EC100 – The Californian Urban Ultra
The third week of October I had the opportunity to take part in an adventure like no other, one that I remember for the rest of my life. The 100EC Urban Ultra Marathon is not your typical 100 mile race, there are no dirt trails, no single track and definitely no wildlife beyond the elusive bikini clad beach bunny and the shy but ever smiling and happy local nightlife. This is a race of hard surfaces, from concrete sidewalks and the Los Angles floodway system, to the asphalt roads and bike paths, to the paver stone beach boardwalks and wooden trestle bridges along the route. The hard surfaces test your body and soul like no other, the constant jarring of your joints as you make your way along the route is a testament of your resolve for pain, there is no relief it just carries on and on until the finish line at the foot of the famous Santa Monica pier and ferris wheel. Such is the life of the urban ultra, you push forward with your only thought being that big wheel that goes round and round spinning in your head as the ultimate sign that you have done it.
Now sure I have done some crazy races that most people look at me and shake their head in disbelief that I run them barefoot (or at least start barefoot prior to methodically upgrading my footwear), but this one is an experience like no other. The run is put on to support an amazing organization in the United States called the 100 Mile Club. The 100 Mile Club is a national, school-based program with the goal to run or walk 100 miles during a school year. The program also teaches kids life skills, goal setting, and self-esteem while making physical activity a healthier habit for life (sound familiar – it should it is similar to another great cause that is dear to my heart, Start2Finish through Ted’s Run For Literacy). The founder of the 100 mile club, Kara Lubin, is an amazing lady who tirelessly helps out from well before the start of the race to well after along with the race directors Darren and Sandy Van Soye and the balance of the volunteers who help to put on a first class event. I have nothing but praise for this event and the organizers, it is an event that must be experienced in my books.
The race itself starts at the 100 Mile Club headquarters in Norco, California which is one of the many cities that surround Los Angeles County and a good 40 miles inland from the ocean that you are determined to reach. The run goes through 20 cities proper including Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Orange County, Long Beach and Santa Monica to name a few. The sights are amazing in places and just eye opening in others. You run through the richest areas in Los Angeles like Palos Verdes which runs along the bluffs and among the largest and most amazing houses you will ever see (makes Beverley Hills look like the Weston Area), and also through some of the poorest areas including San Pedro. You get to see areas of Los Angeles that you will never experience with a tour guide. Running down the Los Angeles floodway or the Santa Ana River was an experience that I will never forget, it makes our floodway look minuscule in comparison. Seeing all the homeless (young and old) really brought perspective to the amount of people that need help in this world, it was an eye-opener for sure.
Once you hit the coast at Huntington Beach the journey along the beach begins, I was lucky enough to watch the sun set as I was running along the boardwalk from one city to the next. The route consists of one continuous beach all the way to Long Beach with some slight deviations when required. It was breathtaking watching the sun slowly disappear beneath the waves. The sights and sounds as you run the boardwalk was one of the most memorable experiences, to see the surfers plying their tricks on the waves, the volleyball players rocking the sand, the skate boarders, the roller bladers showing their skills up and down the boardwalk was a sight to see, never a dull moment that’s for sure. After Long Beach you run in land a bit through some of the more let me say interesting parts of town. Including an area considered to be a bit sketchy due to the high homeless population, an area considered to be populated by numerous gangs, a club district (thankfully we passed through here before the bars let out) and the oil refinery district. It was definitely areas that are not listed on your most popular tourist destinations. After this you are up into the hills to view the mansions along the bluffs then finally back down to the beach for the final leg of the journey. Once again watching the sun come up as you run along the beach is an unbelievable experience for sure. As I noted above the run finishes up at the Santa Monica pier after running through Muscle Beach, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, etc. It was amazing to say the least, and an experience that I will never forget.
|After 28 hours plus and 103 miles and change I was still standing and able to balance my new shiny buckle.|
I finished this epic adventure in 28 hours and 17 minutes which was good for 18th place overall. This would be an event that I would love to support every year if it was at all possible, but at least I know I had the privilege to run it once and that can never be taken away from me.
|A good shot of what I was determined to get my 100 mile buckle and of course my running companion from start to finish. Unicorn power.|
|My pacers extraordinaire, my lovely wife Nicole and my good friends Scott and Bridget Herrin. Unfortunately another awesome cog in the pacer team Kelly Leigh was not available. Oh yes that is my son's thumb that you see in the picture. |