Olander Park 24-Hour: A Classic
Olander Park, once the location of the American 100-mile and 24-hour USATF National Championships, packed a punch this year. A 97 degree heat index and only slight relief in the evening & morning hours meant that mental fortitude and focus would determine the day's miles. Wicked Running team members met that challenge with a 1st and 2nd place in the women's division.
Back in 2002, an epic year at Olander Park, reports on the race were similar for a mid-80s forecast: "Conditions were difficult for the runners, as Saturday daytime temperatures in the mid-80's with oppressive humidity gave way to a night of sporadic showers and thunderstorms. Many of the pre-race favorites faltered in the physiologically taxing conditions." That's the year when Yiannis Kouros ran 172.368 miles at Olander Park. Kouros, largely known as the best ultrarunner of all-time for his stunning breakout performance at the Spartathlon in the early 1980s and non-stop sub-8:00/mile pace in races since that time, has remarked that "We have ups and downs in life and the same is true in ultramarathons. I need those ups and downs to go back to my childhood, memories, and past experiences. Mental experience is much more important than physical speed." Connie Gardner emphasized the same ultra racing principle in a quick, mid-race interview this year during her Olander 24-hour win over the holiday weekend.
We picked the Olander 24-Hour race intentionally. The 24-hour race removes the candy-like distractions that most ultra trail races offer and drives a runner completely inward to debate with oneself how far to go and how to pace each moment. The challenge is like no other. Instead of adventuring on a trail through the woods, you navigate your own mind. Sometimes, you start to lose your mind in the early morning hours to sleep walking and hallucinations, but you never experience a dull moment. In fact, you learn from your competition and from being able to see how other people handle difficulty throughout the day.
Beyond the course, the legends who have run the course, and the extreme challenge of the 24-hour event, Olander 24-Hour includes one of ultrarunning's most passionate and encouraging race directors: Tom Falvey. He takes care of the back of pack to the front of the pack all day long. Wicked Running was lucky to have a day in Olander Park with Tom and all the runners at this year's Olander 24-hour Ultra Run.