“The first mile is the hardest,” according to Steve Durbin, race director for the Tunnel Hill 100 mile/50 mile Run. Nearly 400 runners that range in age from 16 to 73 will be in Vienna Saturday, Nov. 15, for the event.
These men and women with near superhuman endurance will trace a route that starts at Vienna Park, and has a northernmost point of Tunnel Hill and southernmost point near Cypress. Runners participating in the 100 mile run will trace travel the route twice, while 50-milers will complete it once.
Ultra-marathons, as these events are called, have been quickly gaining popularity among distance runners. In 2004 there were only 15 100-mile runs in the United States. Ten years later and that number is closer to 140. “It’s the natural progression,” Durbin said. “Marathon runners reach a point where they aren’t able to run a marathon any faster, so they decide to go farther.
The Tunnel Hill run is scheduled to last 30 hours, a standard time limit for races of this distance. As one can imagine, it takes a lot of preparation to run for that distance and length of time. Runners generally train for a year or more to run ultra-marathons. They not only have to prepare their body, but their mind as well.
“The race is going to ebb and flow, it’s a lot like life itself. You’ll have good days and bad days,” Durbin explained. He went on to state that mile 80 is when the race gets a lot easier, after that runners are in their home stretch just counting down the miles.
Among these incredible individuals will be Traci Falbo from Charlestown, Indiana. She is a world record holder, having run 245 miles in 48 hours. Most people dislike the thought of having to drive 245 miles, the mental toughness it would take to run that distance is almost unimaginable.
Ultra-marathon running is an international sport. In addition to runners coming from 27 states for the Tunnel Hill Run, three foreign countries will be represented as well. Canada, Great Britain and Japan each have runners traveling to the event.
Part of the event’s draw is that it’s known to runners as being a “fast course.” Running for 30 hours means the runners will have to run through the night. Because of the length of these races, runners typically slow down to avoid trip hazards along the route as many of them occur across foot trails. The route of this race is free of that issue, so runners will be able to maintain their usual pace through the night.
This will be the first year the Tunnel Hill run is held, and already talks are underway to bring it back next year. The Illinois Tourism board is discussing hosting a series of races next year with the Tunnel Hill being one of the events.