Wow! I set a goal of becoming a United States Walking Centurion. A goal much larger than myself at the time. I had to train hard, log lots of miles, devote a lot of time towards such a big goal. I had to become someone else. A much leaner, mentally tougher me. 29 months from couch to Centurion. Over 4500 Miles walked. 8 half Marathons. 9 Marathons. 56 miles in a 12 Hour race. Tens of thousands of push-ups. Thousands of chin-ups and Squats. Hours and hours of Planks. When I crossed that 100 mile mark I was flooded with emotions. It was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Nothing I could write comes close to what I feel. I Did It!
United States Centurion C78
The 2015 United States Centurion Qualifier was the F.A.N.S 24 Hour in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The field of 24 hour walkers included a married couple Justin & Sharon Scholz with Australian Centurions badges. Two fellows from Netherlands. Antoine Hunting and Jantinus Meints. Both with Continental and British Centurion badges. Long distance walker Ollie Nanyes. A chance to witness some world class long distance walking. The F.A.N.S. Support staff was top notch. Very supportive. A big thanks to our event Judge Bruce Leasure. We have a U.S. Centurion qualifier because of Bruce. In Oklahoma most people would give you the shirt off their back. U.S. Centurion John Greene and his wife Betty from Minnesota would give their shirt, home and most likely their car. Everyone involved with the race was positive and upbeat. Walkers, Runners and Support staff.
My game plan was to walk the first 15 hours at an average pace of 13:47 per mile. Giving me almost 66 miles logged with 9 hours to go. That would allow me a nice cushion for the remainder of the race. Not so fast at the beginning to ensure I had the gas to finish. Part of the excitement with any new distance is the unknown. I tend to be very conservative when I don’t know what to expect. Slow at the start. Quicker at the finish.
The race forecast changed my plans. An 80 percent chance of thunderstorms overnight. The race officials would stop the racers if it came a lightning storm. The clock however would continue on. With this in mind I rolled the dice on starting with a faster pace. The idea was to front load the miles. Then even with an hour delay I might still hit one hundred miles. The new pace 13:20 for 15 hours.
I got to the race early. Found a picnic table where I could watch everyone show up. Meet Ollie right off the bat. Ollie is no stranger to ultra distance walking events. Next to catch my eye were the Dutch Centurions. Easy guys to spot. What you would expect double centurions to look like. They sat across from me in the timing and lap tent. Then the Australian couple showed up. You could tell from their meeting there is a magical bond between Centurions. They came from opposite sides of the earth but they had all chewed the same pavement. They had a connection and you could tell it. I so wanted to be part of that magical bond.
At 8am sharp the race started. First an out and back then 2.14 miles around Lake Snelling. A beautiful place to race. Lots of shade and big trees. One fourth of the course was paved path. One fourth a paved road. One half a graded dirt trail. The trail had some small rock and some one inch size rock. A few steady up hills and one sharp drop down hill. Many areas had roots and buckled asphalt from tree roots.
The race started pleasantly cool. I had no problem holding a pace a little faster than 13:20. That is good because they were telling us the storms would arrive around 11pm. I started to have a problem. Little rocks were getting in my shoes. It got to be a game with me. A rock would get in. I would adjust my footfalls. Try and herd the rocks to places that did not hurt. If the rocks all gathered under my arch or around my toes I won the game. When you walked the tangents on the trail you had to cross the one inch rocks. On my lap 8 all four of the centurions lapped me. It looked like they were racing. Not me I stuck to my plan. Every lap I had to go down that sharp downhill. It hurt to go down. Later it became almost unbearable. Every four hours you had to weigh in. Lose to much weight and the medical staff would hold you. It made you eat and drink every lap. No problem for me. I eat like crazy. I never dropped more than three pounds. At the eight hour mark I changed socks and dumped the gravel out of my shoes. Patched a blister on my right big toe. My sweet wife Brenda crewed for me. I never let her go to races. I feel sorry for those wives and kids that watch daddy take off. Then wait around for 5 hours for his return. She was going to crew for me and that was that. I am glad she did. The afternoon turned out Hot and very humid. Not hot and humid to me but to anyone not from Oklahoma or Florida. I had just got my lap back from the Centurions. Then it happened. A rock jumped in the back of my left shoe. Got right at the bottom outside of my heel. I could move it but only to the middle of my heel. I would just live with it till hour 16 and change socks again. I noticed some thing about the Dutch Centurions when I passed them. They did not hold their arms at a 90 degree angle. I tried it. It was perfect for relaxing my arms while maintaining my pace. Then I saw it, Lightning flash. Every time I passed the lap counters I counted it a blessing I could get one more lap. It came one of those Oklahoma Thunderstorms. It rained so hard all I could see was rain with my light on. The low spots had over ankle deep water. The water running off a nearby highway washed out two gullies in the dirt path. The road section looked like a river with Rapids. Still they let us race and we were glad to do it. There was water. The dirt turned to slick mud. It was crazy. My friend the rock had made a big blister under the callus of my heel. My friend the sharp downhill hurt my legs beyond belief. I slipped all over that dirt path. Waded through water. Walked around the gullies. Got where no food looked good. Wet socks for six hours. Every reason to throw up your hands and say, maybe next year. None of us did that. We all five did what Centurion’s do. You keep going, You finish. It really is 80 percent mental. I needed 46 laps. On lap 45 it hit me. Empty tank. No power. I was out of gas. I used everything I had and nothing was left. Brenda told me I could not stop now. I don’t know how I finished that last lap. I would have cried but I was too tired. John Greene was at the little down hill from hell to walk in with me. I made it. Made the mistake of sitting right down. Almost passed out. No blood in my head. Laid on a picnic table for an hour. Brenda was so sad her camera battery had died. Would have made a great before and after comparison picture. I knew a Centurion attempt would be tough. Turned out even tougher than I thought. Oh what a rush crossing that finish line. No wonder Centurions have a magical bond. It is a Spectacular event with lots of emotions and challenges. A test worthy of a special name. CENTURION!
My finish time 22 hours 37 minutes 49 seconds. I finished after the Australians and before the Dutch racers.
5 New United States Centurions. Bottom row L to R, Antoine Hunting, Justin Scholz, Sharon Scholz . Back Row L to R, Myself, Jantinus Meints
photo by Betty Greene
Mile 40. Feeling no pain.
photo by Pat Sackett
The finish. Yea! United States Centurion John Greene in the background. Thank You John.
Centurion Rob Robertson