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Meet Mark Hellenthal

Posted May 13 2012 5:05pm
WhatUltra Trail Run - 50, 100, 150, 200, and 500 MILE TRAIL. The 50 milers will do the first 40 miles on the East side of Route 100 and then they will do their last ten miles on the west side. The 50 mile course is very scenic but also very demanding. The longer races will all do a rugged 10 mile loop in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Runners will repeat the loops 10, 15, 20, or 50 times. Each loop has 2400 vertical therefore the 30 miler will feature 7,200, 100 miler will feature 24,000, 150 miler will feature 36,000, 200 miler will feature 48,000 feet and 500 miler will feature 120,000 feet of elevation change.

When500 mile race starts Thursday, May 3rd at 6:00 p.m. and has a 240 hour cutoff. Athletes have until Sunday, May 13th. Course Closes Sunday at 6 p.m.

This is no race that I have done. No.

An ultra-running friend, Mark Hellenthal, toed the line on May 3rd at the Peak Ultras --not to do a 50K, a 50 mile, or even a hundred mile. Mark, along with four others, was attempting to run 500 miles. Running 100 miles is beyond most people's comprehension, although the distance is doable with the right training and grit. There are now nearly 100 hundred mile races in the US, and just a few at distances beyond that. The RD of the Peak Ultras was once behind the McNaughton Park race, which besides a 100 miler, featured a 150 mile distance. Before that, Badwater--135 miles--was possibly the only longer race. Since McNaughton, there have been a few other races that have gone beyond 100 miles: Rouge Orleans--126.2 miles, Arrowhead 135--135 miles, Lost 118--118 miles, and a couple of new ones: Pigtails--150 and 200 miles, and Viaduct--200 miles. The finishing rate in distances beyond 100 miles drops sharply. Fatigue unimaginable awaits the weary runner who keeps trotting beyond 100 miles.

I met Mark Hellenthal at the pre-race meeting at Rouge/Orleans in 2011. Mark saw my Pumpkin Holler promo shirt, and made a beeline for me to announce that HE was the first one to sign up for my race. I was very happy to meet him, although at that time, I did not know him from Adam. I caught up with Mark somewhere during the first night on the Mississippi Levee somewhere Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I mistakenly asked him if he were in the relay race, and he told me heck no--he was in the 126 miler. He went on to beat my time handily. We met again at the Midnight Madness 50 miler here in Tulsa. Then, we spent time together at Pumpkin. Mark was steadily racking up 100 mile finishes, finishing 10, I think, in 2011. Mark just never quits. When things get rough, he digs in and locks onto a pace and rides it to the finish. I had no doubt he's finish this 500 miler. The question in my mind was just how ugly it would get.

Mark updated his facebook wall occasionally, and had friends in the know who also posted updates over the past few days. Marked knocked out 200 miles like it was a nice easy 100, and then bit off huge chunks of distance sandwiched between naps. With a 10 day time limit, it seemed like he would finish with plenty of time to spare. Patricia Richert posted these signs a few times on his facebook wall, which I enjoyed. I was so excited to see this one, which signalled marks victory lap.

And shortly later from Mark's FB page, a friend and fellow competitor Joel Gat posted this update: Peak 500 miler Update! Mark becomes the second person to ever finish the McNaughton 500, around 9 days 16 hours into the race. Incredible job, Mark!

Willy Syndram finished first in the 500 mile division. Of the five starters, Willy and Mark were the only finishers, but the lone female, Michelle Roy was over 350 miles and was shooting for 400 in the last post I could find. (Update--Michelle finished with 380 miles.)

Mark poses with RD Andy Weinberg. No visible signs of wear. I asked Mark how his feet were, and he only had two small blisters. (picture courtesy of Josh Dennis.)

Hard earned hardware. This is a belt buckle for the ages. (Picture courtesy of Greg Brozovich.)

Mark's friend Casey OConnor posted this jewel of a congrats. I love it!!!
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