Running a 100-mile race alone takes a team of support

How Schwabbie Mark B. conquered an ultramarathon

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October 15, 2020

By Monica Moore, Manager, Marketing Communications

Have you ever had to drive 25 miles to get somewhere and thought, “This is taking forever?” Or maybe you’ve driven 100 miles to get to your in-law’s house and thought, “Am I ever going to get there?”

Now imagine running those distances – on foot. Running those 25- and 50-mile distances is how Schwabbie Mark B. trained for a 100-mile race. The Lakewood, Ohio, native and senior specialist on Schwab’s Retirement Investment Services team competed in the Burning River 100 on August 22 at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Summit Metro parks.

A total of 203 participants began the race but less than half of them finished. Mark crossed the finish line in 27 hours and two minutes, which qualified him to be an official ultramarathon finisher.

Mark quote

“I just told myself to stay in the game and I’ll get through the day. The best part was actually finishing the race. I’m proud of myself. It was weird in the sense that I ran through two sunrises. Well, it was more of a zombie walk through the second sunrise, but it sounds cooler the first way.”

Mark B., Schwabbie and ultramarathoner

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Training: physically and mentally

Mark ran a 50-mile race in 2019, which helped him prepare for the 100-mile race, but he needed to stick to his strict training schedule.

“Usually, Saturdays I would run 20 miles and then Sunday, I would run another 10 miles,” Mark said. “Most people would think you need to recover, but you learn how to run when you’re tired because then you’ll get better.”

It took a lot of discipline to train and cross the finish line, physically and mentally. “You really have to get used to being uncomfortable,” Mark said. “If the weather is bad outside and it’s raining or hot, I still would run because you don’t know what it will be like come race day, so it’s better to be prepared.”

The week leading up the race, Mark tried to control his emotions as best as he could. “I was really nervous and had anxiety,” he said. “I didn’t think I would have so much trouble sleeping the night before. I had to try and force myself to sleep and the race started at 4:30 a.m.!”

Emotions on the road

Mark experienced a range of emotion over the course of 100 miles. At the start, he focused on taking it all in. “The first 10 miles, I was just enjoying the scenery, the people, and being out there,” he said. But when he hit mile 40, he started to struggle physically and mentally.

At mile 50, each participant is required to have assigned pacers, who runs alongside the competitors to make sure there are no injuries. “I got my first pacer and had someone to run with me, so I felt pretty good,” he said. “It was a nice boost in morale, and I had my spirits up. Then the sun started to set and I was struggling again. There was a lot of walking at that point, my legs were tired, and it got harder to pick up my feet on the rocks and roots.”

The final stretch – miles 92 to100 – were the worst, said Mark. “I hit my lowest point, which actually surprised me because I was so close to the finish. Everything was catching up to me at that point...sleep deprivation, dehydration, knees hurting, my  body shutting down a little bit. I was really pushing through the finish,” he said.

Beyond the finish line

Mark crossed the finish line, but the challenge was not over for him. “I walked a little and I sat down on a bench. When I tried to get up again, I legitimately couldn’t walk on my own. I felt so dramatic, but I really did need some support from people to help me up,” he said.

After the race, his body was still reacting. “I was shaking uncontrollably, and I had bad chills. Nothing would help except time. It was scary. I felt helpless. We stayed in a hotel near the finish, but I couldn’t even sleep. Everything hurt, but I was lucky I didn’t have any serious injuries.”

For the first week following the race, even walking the dog was a struggle, Mark recalled. But by the second week, things finally got back to normal.

Solo running takes a team

Although running is an individual sport, it is a team effort. Mark was lucky to have a strong support system that included his wife, his friends and even fellow Schwabbies.

“The people who were there, my wife, and my friends, gave up their day and night to help me get through it. It made me realize I have great friends, and I formed a deeper bond with them,” he said. “We will all remember this forever. It wasn’t just me.”

Mark felt fortunate to receive so many positive, uplifting messages leading up to the race.

“The day before the race, it was really nice to receive a good luck card from my teammates at Schwab and colleagues who have always taken an interest in my running,” he said.

Although he received encouragement before the big race, he was still pleasantly surprised to see a few co-workers on the sidelines cheering him on. “Around mile 67, I saw some Schwabbies and I didn’t even know they were tracking me. They spotted me in the dark and were cheering me on,” he said. “It’s a good community at Schwab and so unique … you don’t get that everywhere and I truly appreciate it.”

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