Thursday, June 11, 2015

All About Me

I suggested that our company employee newsletter include an article about how I am the Race Director for the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. I offered to write the article myself, since I'm capable of doing so.

They liked the idea, but preferred to send one of their own writers, Sharon Joles. She interviewed me, and indicated that the article would be more about me than the race. That wasn't my original intent, but I still think the result is fine:

The North Coast 24-hour endurance run: Yes, you get to stop for a bio break, and other questions ...




It’s spring in Cleveland, 80 degrees and muggy. But it’s Cleveland, so wait a few minutes and the weather will change. A common sight around Campus II is people out exercising and enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings, such as the North Chagrin Reservation. On such mornings, long before a standard workday begins, you may see Project Portfolio Analyst Lead Dan Horvath out for a run. In fact, any number of your coworkers may be running on the campus or in the park. There’s a large running community at our company, with skills ranging from beginner to elite-level runners.

The runner
Dan talks about how long he has been running with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’ve been running since the 1970s; about 40 years,” he says. “I belong to the Medina County Road Runners, which is a great running club. I always have someone to run with, and my running friends provide extra motivation.”

Dan runs fifty to sixty miles a week, although right now he’s recovering from an Achilles tendonitis injury and taking it a little easy while he heals. He runs daily, explaining that, addict that he is, it’s difficult not to run, even when injured.

“I've competed in 100 marathons, and 23 ultramarathons including one 100-miler,” he says. “An ultramarathon is anything over 26.2 miles. The 100-miler was on extremely rough terrain. Many of these races take place on trails and you never know what challenge you may find. I was just glad to finish that one.”

Dan explains that ultramarathon distances also include 50-kilometer races, which are 31 miles, and 100-kilometer races, which are 62 miles. For those wishing to go the distance, there’s something for everyone

Race director by default
“In 2008, I was talking with a local elite ultra-marathoner, Connie Gardner, about a recent race where a measurement error cost her the American record for a 24-hour race. She wanted a do-over. I said I wanted to run one as well, and we both exclaimed that we should have one here.”

Thus the idea was born to hold a 24-hour race in Cleveland, sponsored by Dan’s running club. This is what led Dan to becoming not just a runner, but also a race organizer.

“I opened my mouth, raised the idea, and I’ve been the race director for our 24-hour endurance race the last seven years,” he jokes.

A 24-hour endurance race is an ultramarathon race that spans a 24-hour period, and the courses tend to be loops of 1 – 2 miles. The runners try to run as many miles as they can in the 24-hour period. They can leave the course to eat, rest, or take “bio breaks.”

Dan handles the coordination of the event, which is a volunteer-driven effort—everything from the food (one of the favorites is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to hiring the park ranger and coordinating the other volunteers who work the 24 hours with him. He cheers the runners on and offers encouragement when their mental focus is waning during the race. He also obtains assistance if a runner needs medical attention. It is a 24-hour endurance race, after all.

They’re going the distance …
“Our race is held at beautiful Edgewater Park, near downtown Cleveland, Ohio,” Dan says. “We use a paved bike trail that is officially measured by USA Track & Field. USA Track & Field is the official governing body for track and field, distance running, and race walkers. The official trail length is 0.90075 mile. We measure the distance each runner travels using RFID trackers on the runners to count the number of laps completed.”

The top three finishers get prize money, and since this event is an official USA Track & Field event, the distances calculated for the winners can earn them a spot on the USA Track & Field National Team. This team represents the United States in the World Championships. The current course records are 158.5 miles (176 laps) for men, and 147.9 miles (164 laps) for women.

Each year, the race draws about 200 hundred runners from all over the US, Canada and Europe. There are runners from age 12 to 87 and everywhere in between. Many run the race every year.

The challenge and sense of achievement is a testament to the mental toughness and physical endurance of the competitors. It is enough to continue to draw the runners to this race.

Don’t quit: There is a bathroom ahead
“Our race is unique in that the runners can leave the race when needed to eat, sleep, or attend to the needs of nature,” Dan explains. “The runners must reenter the track in the same location they left for their miles to be accurate and officially measured.

“With a 24-hour race, some runners need to take a break at some point to sleep. Some lay down to rest and end up sleeping the entire night. It’s a physical and mental battle to return to the race. It makes it easy to quit.”

Sign me up
If you’re dedicated (or crazy?) enough to want to try this race,
registration is open for September’s event. You can find more information about the race on Facebook.

Alternatively, if you just want to see what it’s all about, you can head out to Edgewater Park and say hi to Dan, and root on the other runners.

And if by chance you see Dan on the course, be sure to save him a peanut butter and jelly.

Written by Sharon Joles, contributing writer

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