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What Makes Them Run? : Scenery, Solitude and Camaraderie Propel the Ultramarathoners

October 02, 1986|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

"A few cans of beer and a silver buckle, and we're happy," Hamada said. "There's nothing in it for us except the race. Nobody knows about it except those who are doing it."

An engineer during the week and an addicted runner on weekends, Hamada said he began 10 years ago "when I saw some guys who ran marathons who didn't look any different from me."

He said that until then, "I was kind of a klutz. When I played basketball the balls always hit me in the face, so my glasses were always cockeyed."

Winner of Silver Buckle

But six months after he started running he entered a marathon, and then more of them and longer races. He said he has entered five 100-mile endurance runs, finished three, and won a silver buckle when he completed a race over the Pacific Crest Trail near San Diego in less than 24 hours.

Beaudoin won a silver buckle for a race through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

The men estimated that the race cost about $10,000, and Hamada smiled and shrugged when he said he "lost several thousand."

The men based the course on existing trails in Angeles National Forest, crossing Angeles Crest Highway several times. Beaudoin devoted more than 700 hours to clearing unused and blocked trails, and just before the race he and Hamada marked every turn with yellow tape.

Runners went through such descriptively named places as Inspiration Point, Eagles Roost, Cloudburst Summit, Windy Gap, Chilao Flat, Shortcut Saddle, Idlehour and Echo Mountain.

Through Historical Areas

They passed through pine forests and the home of centuries-old limber pines that were discovered in the 1960s. They ran through the territory of bighorn sheep and the camp established by pioneer woodsman William Sturtevant at the head of Big Santa Anita Canyon.

They saw deer, birds, one sunset, one or two sunrises (depending on their speed) and their friends all along the way.

"That's why we do it. Winning's not important," Slater said.

"These people are unreal," said Dick Sale, who manned a telephone relay around the clock.

Soon after the race's end the volunteers and the runners, their families and friends regrouped for a picnic at Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, looking like the most ordinary and normal of people. Some limped, some carried babies, most drank beer, all sang the praises of the volunteers who manned the rest stations and their support teams who provided changes of clothes, food and encouragement along the way.

A simple brown bag meal began with a prayer of thanks. It ended with a discussion of next year's race.

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