Baldwin City man completes 100-mile ultra-marathon
Justin Hoffman stayed home Monday from his job as paraprofessional at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, soaking his feet and resting his tired muscles.
“The body is not meant to run 100 miles,” he said.
Although it’s unlikely few would dispute that statement, Hoffman is speaking from experience.
Last weekend, Hoffman completed a 100-mile ultra-marathon from the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Ottawa to Iola and back, finishing 19th out of 53 runners with a time of 25 hours, 23 minutes. For Hoffman, the 100-mile race on the Prairie Spirit Trail was a doubling down from the 50-mile ultra-marathon he completed at the same event a year earlier.
Just as the idea of running a 50-mile race intrigued him after he successfully ran marathons, the challenge of the 100 miles took hold after his run last fall. He prepared for the ordeal with training that began last winter and continued into the spring, summer and fall. At his peak, he was running 70 to 80 miles per week, running on country roads near his Worden home, Baldwin City and Vinland. He did one 30-mile training run and ran 25 miles “four for five times.”
A year ago, Hoffman had found running 50 miles grueling, but he completed the Ottawa to Iola leg on Saturday feeling strong.
“I got to Iola at about 4:40 p.m. or in about 10 1/2 hours,” he said. “It was beautiful day for running. There was a slight breeze to my back, making it even better.”
Fortunately, the wind died on his run back, but the last 50 miles presented other challenges.
“It really, really got difficult at mile 80,” he said. “From mile 1 to 80, it was never easy but at mile 80 I was dealing with several silver dollar sized blisters on my feet. Also a 3, 4 and 5 in the morning, you start feeling like you’re going to fall asleep while running. Several times, I started to drift off the trail and could hardly keep my eyes open.”
Helping Hoffman overcome fatigue were Baldwin City residents Kasey Wright, John Ussery and Grant Catloth and his father Scot Hoffman, who ran with him from 8 to 23 miles as pacers during the last half of the race.
“I wouldn’t have made it without their help,” he said. “They kept talking to me and asking me questions I had to answer so I didn’t fall asleep and collapse. It was interesting because each pacer had a different personality and different way of keeping me motivated and keep going. That’s the important thing. A lot of veteran ultra-marathoners say the most important thing is to keep moving whether you’re running, walking or crawling. Once you stop, it’s too difficult to start back up.”
Hoffman got a taste of that at the 10-mile aid stations. At those stations, the ultra-marathoners sit down to meals of pancakes, eggs, bacon and other carb-rich foods, looking to eat enough to give the fuel for the trail but not so much they get sick, he said.
“At the last two aid stations at 83 and 93 miles, it was incredibly hard to get back up,” he said. “They said the temperature was about 38 degrees. I couldn’t stop shaking. They let me go into a tent with a heater for about two or three minutes. It went by very quickly. Grant kept saying, ‘It’s time to get up. It’s time to get going.’ It’s incredibly hard to leave that comfort. It’s almost like leaving home and heading back to the battlefield.”
Meeting Hoffman at every aid station was his wife, Julie. She was there to give support and also out of concern.
“I was very worried,” she said. “I had a knot in my stomach the whole time.”
Hoffman acknowledges the sacrifice his wife made so that he could train for the race. It cost him a lot of family time with her and their three children Caden, 7, Mason, 6, and Emmeryn, 7 months, he said.
That’s over for the time being. Hoffman said he would give his body two to three weeks to heal before he started running again and that would be limited to a few mile per day. Hoffman said there are a few races longer than 100 miles, but he has no desire to run in them. He did leave open the possibility of running another 100-miler, but his wife is in favor of dialing back the distances.
“I vote we don’t do it again,” she said. “Lets stick to marathons.”