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Why Six Day Race In Florida Might Be Just What Ultrarunning Needs   by Claire  Nana

June 2014

Why Six Day Race In Florida Might Be Just What Ultrarunning Needs
By Claire Nana

To my knowledge, the average person knows nothing about six day races. In fact, most runners know nothing about six day races. And yet running for six days straight is actually nothing new.

Sri Chinmoy’s races of six, ten and even thirty days have been happening officially since 1985 when his Marathon Team decided to host the Self Transcendence run -- 3100 mile race around a New York city block held each spring -- along with the “Ultra Trio” which consists of three separate 700, 1000, and 1300 mile races with staggered starts held every September.

For Chinmoy, the idea of running 3100 miles was not about an athlete proving anything other than his own ability to “transcend himself”, and in doing so, go beyond perceived limits.

And while names like Stu Middleman -- the first recorded winner of the 1000 mile race in 1986 in 11 days, 20 hours and 37 minutes, Yiannos Kouros -- the current 100 mile record holder in a time of 10 days, 10 hours and 30 minutes, and Wolfgang Schwerk -- the current 3100 mile record holder in a time of 41 days, 8 hours and 16 minutes, stand out as pinnacles of human endurance, there is one man who, by many, truly symbolizes what ultrarunning is about.

A man who simply refused to give up.

Al Howie can certainly brag about many things -- he holds the record for the 7295 Kilometer Trans Canada Run (72 days and 10 hours), and then two weeks later won -- and set the Guinness Record for the Sri Chinmoy 1300 mile run in New York, but one thing you will never hear him do is whine. Even when a malignant brain tumor threatened to end not just his running, but his life, Howie refused chemotherapy, adopted a macrobiotic diet, and when the tumor miraculously reversed itself, ran 1200 miles from Victoria to White Spruce farm in Southern B.C. as an expression of gratitude.

In 1992 when he later developed diabetes, this stalwart blamed blisters resulting from blisters occurring during a multi day race across Mojave desert as the cause. Confronted with the need for consistent insulin injections -- his was Type I diabetes -- secondary weight loss and inflamed nerve in his right knee, Howie choose a more conventional approach and took insulin injections.

But he never stopped running.

Instead, running simply became a little more complex. As Howie writes in The Come Back Trail, in December, 1997, “I’m back on the multi-day circuit, Novolin pens and a One Touch meter tossed into my sport bag with running shoes, orthotics and petroleum jelly. As with life generally, I am finding diabetes complicates racing yet accentuates the intrinsic adventure. More significantly my potential for success, even for record breaking in the grueling sport of ultra-marathon racing, is not to be compromised by my diabetic condition. Running toward the horizon of human endurance on synthetic insulin is exploring an uncharted universe. Rather than the runner’s wall, hypoglycemia becomes the number one threat to be avoided. Once again I’m a pioneer in the aerobic universe, this time in the diabetic galaxy.”

There aren’t too many like him, and as far as 6 day races go, not too many either. From the information I can gather, here is the current list for 2014:

04.07 6D Athens www.dayrunners.gr
05.07 6D Balatonfüred www.emusport.hu/emu_48h_6day
07.06 6D Del Pantano - Italy. www.6giornidelpantano.com
08.04 6D Anchorage - Alaska www.sixdaysinthedome.com
08.26 6D Silverton, Colorado www.silverton1000.com
09.06 6D Weston-Super-Mare - England www.celticultrafest.com
09.29 6D Adelaide - Australia. http://sarrc.asn.au/adelaide_6_Day_race
10.19 6D Villefranche - France www.6jours-de-france.fr
11.16 6D Monte Carlo – Monaco www.nofinishline.com
12.13 6D Johannesburg – South Africa www.circuitraces.co.za
12.28 6D Glendale - Arizona www.acrosstheyears.com

So what does this mean for Florida?

Perhaps it is a chance to prove that the human spirit -- that undying drive to persevere, overcome our limits, and as Sri Chinmoy would say, transcend them -- is alive and well.

And maybe a little grit, determination, and tenacity is just what Florida -- what all of us need.

For more information about Florida’s new Six Day Race, the Icarus Florida UltraFest, just visit, www.icarusfloridaultrafest.com