There's people who like to run, and there are people who like to run.
Tim McGargill fits in group No. 2. He's raced 100 miles on foot not once, not twice, but three times since June. And he's scheduled to do it again in September.
McGargill is attempting to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning: a series of four 100-mile trail races. It's a feat attempted by few and accomplished by fewer.
The Omahan kicked off the Grand Slam in northern California during the Western States 100-mile event in June. It's considered the Boston Marathon of trail running, and McGargill was the first Nebraskan to finish the race in its 40-year history.
Athletes climb 18,000 feet and descend more than 22,000 feet during the race. It took him 27 hours and 28 minutes to complete.
A few weeks later, he ran in the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. He finished 23 minutes shy of 24 hours.
The third leg of the series, the Leadville Trail 100 Run, was this weekend in Colorado. He crossed the finish line in 26 hours and 46 minutes.
He averaged a less than 16-minute mile pace in three events.
Now, just one 100-mile race stands between him and his goal.
“I'm very, very proud that I've made it this far,” McGargill said in a phone interview on his way back from Colorado. “It's been an amazing experience.”
The 32-year-old started running in 2008 to introduce more structure to his life. As he logged more miles, he built his endurance, strengthened his work ethic and felt his stress melting away.
“I'll never forget that first 6-mile run with my sister,” he said. “I felt like I was invincible.”
He ran his first marathon, the Omaha Marathon, in 2009. Two years later, he started competing in 50-kilometer, or 31-mile, events.
“I really like to challenge myself,” he said.
He calls the Grand Slam challenge his “stretch goal.” Because of the time and effort required to prepare for the races, “it's a stretch to accomplish them,” he explains.
The logistics of running for more than 20 hours at one time are messy, so he travels with a support crew of friends and his sister. They typically meet up with McGargill at 10 checkpoints during the race and “wait on me hand and foot,” he said.
They feed him – he takes in between 250 to 300 calories an hour – help him transition to lighter or heavier clothing, depending on the temperature and altitude, and treat his blisters. They encourage him, too, and keep him focused.
“I see it as a team effort more than anything,” McGargill said.
He often starts the races wearing more clothing and a headlamp because it's still dark and cool outside. He'll ditch the headlamp and shed layers as it warms up. He eats fruit because of it's high water content to stay hydrated when it's hot outside. He once consumed 44 gel packs during one event, which keep up his energy levels.
Outside of the blisters, he's managed to remain injury-free. He will compete in his fourth 100-mile race and final leg of the Grand Slam on Sept. 6.
“I still can't grasp it,” he said. “It's been great to look back and be grateful.”
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