GO THE DISTANCE
A good run always gets the heart pumping, but there’s an extra boost that comes from going a little farther than you’ve ever gone before.
As an elite ultramarathon runner, Patrick Reagan is accustomed to pushing his body to the limit. But when he lined up for the Javelina Jundred in October in Fountain Hills, Arizona, he literally didn’t know if he could finish the 100-mile race.
“It’s a hard thing to palpate when you’ve never run that far before,” admits Reagan, a 30-year-old Savannah resident. “For me it was 38 miles farther than I’ve ever run and it could have taken me up to 10 hours longer than I had ever run before.”
Fortunately for Reagan, it only took twice as long as he had ever run – a remarkable 13 hours, one minute, 14 seconds – to complete his 100-mile debut, beating his friend and occasional training partner, Zach Bitter, by more than 51 minutes.
Just how incredible was Reagan’s performance? Third-place finisher Brendan Davies set an Australian record for 100 miles – and finished 63 minutes behind Reagan.
Reagan, who also coaches the Savannah College of Art & Design cross country team, stopped running competitively shortly after completing his career at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where he was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American in cross country. He began racing again in 2015, but running road marathons “wasn’t clicking.”
“I started going up to the mountains and running with friends and really started enjoying being on my feet for long periods of time,” Reagan said. “We were running lots of trails and doing lots of climbing, and I started becoming committed to trying a 50K or 50-miler someday.”
Reagan made his first foray into ultra running in October 2015, at the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy’s Buffalo Run 50K in Bluffton, South Carolina.
This time, it clicked. After winning the Buffalo Run, Reagan finished second at the Mad City 100K – which doubled as the USATF’s 100K national championship – in April 2016 and finished third at the IAU 100K World Championship in November of that year.
Then came the win at the Javelina Jundred, in which Reagan covered the 100 miles in the Sonoran Desert at a remarkable pace of 7 minutes, 48 seconds per mile and further cemented himself as one of the world’s best ultra runners.
“There’s a huge percentage for error just because of the vast amount of time that you’re out there,” Reagan said. “You can’t get comfortable. I even felt when I was nine miles from the finish line, if I get too comfortable here, I might not finish.”
The average runner won’t be able to tackle the grueling races Reagan runs, but marathons and ultras are accessible to anyone who wants to go beyond the typical 5K or 10K and explore their outer limits. Many ultra races have a team relay option, and the Buffalo Run also includes a 30K to help the novice distance runner build up to the marathon and beyond.
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