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100-Mile Angeles Crest Endurance Run Goes to a Runner Who Went Extra Mile : This Rose Bowl Race Is Toughest One Yet

September 30, 1986|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

"It's simply a matter of conditioning," Provost said, simply stating the bottom line the way one would expect a corporate banker to do. "I love to run up there. It's beautiful up there. I run 35 to 40 miles at a time in training runs. I'm used to the ups and downs.

"The first runners in are always in the best shape. There are plenty of runners out there right now, either sleeping at aid stations or sliding down hills on their backsides, who are really struggling.

"That's a very difficult course."

The course covered 85 miles of mountain trails, 10 miles of dirt roads and 5 miles of paved road stretching from Wrightwood, through the Angeles National Forest to the Rose Bowl. In a sense, the run was downhill, losing more than 5,000 feet in altitude. But that included a lot of ups and downs--ups totaling 19,100 feet and downs totaling 24,230 feet.

Ken Hamada, the race organizer, is a veteran ultramarathoner himself. He's an engineer from Arcadia who trains in the Angeles National Forest.

Hamada wanted the course to be challenging, but he was more interested in making it aesthetically attractive for the same reasons that distance training is attractive to these older professionals. The packet of information that he mailed to competitors included not just mileage and topographical maps, but descriptions of the trails and points of historic interest along the way.

"To be able to finish one of these monsters, you have to train for six months, running 100 to 200 miles a week," Hamada said. "But it's not dog work because you're not running around a track or on the streets, just counting miles. You run in woods and it's a personal experience. You hear birds and see deer and drink from mountain streams. You run along a trail and you go somewhere.

"Some of the other races are run in a loop or multiple loops--which makes it much easier to set up. That way you can use the same marked trails, the same checkpoints and the same volunteers several times. But I know that the runners get a greater sense of accomplishment if they run from one point to another point."

Ultramarathons are relatively new, although six-day races date back to the 19th Century in England.

The standard marathon distance is no longer a challenge to runners who want more of an endurance test than an outright race. There are several 50-mile runs and 100-kilometer--62-mile--runs. And there are unique distance runs, such as a 54-mile run through the Santa Monica Mountains and a 72-mile run at Lake Tahoe.

But 100-mile runs are really catching on. There are annual runs in June in West Virginia, in July in the Sierra foothills, in August at Leadville, Colo., and in early September in Utah.

The biggest is the Western States in the Sierra foothills, which has been run since 1975 and now gets 3,000 applications for the 300 available openings.

Hamada said: "That race really gained popularity after it was on the 'Wide World of Sports.' For that race, they have to have a lottery. For the 1987 race, which will be run next June, the lottery closes in November."

Which leads Hamada to the conclusion that there is need for another ultramarathon in these western states. The plan is to establish this race as the fifth major endurance run in the country.

Hamada drew 69 entries for his first Angeles Crest run, which he said was encouraging. He is expecting 130 to 300 next year.

Robin Doyno, a member of Provost's running club, predicts that the Angeles Crest run "absolutely" will catch on.

"The course is beautiful," Doyno said. "It's demanding, but it's within reach. It's a quality race that went very well for a first-time thing.

"I think runners look for the challenge, the beauty of the course, the dependability of the aid station and a serious, non-exploitive race director."

Hamada lost several thousand dollars this time, which he expected. But if the race grows, with runners paying entry fees of $100 each, a race can be a money maker.

Doyno expects more and more people to join the ranks of ultramarathoners, noting: "This isn't a crank, fad event. It's not like the marathon dances of the '30s. These are well-conditioned athletes."

Most ultramarathoners are in their late 30s or early 40s.

As Hamada put it: "The ultra-marathon attracts professional people, successful people who like to challenge themselves. They're 30 years old or older. They've fulfilled their vocational dreams, have their mortgages under control and are looking for something else. They've been running marathons for 5 to 10 years, and they're looking for more of a challenge.

"It's like asking why a mountain climber wants to climb the seven peaks on seven continents. To run 100 miles is quite a satisfying accomplishment."

Satisfying it may be, but is it a good idea? Has this health and fitness craze reached the point of unhealthy fanaticism?

Dr. James Puffer of the UCLA school of medicine, who will be the U.S. Olympic team doctor at Seoul, chuckled a little when asked if a 100-mile run was a healthy thing to do.

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