Ultimate Runner – Pay it Forward

Yesterday I had a very unique experience from a race stand point.  The Twin City Track Club was hosting one of their penultimate events, the Ultimate Runner.  I was going to be there to cheer on a friend of mine anyway, so when Jen asked me if I wanted to volunteer to help out at the event I said SURE! I was going to be there anyway, so why not?  We ended up working the water stop of the 5K portion of the event, which was the last event, so we got to watch all the shorter events beforehand, so we were combination spectators and workers.

The Ultimate Runner is a multi-race running event, it’s essentially a track meet for adults (although there were a few 15 and under people running it).  The 5 events that are run are: (and they are run in this order) 1 mile (1600M), 1/4 mile (400M), 1/2 mile (800M), 100M and then a 5K (5000M).  The runners are seeded and grouped based on a one mile seed time, so it was interesting to watch, someone who might be very fast at the 100M but slow in the mile would be back in one of the later heats, and then set a blazing 100M speed.

My two running/blogger friends who were running the event were Emily from over at run. eat. nap. drink. and Steve from Steve’s House of Running.  I also had a coworker who was there cheering on her brother and his wife who were both running the event, so that was cool too, gave me more people to cheer for.

The race started at 4:30PM with an announced “official temperature” of 100 degrees.  The high earlier that afternoon had been 102.  They announced this as the hottest Ultimate Runner ever.  The water and Gatorade were flowing all day and several people had the great idea of keeping wet towels on ice.  I’ll have to remember that for the Beat the Heat 5K in July.

First heat of the day…. and they’re off!

Emily (gray top #74) and Steve (red top #77) lining up for the start of the 1 mile.  It helped that they were in the same heat, I managed to get a couple of pictures of both of them.

This is after the first lap of the 1 mile.  It was a 400M track, so the mile was 4 laps.  The race director is holding up his hand with a “3” to signify three more laps.  I caught Emily with both feet off the ground, which never happens in any of my own race pics.

There were athletes of all skill levels at the event, ranging from a 5 minute mile to a 10 minute mile, but it was skewed towards the faster individuals for sure.  There were 8 heat groups, and I believe in the mile even up to heat 6 they were still all finishing in a 7 minute mile or under.  My fastest mile to date is right at 10 minutes.  But that’s the first mile of a 5K.  I wonder if I could go faster knowing it’s only a 1 mile.  But then I don’t want to kill myself for the later events… that’s what makes it interesting.  I’m thinking about running this event next year, but if I do, it will take some serious training.  I thought I could come and just slowly run each event and just “finish” but even that would be rough.  The total distance for all 5 events is 7.9 kilometers or just shy of 5 miles.  I’ve run an 8K before, but this is a whole different beast.

Steve pushing hard to finish the 400M run.

Emily charging hard to the 400M finish.

It was interesting to watch the different runners there.  Some did well at all the events, some were obviously better at some events then others.  One runner in particular was obviously a sprinter, he won his heat in the 100M and 400M, but then he was last in his heat in the 800M and then just very slowly trotted the 5K and was the 3rd to last finisher.  The overall winners were the ones who excelled at all of the distances.  The overall male winner was the overall winner in three of the events (including 1st overall in the 5K), and the overall female winner also won two or three events overall (and finished like 3rd in the 5K).

As the events wore on, the sun went down and it started to cool off thankfully, by 7:30PM as they were wrapping up the 100M heats, it was starting to feel pretty good, which made me less worried about the Beat the Heat 5K since it doesn’t start until 7PM, but of course it’s still going to be hot at 7 on July 21st, but hopefully not 102.

My camera doesn’t take very good pictures in the dark, and this is a little blurry since I was standing near the finish line and was zoomed in to catch the start on the other end of the backstretch, but this is the start of the 100M heat for Emily (lane 2) and Steve (lane 5).  This was the one event you had to have lane discipline and stay in your lane, which for myself who has never run track, I think that would be difficult, even if it is a straight line.

After this it was time to head over to the water stop to do our volunteering duty (and earn our free post race beer!).

The 5K looped around the park and a odd course that included 3 laps on the track (two to start and one to finish) and they went by our water stop twice.  So you had the rush at the beginning with the fast runners, and then a more steady pace of the slower runners and then as they cleared out, the fast runners were coming back by.  It was very cool to see all the guys running by, and shout encouragement to the ones we knew, so we were still being spectators.  They showed us how to hold the cup (pinch the lip to give the whole cup available for the runner to grab) and we had both water and Gatorade, so we were shouting out what we had in our hands.. WATER! WATER! GATORADE! GATORADE!  The runners would come by and some would just grab the cups, and some would ask water? water? who’s got gatorade? and then some would point at you like “i’m coming to you” and so you could get ready to hand the cup to them.  It was funny for some of the runners who would call back something to us like “What about about Scotch?” or “Man I thought this was the beer stop”.. It’s great to still have a sense of humor after a grueling, long hot day.  One guy even came by and passed me and was like “Sorry man, but I gotta take a cup from a woman!” One of the volunteers was someone he knew.  We all got a big laugh out of that.  It was a lot of fun, and it was absolute chaos, but we had plenty of cups and plenty of people handing them out, so if I was empty and running back to the table for more there were plenty of people behind me with more cups.  I did get splashed a few times as people were grabbing cups, but it felt good in that heat anyway.

One of the really cool things about the Ultimate Runner is the “trophy” you get at the end. You have to run all 5 events and complete them to earn your Ultimate Runner Finisher’s shirt.  Unlike other events that hand out the shirt at the beginning, this one you have to earn.  They had 114 people sign up for the race (which is what they capped it at, there’s already a wait list for next year) and only 3 people didn’t show up.  Of the 111 who started, all 111 finished, so everyone got a shirt!  For the “unearned” shirts, at the post race party they burn the shirts and then next year sprinkle the ashes on the track before the first event.  I guess this year they just had the 3 no-shows to burn.

Post 5K “OMG we did it!” photo.  (L-R, Emily, Dana, Steven, Steve).

After the race of course is the PARTY!!!  We went over to a place called Bob’s Big Gas Subs and Pub and it’s built into an old gas station.

Again, not a great night time photo, but hopefully you get the idea.

The beer was Coors, which was “meh” but it was free, so I won’t complain too loudly.  The sandwiches were really good, but unfortunately the kitchen staff had a hard time keeping up with the demand, so if you weren’t standing right there when a tray got laid out they were GONE in like 5 seconds.  I think they weren’t quite prepared for the insanity that was about to shadow their doorstep.  The sandwich I had which I really enjoyed was called the Triathlete (appropriately enough) and it had ham, turkey, roast beef, havarti cheese, chipotle mayo and avocado.  I normally don’t like avocado, but I didn’t even notice it.  The bread was amazing and obviously freshly baked and the sandwich was delicious!  Definitely a place to go back to, assuming I can ever find it again (since I didn’t drive).

Thanks to Jen for asking me to volunteer, it was a lot of fun and congratulations to Steve and Emily who are now Ultimate Runners (again), and congrats to ALL the finishers of the event who “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”.  Was a great event and already looking forward to next year!  Whether I will run it, or just spectate again remains to be seen.



  1. […] for the event and working the water station.  He also has an Ultimate Runner post with some photos here.  It was good to meet you, Eric, and thanks for the water on my first pass!  I took a small sip […]

  2. Thanks for volunteering, and taking some of the photos. It was nice to meet you.

    • I was happy to be there and it was nice to meet you too! Thanks for letting us hang out with you and bum your shade.

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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.