point day-of when the event takes over and snowballs in whichever direction it chooses.

     

    By laura clark

  • 29 Jan 2017 8:02 PM | Anonymous

    oakmountain

    picture taken by Mark Dzikowicz

    I woke up early for my 5K race because this was my first snowshoe race of the season, and I didn’t know what to expect.

    I shared a ride to Oak Mtn. with 3 legends: Karen Provencher, Mo Roberts, and Laura Clark. On the way, they eagerly discussed the 10K race that awaited them.

                    Karen drove us to Oak Mtn. with plenty of time to spare. Both the 5K and 10K races started up what officials called the bunny slope, but I wouldn’t classify most of the hills I encountered as bunny.  

                    The snow was deep enough to make any snowshoer happy, but the snow was slippery at times. I fell backwards twice, but I don’t think anybody saw me. So did I really fall?

                    At one point, I wondered how far I had gone, so I asked a volunteer, and she said, “About halfway.” That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I wanted her to confirm the suspicions of my aching legs and hoped the end was near.

                    After the early jockeying for position, I stepped aside and let 7 people pass me the rest of the race. I had no choice for 4 of them; they were going twice as fast as I was. But several of the others who I let pass were reluctant to do so. One woman said my yellow jacket made it easy for her to follow.

                    The last downhill to the finish should have been the easiest part of the race, but my legs were so beat up it seemed like an eternity to get to the bottom.

                    This might sound like I didn’t have a good time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Where else can you push ourselves to the max, and share that experience with friends and complete strangers who think snowshoeing is normal?

    by Pete Finley

  • 18 Jan 2017 4:38 PM | Anonymous










    How’s that for a catchy title—either it makes you groan out loud or, intrigued, keep on reading.  And of course, fowl weather is totally a matter of perspective—as long as light and heat is available in the barn, hens continue to lay and remain active.  And as long as there is snow, we continue to search out new adventures.

        Driving up from Saratoga, leaving at o’dark thirty before the cock even thought about crowing, us Stryders admittedly had a few second thoughts.  Exit 15 featured more snow than our turnoff at Exit 37 which bore more of a resemblance to a brown desert of dead grass.  But not to worry, the trails of the New Land Trust at Saranac were ruled over by one saucy cock who was determined to claim his rightful slot in the 2017 Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rooster .  We all know that roosters demand the center of attention and what better way than to safeguard the snow in his dominion from unwanted intruders such as the high temperatures and melting rains prevalent elsewhere?

        Not only were the snow conditions perfect, but Cock-A-Doodle Shoe, which has a reputation for inflicting us with below zero temperatures, rolled in with balmy twenty degree readings.  On the way over we drove through numerous snow squalls and Jen Ferriss fretted that she would rather enjoy a sunshiney day, while I insisted that all snow is a gift.  Turned out the course glistened with new snow, most of which continued to fall while the sun shone!  It seemed like there were more people there, but conversely, the warming hut seemingly expanded, as folks were actually enjoying standing outside in the sun instead of huddled inside by the stove. 

        The course was well-marked, with arrow signs placed at trail level and not up in a tree somewhere.  But then roosters are not great flyers and they totally get foot travel.  Accustomed to patrolling his territory and protecting his harem from outsiders, our rooster displayed an innate feel for the lay of the land and also enjoyed showing off his knowledge of semantics with such amusing trail names as Zen, Sidewinder and Growler.  As a glance at the online map confirms, the route mazes over, under and around itself, each trail somewhat resembling the one before.  While I have a reputation for wandering off course, I usually have a pretty good sense of where I am in relation to the parking lot.  But after following the rooster’s rambling chicken scratchings, I finally gave up and just let the route unfold. 

        True to his attention-getting nature, our particular rooster had one final trick up his sleeve.  After all the raffles and trademark injinji socks had been distributed, he called us together for one more distinctive touch, awarding homemade cock’s crowns to the fastest athletes.  It was really neat seeing the honorary flock heading to the parking lot sporting their well-earned headgear!

