Colby Wentlandt: Anything is Possible
July 10th, 2015By Claire Nana
Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes ten thousand hours to master something, and most people figure that adds up to about ten years. It’s at this point that, if we’ve put in the time, we can expect to be an expert.
In Colby Wentlandt’s case, the problem is that he has no competition.
You see, Colby is only fourteen, in a sport where the average competitor is often well over forty.
Colby is an ultra-runner. The kind who measures his races not in hours, but in days.
He ran his first 100 mile race when he was 12. Why? You ask.
Colby would tell you because it’s fun. We are, after all, meant to run. But in Colby’s case, it probably means a lot more.
He does come from a family of ultra-runners. Both his parents have numerous 100 mile races to their credit.
“But this is all him,” Shawna, his mother, told me over dinner. That was just after Colby mentioned that he was planning on upping his miles.
He has a race coming up, and he also has a goal. “This time, I’d like to break 24 hours,” he told me casually, as if he’d just mentioned that he made it to a new level on the Call of Duty video game – which is probably what most of his friends are doing.
And while they might be conquering a virtual world, Colby is conquering something much larger—his own challenges.
“A few months ago after having a series of unfortunate events (passing a kidney stone in one race and picking up a virus in another) I felt a sense of loathing towards running and was definitely “down in the dumps”. I pulled myself out of that situation by using a future goal to inspire myself to start training again.”
Yea, pulled himself out of that situation, just like most kids.
No, Colby is not like most kids. And not just because he has probably run more miles than most of them will run in their lifetime.
Colby likes challenges. In fact he thrives on them, “The overwhelming sense of accomplishment and happiness that I receive after finishing a race is what drives me to run.”
Not words you will hear most kids say.
Most kids also don’t plan on graduating high school early – in Colby’s case, with multiple college credits – or becoming a surgeon. (He plans on attending the Annapolis Naval Academy).
Yet Colby doesn’t consider himself, or what he does, odd. “Minus extreme stubbornness, and a decent tolerance to pain, I think I’m a normal person,” he tells me.
Maybe we should all be a little more stubborn.
But Colby works hard. Regularly running 40-50 miles per week in the off season and closer to 70 miles per week when a race is near.
What’s on his radar now is something new. The Icarus Florida UltraFest, a six day race held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in November (which also offers 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour options). This will be Colby’s first six day race, and not surprisingly, he plans to break some records.
As Colby explains, “Since I am relatively new at multi-day races I've decided that right around the 420 mile range sounds reasonable to me. Originally my goal was 400 miles, but then I thought about it for a few minutes and realized if I add 3 miles a day to my goal I can achieve 20 extra miles. What's 3 extra miles a day? Heck, I could do that in my sleep (literally). I've decided that if I'm going to set a world record, I might as well try to set the bar as high as possible. So 3 extra miles a day could potentially be crucial to my overall performance."
The other six day competitors are on alert.
After his record attempt at Icarus Florida UltraFest, Colby hopes to run the Spartathlon – the historic race from Athens to Sparta. At 153 miles long and a waiting list of more than that number, and stiff qualification standards, it draws the most elite runners from around the world.
Many don’t finish. The race is hot. It traverses a mountain with just shy of 4000 foot elevation gain at mile 99, and then there are the cutoffs – 75 in total. And if you don’t make the time cutoffs, you are disqualified.
But Colby is not intimidated. His biggest challenge might not be the race itself – he has already qualified – it might be the petition he will have to write to get in.
You see, they’ve never had a 15 year old run the race before. In fact, no 15 year old has ever asked.
But then again, they haven’t met Colby Wentlandt.
For the rest of us, Colby has a little tip. Work hard to reach your goals because anything is possible. But just don’t go out too fast.
Not bad advice.