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June 27 2012 / Emily

Ultimate Runner Race Preview

The 26th Annual Ultimate Runner is this Saturday.  This is the current forecast for the weekend, which has gone up 5 degrees since this afternoon:

Good grief!  This will be an extra challenge.  It starts at 4:30pm, which is far from the coolest time of day.

The Ultimate Runner is an event put on right here in Winston-Salem by the Twin City Track Club, my local running club.  Each runner participates in all five of the following events, in this order: 1 mile, 400 meters, 800 meters, 100 meters, 5k.  The first four are held on the Hanes Park track and the 5k is cross country double looping through Hanes Park.  You only receive a t-shirt if you complete all five events!  At the beginning of the evening, the race organizers pour onto the track the burned remnants of any un-earned shirts from the prior year.  I like the idea of really earning the shirt, as most races hand them out at the start.

I ran the event last year, and it was pretty much my first track meet experience, since I was not a high school or college runner, nor was I “into” running yet at that time, so it was not something I sought out.  It was really fun to see the super fast (and let’s be honest, nice to look at) guys in the early heats knocking out 4:30 miles, or even more exciting is the 400 meters in 51-53 seconds.  So speedy.

Each event is broken up into heats based on 1-mile seed times each runner submits with their registration.  There is a maximum of 108 participants, who are broken into 8 heats (except for the 100m and 5k).  Last year I was in heat 7, the second slowest.  This year I’m excited to have moved up to heat 6.  Maybe it’s just a slower field, who knows.  While participants of all speeds are welcome, it does tend to skew fast.  Middle of the road runners like me are still among peers of similar speeds, but the slightly slower runners are in a sort of mish-mash heat that I was glad to avoid last year.  Running with people around my pace (or slightly faster) really pushes me to be fast, but if everyone was a minute or two ahead of me, I’d feel a bit defeated.  But looking at last year’s results, there were still 6 runners with mile splits over 10 minutes, so it wasn’t like just one person was far behind.

The events start at 4:30 with the t-shirt ash ceremony then the mile begins.  The heats tick off and the rest breaks start becoming shorter and shorter as the runs do the same.  There is certainly enough time to catch your breath but there’s always a hope for more rest!  I wonder if the extreme heat this year will cause the organizers to give more rest?  Probably not.

Last year I was seeded 82 out of 108 runners, and finished in 86th place.  This year I am seeded 74 and hope to over-perform instead!

One of the great stories from last year’s event is that of Jack Ibraham, a then-75 year old who was running his 25th Ultimate Runner – if you’re keeping track at home, that’s all of them.  Well he took a tumble during one of his events and got very bloodied, but stayed strong and still finished all the events (well-bandaged) to earn his shirt!  I’m pleased to see him back on the registration list this year.  Here is an article from the Winston-Salem Journal about him and last year’s event in general: link.  The photo of him is just great, in a “wow that’s badass” sort of way:

Image credit to TCTC photo page; linked.

My favorite photo from my personal running of the event is thankfully less bloody, but also therefore less interesting!  This is during the 100 meter sprint.  Wow, it sounds like such a short distance, it looks like such a short distance, but it just goes and goes when you are sprinting full out!  I was happy to be placed in the same heat with a friend of mine (#83 in the white shirt) so we competed throughout (well he beat me by 15 places in the overall results).  We are in the same heat again this year, along with another friend I know through him, and Steve from Steve’s House of Running.  Will be nice to have so many friendly faces in my group!

perfectly in stride during the 100m

The park takes on a tailgate/picnic atmosphere during the event, with the resting runners lounging between events, and family and friends there as onlookers.  It was a lot of fun to watch and participate in.  I had a group of friends come out last year for support and I do think they enjoyed it.  Not sure anyone will want to sit out in 100+ degrees this Saturday though – and I can’t really blame them (but I’ll still invite them!).

After all the track events, the 5k last year was one of the hardest 5ks I’ve ever run, and one of the slowest.  But finishing was sweet, and declaring myself an ultimate runner!  A very different feeling than completing a marathon or any of the other events I’ve done.  And then it comes with an after party!  Last year was at Burke Street Pub, but this year we will be heading to Bob’s Big Gas Subs & Pub, one of my recent favorite haunts.  Food and beer flow freely while each ultimate runner is individually announced and called up to receive their t-shirt.  I think the beer part of the event is why they start it in the evening… so it’s not so strange to launch straight into a cold one. 🙂

This year should be quite a challenge with the extreme heat in the forecast.  The last two days, yesterday especially, have been great weather and I only wish I could swap the days out, but we must run in what we are dealt.  While I really want to run better than last year, I need to remember that the weather will be almost dangerous, and not to push too hard.  Better to run a bit more slowly than end up with heat stroke.  I’ll bring plenty of liquids and try to stay hydrated and as cool as possible.

Bring on Ultimate Runner!



Leave a Comment
  1. hinsone / Jun 27 2012 8:24 PM

    Good luck to you and Steve this weekend! (He recently added me to DM, so now I have two friends running). I will be manning the water stop of the 5K so PLEASE come by and see me! (Seriously, stay hydrated!) I hope you complete the events and earn your shirt and I’m seriously thinking about running this next year it seems really cool!

  2. Dana Custer / Jul 4 2012 1:26 PM

    Great post em- btw, I totally just googled the ultimate runner news and your blog was about 6th down on the list!

    • Emily / Jul 6 2012 11:12 AM

      thanks Dana! Yeah I saw that too – guess there weren’t many “official” news stories on the web about UR – I’ll take the Google hits. 🙂


  1. OMG Heatwave « steve's house of running
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