LETTER: Aaron Arnold goes the distance

— It was during that race this year that David and I explained our plan to Aaron. We had registered for ‘THE’ race. The one that makes most people’s heads spin. We would be running the Oil Creek 100K in Titusville, Penn., in October 2013. Sixty-two miles. For those of you unfamiliar with ultramarathons, there are some very appropriate follow-up questions here, which I will take a moment to answer… No, none of it is by car, bike or other. It’s all running. Yes, it is all in one day. No, there is no sleeping. Just 62 miles, in the woods in southwest Pennsylvania with 11,000 feet of vertical ascent and 11,000 feet of descent. The next, and last, question that most people ask is why? Well, that’s a tougher question, and not of consequence here. The part that I really want to tell you about is that Aaron just said “Wow!” and offered to join us as a pacer.

Here is where we get back to “asking a lot of your friends.” Being an ultramarathon “pacer” is not something that most runners are racing to sign up for. (No pun intended.) There is no race t-shirt. There are no awards. You don’t even get your name on the finisher’s list. Your candidate, Aaron Arnold, drove five hours to Titusville, Penn., on Saturday, Oct. 5, to meet us 31 miles into our race. It was almost 5 p.m. at that time, and he planned to run the next 14 miles of the race with us. The goal for a pacer is to keep your runner hydrated, eating and moving along as the miles really start to add up.

It was dark by 6:45 p.m. and we had only traveled a few miles. Oct. 5 happened to be the night of a new moon and it was really, really dark. With only the light of our headlamps to guide us, we kept moving along. The narrow trail traversed the edge of a ravine much of the time and it was very rocky. Aaron spent much of that night scouting the terrain up ahead of us, telling us stories and asking questions to keep us both talking as fatigue set in and, for me, the increasing pain of a number of open blisters seemed to be all I could think about. His positive attitude and his confidence in our ability to finish the race helped us get through much of that evening. Aaron delivered us safely to our next pacer sometime around 12:30 a.m.

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