As The North Face Endurance Challenge moves from city to city between August and December 2007, runners of all ages, abilities and experience levels will push their personal limits at distances ranging from 10K to 50 miles.
At the front of The Endurance Challenge, lithe 50-miler runners will churn their sinewy muscles smoothly over endless miles of undulating trail. These elite, gifted and highly-tuned athletes will vie for a share of thousands of dollars in prize money and the Endurance Challenge Championship. These are the greyhounds of endurance running, and most of them have been tackling great distances for several years.
Not too far behind them, runners like Andrea Buono, Bryan Seifarth, Don Kearney and Katherine Delurgio-Ramos will give it their all, exploring their own personal boundaries at various distances.
New England Mother of Three
Andrea Buono has never completed a running race longer than a marathon. But that won't stop the 39-year-old from trying to tackle 50 miles at the September 22 Endurance Challenge in Hartford Connecticut. "I enjoy training for sporting events and the challenge that comes with each race I've competed in," she says. "I love running."
Despite the daunting challenge of running a 50-miler, Buono may be perfectly conditioned for such a task. She's a mother of three boys ranging in age from eight to 13 years old. Any parent can appreciate how much endurance is involved in chasing after kids and shuttling them between school, activities and everything else. Yet Buono still squeezes in training. "I rise early in the morning and head out the door for my runs," she explains. "The kids wait patiently for me and we have a late breakfast together."
Buono holds a deep regard for cross-training as well—an approach that has been gaining in popularity among ultra-endurance runners like The North Face? athlete Tim Twietmeyer (www.thenorthface.com/na/athletes/athletes-TT.html). Says Buono, "I mostly compete in triathlons and I have raced in all distances, from mini-sprints to the Lake Placid Ironman." During an average week, Buono runs a mix of road and trails three or four days, swims up to five days, and normally cycles three or four days.
And how will Buono's hectic day-to-day-pace plus marathon and triathlon experience translate to running 50 miles of trail outside of Hartford? Time will tell, but she's excited to find out. Besides, she says, "I was ready for a new challenge."
Recovering From a Bike Crash
Bryan Seifarth, a 23-year-old civil engineer from Baltimore, toed the starting line at the August 4 Endurance Challenge in Washington, D.C., where he tackled the 50K course in preparation for a 50 miler later this year. For Seifarth, who was a half-miler on high school and college teams, it was only his third time covering an ultramarathon distance. But this attempt represented some unique challenges.
"In early June I had a cycling accident which resulted in 14 stitches to close a gash in my upper leg," explains Seifarth. "The healing process put me out for a month and a half." As a result, Seifarth did not enter the 50K event with as much confidence as he'd prefer. "Since I am currently working my way back," he said, "I have not had the time to put in the kind of training I usually do." Still, Seifarth logged his long runs, tempo workouts and speed work on and off a portion of the Appalachian Trail in western Maryland in preparation for the event.
"I'm just trying to get the miles in," he said.
To see how Seifarth fared in The Endurance Challenge 50K in Washington, DC, visit www.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge/.
Turning it Around in Iowa
Don Kearney, 31, of Fairfax, Iowa, will run the half-marathon distance in the September 1 Endurance Challenge in Des Moines, Iowa. Unlike some runners, he doesn't have his sights set on the podium, but is focused on pushing himself while also building up to the Kansas City Marathon in October. "It's not about speed or placing to me," he says, "but about finishing and hitting my goal. After all, I'm doing it for my health."
A short time ago, Kearney weighed almost 300 pounds. "I've had several issues with weight and health over the years," says Kearney, a contractor who moonlights as equipment manager of the local Cedar Valley Running Club. "Running inspired me to loose weight." Today, the 6-foot-5 Kearney is down to 230 pounds ("I feel great," he says), thanks in large part to three and a half years of running and a healthier lifestyle. He runs trails and has even completed a triathlon.
Running has been a big life change for Kearney, and he adds, "so much that my wife, Allyson, has started to run in the different events that I run in."
Bay Area Newbie
Katherine Delurgio-Ramos of Oakland, California, started running 18 months ago ("Trails I began less than a year ago," she adds). Today, the 34-year-old has already completed a half-marathon and is now focused on the shorter, but more intense, 10K distance at The Endurance Challenge on December 1 in San Francisco. She has even hired a personal trainer for twice-a-week session in search of her personal, athletic best.
What drives Delurgio-Ramos to push herself up and down the steep, hilly terrain of the Bay Area? "My own desire to have a goal," says the massage therapist, "along with my husband's goal to run half-marathon."
Look for Buono, Delurgio-Ramos, Kearney, and Seifarth—as well as many others pushing their own personal limits—at The North Face Endurance Challenge events throughout this summer and fall. For a complete schedule of events (including those in Iowa, Connecticut and Washington), distances and registration information, visit www.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge .