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Doug Ryan Runs 100 Miles…on an Elliptical!

Have you ever ran on an Elliptical at your local gym? Most of us probably have at one time or another.

What about running on an Elliptical for 100 miles straight? For everyone but maybe one person in the world,  a likely response is a quick and simple “No!”.

On January 14th, Texas athlete Doug Ryan started this stationary 100 mile challenge to raise money for a charity very close to his heart, the National MS Society. Doug completed the endurance challenge in 18 hours and 28 minutes. Epic!

Doug with family

Check out the entertaining and informative video Doug and family put together that shares why Doug took on this challenge.

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

After hearing about Doug’s unique ultra adventure, he was kind enough to answer a few questions after finishing the 100 mile journey.

Was there any special thought(s) that entered your mind when you stepped on the Elliptical and started running at 5:00 pm?

I got a bit anxious a couple weeks out.  I aggravated a hernia on the left side of my groin picking Sherry up off the floor over the Christmas holidays.  It began to bother me and I twice decided to postpone the 100.  It’s an event that can be delayed, but can’t be rescheduled once it starts.

I went to see the doc about 10 days out and he gave me the green light to run the 100 and do surgery after race.  I just saw him this morning and he said I had both a direct and indirect hernia and that he was glad I finished the 100, because he said he was surprised I wasn’t in severe pain.  During the 100, I never even felt or thought about the hernia; however, I guess it was on the edge of it blowing up.  So, back to my point… I created a fun event; however, I was the only runner and had no where to hide if I had to quit.  I’m very happy with 18:28, but was absolutely determined to finish, no matter how long.  I was going to finish the 100.

Since your surroundings didn’t really change, how did you pass the time? Did you have an hourly routine? Is there anything good on TV at 3 AM? Favorite song(s) you listened to?

The general plan was to run 5 miles and get off, go to bathroom, etc.  The elliptical is low on pounding, but high on constant pressure on feet.  My feet will go numb if I don’t take some breaks.  It was fun to get started.  We had a TV camera man filming for news stories on channels 4, 5 and 33 (they share the tape).

Around 9:00-10:00 we had about 20 friends/coworkers, who stopped by to wish me luck.  It was fun to see them, but stressful.  I felt like I had to be friendly and entertain them.  It was actually very nice when the gym emptied and I was left with my handlers.

I had someone with me at all times to certify the time, distance, provide calories/drink and provide adult supervision.  I enjoyed listening to songs on my nano, but realized that I was hearing the same 15 songs over and over again.  Although it took me about three times through before I realized there was nothing new playing.  I got a kick listing to ‘Third Rate Romance, Low Rent Rendezvous’.  It’s just such an awful song, it’s great.  It reminds me of the old joke- what do you get if you plan a country song backwards… you get your wife back, your job back, and your dog back.

Kay Scott, a NTTR member that I barely met at the last club meeting, showed up at 3:30 am to run with me for 3.5 hours.  She was very sweet and had listened to my stories.  I tried very hard to ask her questions all night long about her Heartland 100, Ironman, how she met her husband, etc.

How much time during the 18+ hours were you not on the Elliptical?

I don’t know for sure.  I suspect I took 15-17 breaks that lasted 2 to 5 minutes.  That would add up to about 70 minutes of time off the machine.  I took a shower after 40 miles, which really revived me.  It was nice to knock off the sweat and put some hot water on my lower back.  I took a second around 75 miles.

You have some great puking video from your Route 66 The Mother Road experience (thanks for sharing that 😉 ). How did the stomach handle this ultra? What was the tastiest thing you ate during the 18 hours?

We were smart enough to have a small trash bag stored under my water bottle.  I got sick once when a bottle of Ensure and a GU went down the wrong way.  I quickly grabbed the bag and threw up, without getting a drop on the machine.  I instantly felt better after a couple more dry heaves quit.

Bags ready...just in case.

My stomached felt a bit nausea between 50 and 70 miles, but it didn’t get bad.  I had a cheeseburger, but mostly survived on 2 GU’s per 5-mile and lots of Apex protein shakes (provided by 24 Hour Fitness) and bottles of Ensure.

You completed the first 50 miles in nine hours so you basically even-split the darn thing. Did you go through any really tough patches? If so, how did you manage them?

I really have to thank 24 Hour Fitness for sponsoring the event.  They were great.  They moved two Elliptical machines to one side and provided us a lot of room for guests, etc.

I predicted a sub 19 hour finish to friends & family.  I thought it would take 8:35 to run 50 and that I would slow 20-25% during the second half; however, I maintained a remarkably steady pace throughout.  The run was actually easy. I think it felt easy because I trained so hard for it.  I ran 2-3 100 mile weeks and logged 3-4 50-mile runs.

My feet began to hurt pretty bad at 70 miles.  I have a pair of shoes that are a half size big.  I had two insoles in the shoes and stopped and put a third insole in the shoes.  The extra cushioning felt much better.

Was there any special thought(s) that entered your mind when you stepped off the Elliptical at 11:28 am?

2/10th of a mile to go!

With a half mile to go, it suddenly occurred to be that I should sprint.  I was just having so much fun watching everyone get ready for the finish that I forgot to do anything more than constant running.

The repetitive motion on the Elliptical would have me concerned with localized friction. Were you able to step into a shower when it was all done?

A couple times during 20-50 mile training runs I got very raw between legs.  After one long run, I stepped into the shower and screamed as soon as the hot water hit my privates.  I jumped back and bumped into a naked man walking into the shower.  I thought about trying to explain my rash/raw skin, but couldn’t think of anything that would improve my embarrassing action, so I just worked my way back into the shower.

Receiving the symbolic buckle for a 100 mile finish.

During the 100, I was very careful to body glide and liberally applied slick stuff to all areas that might rub.  I didn’t have any hot spots after the run.

Have you been on an Elliptical since the 100 miler? 🙂

I got on for 5 miles before surgery, but went really slow.  It was just kind of fun to loosen up sore muscles.  Since the surgery, I’m banned for working out for another week.

Pretty hard not to be inspired on many levels after hearing about this.

Doug’s adventure has raised over $6400 for the National MS Society.

More info:

  • Donation page – If you would like to be part of Doug’s stationary endurance fundraising adventure, check out his donation page where you can also read other musings from Doug.
  • Facebook Page – More pics and some play-by-play of the journey.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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