Is it possible to cover 100 miles in Alabama in one year? Sure, it is, especially if you run. Possibly even in under 30 hours, if is a race. There are three such 100-mile trail races in Alabama—Pinhoti, Blood Rock, and Lake Martin 100. All are in amazing places; Pinhoti runs through the Talladega National Forest from Heflin down to Sylacauga, Blood Rock covers most of Oak Mtn State Park, and Lake Martin 100 meanders through the Russell Farms around Lake Martin in Alexander City. No worries if you are not able to run 100 miles at once or run at all. There are many opportunities to participate in each of these races as a volunteer (e.g. at an aid station handing out soup in the middle of the night or collecting the course flags after the event is over) where you are likely to get sucked in by the amazing trail running community.
If you are not already a part of the trail running community, you might be asking, “How is it possible to run 100 miles at once?” Well, let’s get a few things out of the way. Yes, it’s far. No, we don’t run the entire time (at least I don’t). We stop at aid stations periodically to refill our water bottles and to eat from the buffets, I mean, aid stations along the way and we power hike. No, we don’t run 100-mile training runs for a 100-mile race. But many 100-mile trail runners will run either do back to back 20-milers on Saturday and Sunday or a 50-mile race as training runs. Yes, we also train in the summer in Alabama. However, the most important ingredient is support from friends and family.
This year I completed all 4 loops of the Lake Martin 100 after 2 failed attempts in 2013 and 2014. I had said that I would never run at Lake Martin again after my second attempt, but my friend Jessa wanted me to run with her during her first 50-mile race. So, I ran 27 miles to make sure that she did not go out too fast. That day the weather was a tad bit warm but perfect by me since there was no rain which can turn trails into mud pits that suck your shoes right off your feet. The trails were also far more runnable that I had remembered from 4 years before. And the lake was pristine framed by blooming trees. The conditions were perfect, and I started to think I could conquer the Lake Martin 100 after all. Of course, my friends agreed and offered to crew for me the following year.
Now all I needed to do was to increase my training miles. I had a few challenging trail events on the calendar already, but Lake Martin would mean increasing my mileage (aka time on feet) to finish before the 32-hour cutoff. First, I needed to assemble my team: Coach: Cary Morgan; Crew: Callie Cole, Jessa Freeman, Jenny Rankin and Mary Adamy; and Pacer: Ed Gildersleeve. Then I ran and hiked for the next 6 months with my crew through the Cheaha State Park in the Talladega National Forest, on the Yellow/White Connector at the Oak Mountain State Park, on Ike at Red Mountain Park, and loops of the Moss Rock Preserve. We ran in the heat, the rain, and in the dark. I covered over 1,061 miles with nearly 110,000 feet of elevation gain and I felt ready on race day. Yes, I have some good or maybe crazy friends. I believe I have some crazy good friends.
What once seemed impossible had now been conquered. Maybe not on the first try, but eventually the goal was accomplished. Yes, I covered 100 miles in Alabama in 30 hours and 40 minutes. Through this process, I learned that consistency is important but having a tribe of people to support you is the key to success. Now, it’s your turn to find your tribe and get after those 100 Alabama Miles before the end of the year. Besides, Alabama has some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.