As the clock ticked over to Friday, August 31st, and we were somewhere around 130 miles left to run, the team did a quick calculation of pace to see just what was required for us to hold on and beat the world record. We were down to 9 guys, with Ryan Blood’s knee swelling up the team had voted for him to rest up and prepare for the final few miles. He had already run further than anyone on the team, and we didn’t want to break him! Brian Fuller’s swollen legs and limping stride was rapidly slowing him down and we all knew that he was on the ropes. 60 miles later the team collectively had to pull him from the road before he seriously hurt himself.
The pace required was over seven minutes per mile, and despite our troubles, we knew we were going to make it. When leg 29 started, Luke, Nick, and myself, agreed that we would just try to hold 6 minute miles so that we could try and stay fresh for the final climbs. After opening up with miles of around 6.19/6.00/5.50, that plan was abandoned. When Nick passed the baton to me about 5 miles into the leg and the pace was 5.17 I was a little surprised, but when he ran a 4.52 mile not long after, I knew there was only one way we would get this done. We would grind ourselves into the ground.
As the sun rose over 322 and the last day dawned on us, the team banded together to tackle the last 100 miles. Joined by supporters, family, and friend, we threw ourselves into the endless climbs and descents that bought us towards home. By Skytop, we had eight runners on the road, alternating each mile, and all of them pushing themselves to the limit. As we turned on to Buffalo Run Rd, Kyle Dawson threw down another sub 5, and that set the tone for the last 22 miles. I had a perfect gradual descent and took advantage by going all out and running a 4.30 mile.Every guy who took the road was hurting, and without any discussion taking place, we all knew that a 100% effort was the only way to finish this thing up.
As we came closer to campus we were joined by alumni in car, on foot ,and on bikes. By the time we turned on Fox Hollow and Beaver Stadium came into sight, we had a full on entourage. As we crossed University on Porter, the entire Life Back On Track Relay team piled from the cars, and all together we ran the last half mile to the Penn State track.
To say that we were blown away was an understatement. Turning into the track, we ran down a tunnel of screaming fans and into the final 6 miles of the race.
Owen Dawson dropped a 54.6 (!!!!) 400m, and combined the team managed to run one of the miles in under 4 minutes. With a lap to go we slowed down, and together took our time to savor the moment.
At 100 meters left, in the final straightaway of the race, our crew joined us in walking the last small piece. The result was as much thanks to Ed, Terri, and Eric Dare, Eileen and Karl Wian, and Blaine Thomas, than it was thanks to the runners. While we ran and slept; they drove the RVs, chase cars, cooked, cleaned, navigated, kept our spirits up, organized police escorts, filled the coolers, and every other task imaginable to keep us constantly moving forward. Without them, there was no team, and certainly no new World Record.
95 hours… 3 minutes… 4 seconds was our official time. We had beaten the old World Record by 4 hours and 23 seconds. We had also climbed over 24,000 ft of elevation gain along the way, averaging a total pace of 5 minutes and 42 seconds.
I’m going to write again before the weekend is out, to give well deserved thanks and praise to those who helped us, and to digest a little bit more on what we did, but today I’ve got a lot of well deserved rest to take.
I will end though by saying that at the core of this run, was the desire to build something to Kevin. We wanted to find a way that we could honor his memory, and help all of us remember who he was and what he stood for. We hope and believe that we did this. 10 young men, all having day jobs and separate lives, and to who running is merely a hobby that they are passionate about, took time from their lives to use their talents to do something that is remarkable.
We’ll never forget what we did together. And none of us will ever forget Kevin Dare.