    By laura clark
  • 09 Jan 2017 5:54 PM | Anonymous

        We have had events in three totally different venues this year, from Gore Mountain’s luxury Ski Bowl with the possibility of man-made snow, to Hilltop Orchard’s apple trees and on-site winery (yes!) to the Town of Stratton’s Recreation Area.  A newcomer to our Dion Series, the Rec area perches on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest, bookended by the commercial operations at Mt. Snow and Stratton Ski Resorts.
        Comparisons were obvious.  We did not have snack bars or Gear Shops other than Race Director Mike Owens’ Rite Aid purchases, but we did have all the fancy equipment we desired, with Bob Dion eagerly displaying his prototype lightweight model.  (Time to start saving up yet again to become instantly faster and unbeatable!)  We did not have mall-sized parking lots with shuttle busses to transport us to where we really wanted to go.  Instead, our lot was like Curly’s, only different in that it featured a working cement portapottie and a three-walled, one-roofed trail hut.  On his Facebook notice Mike pretty much apologized for the primitive conditions; little did he know that his represented an upgrade!  Later in the season, we will commandeer the Readsboro school, hobnob with moneyed Victorian Ghosts at the Spa and explore the Pottersville cave system.  Evey race is its own unique adventure.
        Truthfully, after Tour Guide Maureen Roberts pointed out landmarks at her old Stratton stomping grounds, I was looking forward to a more natural nature and a less crowded perspective.  The small town tour we took on the way back, with stopovers at local brew and donut shops, gave us the opportunity to select our own prizes and souvenirs. Someday, Maureen and I need to take at tour of our own town.  Our traditional carpool meeting place is Kohl’s Parking Lot.  Before our Gore trip on New Year’s Day, it was snowing quite enthusiastically, the stores were resting and the plows were sleeping off a heavy night.  Both of us, having little familiarity with mall parking, drove right over a section barrier, which was camouflaged by a layer of newly-fallen snow. We were both so embarrassed!
        This day, Mike’s Candyland course consisted of an in-and-out stick and two laps of the lollipop for a total of 3.37 miles.  My two favorite board games as a kid were Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and I suspect these might have been Mike’s also.  After a relatively stable stick, we climbed up and up on an endless chute and then plunged downward on a glorious free fall.  While Mike had warned of “significant climbs,” I only half believed him as this was billed as a Nordic-style course.  Typically, there are many ups and downs to make the skiing interesting but not taxing.  I had forgotten that we were also traversing a snowmobile section, where the rougher the ladder, the better the ride.  Chalk it up to excellent training for the Worlds in February.
        While the temperatures remained in the single digits at race time, it was never really frigid, as the predicted wind was presumably climbing some other ladder.  It looked like there were quite a few other trails left to explore and we hope that Mike will introduce us to some of them in future races.
        By laura clark

  • 03 Jan 2017 4:39 PM | Anonymous
    by Laura Clark

        Most folks visit apple orchards in the autumn, but we snowshoers have chosen to wait until leaves have fallen, snow has covered the ground and those delicious juicy globes have been transformed into mash, donuts and apple pies.  Did we get things right or what?
         Shades of Second Christmas Day Woodford  --  there certainly is something special about getting together with friends the day after a major holiday when the rest of the world is hibernating and recovering from the previous night’s celebration.  Such was the case at the Hilltop Orchard/Furnace Creek Winery Snowshoe.  A select group of Dion snowshoers who prioritized starting off the first day of the New Year by placing a solid checkmark next to their inevitable healthy living resolution were rewarded not only with a great course but also with libations and goodies to enjoy in front of a roaring fire.
        Those who have enjoyed this venue in previous years may remember the in-and-out maze that weaved between the orchard trees and into the woods and the course marshals who performed multiple roles skiing and beating us from point to point.  No more!  For this year’s addition, the CRNA folks extended some of the cross country trails so there were no confusing multiple guess intersections.  This lengthened the route to slightly under four miles, with a thoughtful opt-out timed option at the 3K point.
        I almost took them up on it, except slightly earlier.  After the first few steps, I wondered if I could credibly drop out.  I had had serious dental surgery that week and my legs felt totally rubbery after a few days spent on the couch with an icepack.  Sort of the way your legs feel after getting off the bike portion of a triathlon and taking those first tentative running steps. 
        What saved me was the book I had read during my convalescence, For the Glory:  Eric Liddell’s Journey for Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr. While we all recognize Liddell as the Chariots of Fire hero who refused to run his scheduled 100 meter heat on a Sunday and went on to a spectacular gold in his last-minute 400, for most of us that is where the story ends.  But it encompasses so much more than that.  Liddell became a missionary, returning to his birthplace in China where his tireless work in a Japanese prison camp would have earned him sainthood in some other religion.  Reminiscent of Unbroken, he preserved, making a difference in so many lives. 
        Not that running a snowshoe race comes close, but I remembered his determination in the prisoners’ sports competitions even when he was dying of cancer, and kept at it.  Eventually, I felt better and found my own running pack, outstripping them on the downhills and then losing ground on the ups.
        Out of the woods and heading for home in the orchards I encountered another courageous figure—Chloe, an eleven year-old Newfoundland, striding deliberately along.  Chloe has exceeded the normal lifespan of her breed and was still going strong as a 77 year-old age-graded contestant, earning the title of First Dog.  The only thing missing was a keg of brandy which I sorely needed at that point.  But the finish line at Furnace Creek Winery was close enough.

