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The Top 25 Most Influential in Ultra Running

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Here’s an interesting compilation of the most influential “things” in ultra running. I say “things” because it’s not all people. While I think that some inclusions have much less of a place than others, it was great to see some lesser known faces in our sport be listed. Case in point, Bruno Brunod. I had barely heard his name before Kilian’s Cervina attempt last year at the Matterhorn. At this year’s UTMB, I was fortunate to see an advance screening of Seb Montaz’s 2nd Kilian film, Dejame Vivir, which featured Bruno and the history he has provided. Inspiring stuff.

The Top 25 Most Influential in Ultra Running

My Barkley Fall Classic

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So while sitting in an airport lounge in Portland, Oregon, on my way home from Pine to Palm, I was somehow convinced by a friend that running the inaugural Barkley Fall Classic the following weekend would be a good idea. Not sure what I was thinking. Maybe hubris had gotten the better of me, but by the time our flight took-off I had already registered. This ended-up being a horribly horribly bad decision…as you’ll see.

Leaving out of the start, I felt great. The mile-long road section was meant to help us gain separation before entering the rough single track ahead. The morning was cool, but as I passed the 10-15 minute mark I noticed that I was absolutely soaked in a cold sweat, and I mean abnormally soaked. The brim of my trucker hat was dripping like a burst pipe. Bizarre.

I worked my way up the first long climb and bombed the first downhill. About halfway down, I caught my foot on a thick section of air and came crashing down on my left knee and subsequently, somehow, onto the top of my head. I shook it off and continued, but was aware that something was surely off. My legs were quickly growing lifeless and heavy. Too much running of recent? Probably.


By the first aid station at roughly mile 9, it was apparent that I was FAR too taxed this early in the race, especially given the fact that I hadn’t been pushing in the least. I decided to press on toward the second aid, but with the distinct idea of scratching in mind. To be honest, I probably would have dropped there but I would have had to follow the race course anyway in order to get back to my car.

Within a couple of miles, I was getting passed like I was literally sitting on a rock and watching. My legs were cramping worse than I think they ever have. I could visibly see each muscle jitterbugging under the skin. Even my toes and fingers were curling in tetany. Ever had your ankle cramp? Your ankle? Well…mine was cramping. This was just no good.

At aid #2, I sat on a stump and contemplated my future at this race. All of my friends who were out on the course all came through and encouraged me to keep going, though most were bewildered as to why I was just sitting there looking blank. Roughly a 7 mile out-and-back with a little change on the return and I’d be back to my current point. Might as well try, right?

Not much trouble on the out, just slow going up the long climb. On the return, however, big trouble. We were meant to ascend the notorious Rat Jaw climb, just below the fabled tower of the Barkley course. Massively overgrown with briers and brambles, this section required ascending on all fours because standing was impossible. By 1/3 of the way up, I was retching violently and uncontrollably. In retrospect, I think this was from massive dehydration and the posture I was having to take on the climb. My stomach felt like someone was wringing out a wet sponge. Tasty.

There was no doubt that I was dropping once I reached aid #3. No doubt at all…until I was informed that it was easier for me to just stay on the course if I wanted the fastest way back to my car. Yeesh. I ran the 3.5 mile downhill and somehow arrived at aid #4. Done.

Well…maybe not. I had 8 miles to go and 5 hours to do it in. How bad could it be? I could walk 2 miles an hour on my head and easily make the cut-off. Right? I regretted my decision to push onward about 30 minutes after leaving the aid station. Beyond that, the next 4 hours was a blur of retching, vomiting, trying to sit down but realizing this only made my cramping worse, and wondering how the hell could 1 mile seem so f-ing long. I hit aid #5 with 1:50 left on the clock.

After upchucking all of the water I had downed and with as serious and concerned a look as I could muster, I looked the park ranger in the eyes and said, “no bullshit. How far is it to the finish and what is the slope like?” She assured me that it was 3.3 miles of easy downhill to the finish. With a reluctant groan, I staggered off into the dimming light.

I was honestly laughing about this wretched day as I limped the final yards to the finish. Made the cut by 40 minutes, snagged my medal, and frantically rummaged in my trunk for the Coke I knew I had stashed. I may never know what the real culprit was, but that was a day I won’t soon forget and that’s a race I won’t be back for. I think I left enough of myself out there already.