Before Mike Foote hit the big time, Missoula’s ultra-star got lost during the Old Gabe 50k and ended up doubling back on the course and running the last leg with a guy who’d fueled the whole race on a bag of Twizzlers and a gallon jug of orange juice, both of which he’d carried with him the entire way. “Want one?” he asked, proffering up the sticky red, corn-syrupy sweet. Foote considered it for a moment, then accepted the Twizzler. “Thanks!” He hollered, shortly before crossing the finish line in nearly last place. “You gotta respect that,” Foote told me later.
If there’s one thing all ultarunners appear to share, it’d be a bad case of stubborn perseverance. You’ve heard the stories: Kirk Apt, the 50-year-old Frutia, Colorado-based runner who’s now run Hardrock a record 18 times; Carolyn Erdman, who split her knee open at a 50-mile warm-up race and then ran through the pain until she could see her patella poking through; anyone who attempted the Slickrock 100 debacle last year. But Davy Crockett, mentioned in my previous article, may very well be the poster child for stubborn perseverance. Here’s why:
In 2002, Crockett was a self-described 230-pound couch potato who woke up one morning and figured he’d attempt to get in shape for an upcoming backpacking trip by hiking the 14 mile out-and-back up Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos, “a grueling experience that took all day.” Vowing to get faster, Crockett upped his mileage but quickly got injured and started swimming to drop weight. In 2003, he tore the meniscus in his right knee, but was hooked enough on long distance fast-packing to start Googling around for a distance hiking club… which is how Crockett discovered ultras. Most of you can intuit the story from there. After coming in nearly dead last in his first 50k, Crockett immediately signed up for the White River 50. This time he really did come in dead last, two seconds after the cutoff, yet undeterred Crockett raced, then DNF’d his first 100k, injuring a knee. Unperturbed, Crockett signed up for Bear 100, and DNFed with 13 miles to go.
But that was 2004. In 2005, Crockett finished seven races, including Bear, and he’s been remarkably consistent ever since – with close to 70 ultras under his belt and some solid Grand Canyon adventure running to boot. He’s placed anywhere from first to 96th, donned a coonskin cap for the 2005 Rocky Raccoon 100 as a tribute to the eponymous 19th century folk hero, and once asked Jim Skaggs if he could run the Antelope Island course twice, which required extra forest service permission but was ultimately approved.
So why does Crockett do it? In his words, “because I can.” Browse around his entertaining (and enviably thorough) blog – Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier – and you get the sense, he’s serious. It’s definitely one thing to train to win, but to train obsessively just to run “insanely long and crazy distances” without caring where you finish? That kind of perseverance really does merit a whole new brand of respect.
Which reminds me – aid station Twizzlers. Not a bad idea…