  • 03 Jan 2017 4:38 PM | Anonymous
    Cresting Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn is a new interest in Greek heroes.  Sparked by Rick Riordan’s middle-grade Percy Jackson series two offerings for adults have recently made their debut.  As a matter of pride for all of us, they are written by ultrarunners accustomed to striving beyond their limits.  Christopher McDougall of Born to Run fame has penned Natural Born Heroes, based on the Island of Crete, where mythology was born.  Dean Karnazes, in The Road to Sparta, separates Pheidippides the man from Pheidippies the myth.

               

    Natural Born Heroes, Penguin Random House, 2015.

    Greek mythology, World War II resistance, parkour devotees, natural diets, reflexive combat – this book has everything except perhaps a dash of romance.  But believe me, you won’t miss it.  In his usual meticulously researched, jumping from here-to-there style, you feel as if you are partaking in McDougall’s journey of discovery.  For he is not merely an observer.  His research takes him out of the library foraging for weeds with a Brooklyn ballerina, scrambling through alleyways and over rooftops with a London parkour group and exploring natural combat techniques like Wing Chun.

    As runners, we consider ourselves fit.  Granted, we could probably chase down a Central Park purse snatcher, but could we vault over a fence in pursuit or use our body’s momentum to effectively bring down an active shooter?  Instinctively, we guiltily recognize our dilemma; hence, the popularity of Mudder Grunters, Spartan Races and November Projects.

    Did you know that the entire course of World War II was altered by an island of natural born heroes?  When Hitler had decided to use Crete as a supply staging area for his Russian invasion, an artist, a shepherd and a poet did the unthinkable:  kidnap the German commander.  Besides providing considerable embarrassment for the Germans, this effectively delayed the launch of the Stalingrad campaign, guaranteeing their unwinnable encounter with the icy Russian winter.  It also tied up thousands of German troops in a disastrous search and rescue mission.  How did these ordinary civilians, with no specific (to our way of thinking) military training rise to the occasion?

    Accompany Christopher McDougall on his odyssey as he traces the kidnappers’ route from one invisibly concealed cave to another.  And, along the way, discover how you can become your own hero.

     

    The Road to Sparta.  Rodale, 2016

                Now in his fifties, approaching the halfway point where looking back is often as important as moving forward, Dean Karnazes decides to reconnect with his Greek heritage.  In typical fashion for him – if you can run a marathon, why not run 50 on 50 consecutive days—he decides to visit his relatives while tracing Pheidippides’ route.

                After all, what’s one more marathon?  Quite a lot, it turns out.  As a high-ranking hemerodromoi, a messenger with ambassadorial duties, Pheidippides’ final 24.85 miles was merely the culmination of a 36 hour ultra. First he ran from Athens to Sparta to enlist that city state’s aid against the barbaric Persians, then onto the final marathon to tell Athenians that the battle was won.  So Pheidippides was an ultrarunner, not “just “a marathoner.

                While McDougall was able to consult well-documented maps and interview World War II survivors, Karnazes’ hero lived thousands of years ago and traversed rough terrain, much of which is now obscured by modern highways.  Eventually, Karnazes was forced to admit that a real-life recreation of Pheidippides’ ancient route was a physical impossibility.  Reluctantly, he settled for the 153 mile Spartahlon.

                Still, Karnazes echoes in spirit the path of the ancient hemerodromoi, fueling solely on foods available at that time – fruits, olives, dried meats, pasteli, a mixture of ground sesame seeds and honey.  No gels, no sports drinks. He also became an ambassador of sorts, signing autographs, speaking before townspeople, all while attempting to complete this grueling event in under 36 hours.  Perhaps as a result of the unaccustomed diet or the extra duties as assigned, he even experienced an out-of-body sensation, much as Pheidippides might have.

                Join Karnazes on his journey and discover the facts behind the myth of Pheidippides’ultrarun.  And the next time you do a marathon, it may not seem quite as long.

    by Laura Clark

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