While Arkansas runner Shannon McFarland will often be seen pushing the pace within the top 10 of the overall, for quite a few miles in the recently held Arkansas Traveller 100 he was the hunted.
Enjoy as Shannon shares his impressive third place, 20:57:04 effort on this historic course.
The first challenge of the day was thinking I had time to go to the check-in, get back to my car to get my water bottle and then make it back to the start. Well, I forgot about the bottle, shooting the shit with old friends at check-in and as I was walking to the start line realized my bottle was a quarter of a mile away in the trunk of my car. Luckily the race went down the same road towards the car. I started with the group, and as I went by the car I opened the trunk with the remote, grabbed my water bottle, filled with Powerade and got back on the road fast enough to join the lead group for the first mile.
The pace was pedestrian for the first 10 miles even for a hundred, so at the 12 mile aid station I left before anyone else and found myself alone on the trail. When I got to the 16 mile aid station Jody McFarland (my new bride of two weeks) saw me and promptly asked “What the hell are you doing?” since I was unexpectedly in first place. I told her I felt good and I was rolling with it.
Around mile 27, during one of the most technical sections of the trail, a monsoon rolled into central Arkansas, the sky opened up and dumped a lot of water on us. I did not mind, I was not cold, just energized by the thunder in the not so distant horizon. I was however, seriously concerned about the race getting called due to lighting. I felt it was my day and I did not want anything to take it away from me.
Mile 27 to mile 58 is a blur, I was clipping away at a decent pace and feeling amazing. There is something weird about being in the lead of a race, when you are a middle of the pack runner. I can’t explain it, delusions of grandeur, endorphins, runner’s high, whatever you want to call it, it was me and I was running out of my mind. I had no idea where the pack was nor did I know what my lead was for it had been over seven hours since I had seen another competitor. The turn around at mile 58 would tell me how far in front I was.
I left the turn around happily chomping on a grilled cheese sandwich. I remember thinking it was just like my mom used to make them, with butter on both sides of the bread. Not healthy, but perfect for ultra running. Not more than 200 meters from the turn around I encountered Podog. I was going to be passed and I knew it. I guess we all kind of knew we were racing for 2nd place, with Podog there.
He caught me seven miles down the road and followed me into the mile 65 aid station. We visited briefly and he “ran off like a scalded cat” (quote from my pacer James Reeves). I would not see him again until he gave me a congratulatory embrace when I finished. Podog is an amazing runner, but even better person. One of the nicest guys you ever hope to meet, I am proud to call him a friend.
I ran fairly well from mil 65 until mile 70. Here, I changed pacers (thank you James Reeves) and picked up another experienced and talented ultra runner, David Newman. David is the salt of the earth. He was hoping to run most of the remaining 33 miles, however due to my fatigue, he was only able to “run” half that. We ran in the clouds, where our lamps were worthless, we ran in the mud where our shoes got heavy. I trudged along hoping to get to the Lake Winona aid station where I could see the best crew person in the history of the world, Jody McFarland. My pace was slow, but I eventually got there. Cold and hungry, she clothed me and fed me and pushed me out to the trail.
The last 16 miles can best be described as fast packing, a hurried walk interrupted occasionally with spurts of running. David motivated me and pulled me to the finish line.
I left it all out there and am very proud of my 3rd place finish with of time of 20 hours, 57 minutes.
I do not have words that can describe how much fun this was for me. I want to give some shout outs to the aid station workers. They were so awesome. They gave up their Saturday to stand in the cold and rain to help idiots like me run through the Ouachita Mountains. I love them for that. My crew was amazing. James and Dave were kind enough to hang out with me on the course for many hours. I owe them big time. The biggest shout out goes to Jody McFarland, my beautiful new bride and the greatest crew person in the history of the world. She was amazing, she read my mind, had what I needed far before I knew I needed it, and did it with a smile even in the pouring rain. She was great, and I owe her my buckle.
- Shannon McFarland
A special thanks to Shannon for sharing his 100 mile journey with us!
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