Sports: Tim Englund, chair of the math department, endures 35 consecutive hours of running over 145.8 miles

Photo Courtesy of Tim Englund

BY SAMUEL CATHCARTStaff Reporter

Marathons are common events that many enjoy competing in, but rarely does one hear about someone completing an ultra-marathon. Tim Englund, chair of the math department and accomplished ultra-runner, not only competed in an ultra-runner race, but won the event.

Back in October, Tim Englund raced an ultra-runner event in Tennessee called Big’s Backyard Ultra.  The event started three years ago after the race director had found an injured pit bull named Big and needed to raise money for his vet bills.

Englund outlasted the field of 40 runners by running a total of 145.8 miles over a span of 35 consecutive hours.

“I was absolutely thrilled I had won,” Englund said.

Englund first started running ultras when he arrived at Central 14 years ago. Before arriving in Ellensburg, Englund had only ran in a half marathon.

Englund discovered ultra-running after he met a group of runners made up of other professors and locals here in Ellensburg. He was hooked immediately after they first took him running along the hills outside of town.

“I absolutely fell in love with it,” Englund said.

The first ultra-marathon Englund participated in was a 50k in Cle Elum.

“I just wanted to see if I could do it,” England said.

After the race, Englund couldn’t walk for a few days.

Ultra-running races are races that are longer then 50 kilometers (31.06 miles). The format of Big’s Backyard Ultra was a last-man-standing format, which is different than most ultras.

The race started at 7 a.m. with all of the runners having to run a 4.163-mile trail within the hour. If the runners finished the loop within the hour they were eligible to run the loop the next hour. This continued every hour until there was only one runner left standing. Once it was dark out, the race was moved to the road because it was easier for the runners to see the course.

Before the race, Englund said he started to feel the nerves.

“I was crazy nervous, I don’t like going to races, I just like to run,” Englund said.

After the first 24 hours of running had passed, only Englund and five other runners remained. Towards the end of the race it became a mind game between runners. Once it was only Englund and one other runner left he had to keep his expectations low so he could focus on running.

“He was trying to play mind games at that point,” Englund said. “He kept saying ‘This might be my last lap. I don’t know how much more I can do.’ You start thinking ‘When’s he going to quit? Maybe he’s stronger than I am.’ These stupid things get into your head.”

Englund had to tell himself to just put one foot in front of the other and keep it simple. It worked: Englund outlasted his final competitor and won the Big’s Backyard Ultra.

As you can imagine an ultra marathon  is not easy. Englund needed support and a lot of food to compete in an event like this.

To prevent himself from going into a calorie deficiency, Englund had to eat every hour. Luckily, Englund wasn’t alone while running in the Backyard Ultra. His wife, Lisa, was there to support him.

“She worked hard. She was there for 35 [hours] too,” Englund said.

Lisa acted as his pit crew between hours by making sure he was eating. She had made all the food for the event.

“I eat a lot,” Englund said. “I tried to jam as many calories as I could.”

Englund chose to run in Big’s Backyard Ultra as a stepping-stone toward an even bigger goal. He is planning to run in a race called, The Barkley this April. The Barkley is considered one of the hardest foot races in the world. It has the lowest finishing rate among ultras.

In order to compete in The Barkley, competitors have to have complete or win The Backyard Open. Englund has competed in The Barkley the last two years and has yet to finish the race.

“I just got whipped, it’s crazy hard,”  Englund said.

Maybe being his third time attempting The Barkley and having his wife Lisa by his side, Englund will finally finish the race this April.

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