Running a 48-Hour Ultra: An Interview with Peter Morgan
At the 2017 Sole Challenge Ultra Photo credit: Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
Meeting and running alongside other ultrarunners is one of my favorite things about ultrarunning. I met some inspiring ultrarunners at the 2017 Sole Challenge Ultra on Memorial Day weekend in Fayetteville, PA. I ran in the 24-hour event which began on Saturday, May 27. At the 7 am start of the 24-hour event, the 48-hour runners had been running since Friday morning, some of the time in the rain. They were now beginning their next 24 hour journey. There was also a 6-hour, 12-hour, and a marathon event, a Boston qualifier.
While running along the 1.5 mile asphalt loop in Norlo Park, I asked a fellow runner if he was running the 24-hour event. Happy and energetic, he said he was running the 48-hour event. Wow! I was impressed. We exchanged names. "I'm Miriam." "I'm Peter." And off he went. Our paths crossed several times along the course under the cover of a cloudy sky and sporadic rain showers during the day, and the starless sky in the dark, cold, fog-filled night. Whether running or shuffling his feet, Peter was always upbeat. And he was in the lead.
As a veteran of six 24-hour ultras, I had never considered running a 48-hour event until I saw Peter and the other 48-hour runners. They made it look not so hard and have motivated me to attempt a 48-hour ultra in the future.
I recently interviewed Peter Morgan about his first 48-hour ultrarunnng experience at the Sole Challenge Ultra.
What motivated you to run 48 hours?
I signed up for the 12-hour because I was training for the Burning River 100. I had done the (Sole Challenge) 24-hour the first two years and felt that was a lot of baggage. I didn't want to defend what I had done in the past (2013 24-hour - 122.26 miles & 2014 - 125.625 miles) and placing first each time. My wife Amy told me to run the 48-hour because it was the first time they had it. And I could pace myself differently for that. That's how I ended up doing the 48.
How was your 48-hour experience?
The 48 is much easier. There is definitely room for improvement from what I did. In a way, it was easier than than the 24-hour which sounds crazy. The pacing is different. There is a lot more walking than running almost the entire time.
What was your training regimen?
One day I went out and did a mix of running for 15 minutes and walking for 5. I did that for 3 hours just to get the feel of getting from running to walking. I had done a 100 miler and had incorporated walking into that as well, like run for three hours and then walk for an hour.
What were your weekly training miles?
I would max at 80 miles. I don’t pay that much attention to my miles.
What was your longest training run?
Twenty-two miles and an hour of walking.
What was your pre-race nutrition?
Banana, Cliff bars, orange, coffee.
What was your race day nutrition?
A lot of pizza, Gatorade, Sun Drop soda. It's like Mountain Dew but popular in the South. I like that.
How do you mentally visualize and rehearse the race?
I just picture myself just kind of...I mean I've done the course really well. I think just moving forward and going slowly. Just a matter of taking my time and just making sure that I was moving forward and not taking a ton of breaks. And then I also planned on getting some sleep at least the first night.
Was sleeping important?
I think it was. I wasn't going for a recored or anything. I made a point to sleep especially the first night. I'd sleep while it was still dark out for a couple of hours. Some research I had done says the second night is really difficult so I made sure that I got some sleep during the day so I could keep my wits about me. The first night I slept from about 3 to 5 in the morning. And then about the same the second night because things started to get loopy out there.
At what mile did sleep deprivation start to set in?
I don't remember exactly what mile it was but it was probably the second night at mile 140, 150 is my hunch.
At what mile did your body start to shutdown?
My body was OK but my mind was like I started seeing stuff.
Did you hallucinate?
Yeah I did. I started to see this vision that there was a hedge row to the side of the course. And having no context as to where I was. The last couple of laps at night I walked with Ken [Ken Furman completed 123.4130 miles]. I was glad I was with him because otherwise I would have just felt like around out there I think.
Peter Morgan completes 170.47284 miles and places 1st at the first 48-hour ultra at the
2017 Sole Challenge Ultra Photo credit: Sole Challenge Ultra
What do you think about when you're out there?
Just a little bit of everything. One thing is I’m an avid bird watcher. There’s a diversity of birds there so then I would hear and identify them by sound or something unusual out there. So that's one thing I think about when I’m out there.
Do you talk to yourself out there?
A little bit. But I do try to talk with other people when I’m out there.
At what mile did your feet start to hurt?
That was within the first 50 miles. I lost at least 2 toenails. One was already damaged before that. And I wound up with a few blisters on my feet.
Were you always a runner?
I ran in high school and a little bit in college. Didn't run again until maybe 2010. I think that was the year I did my first marathon.
What got you running ultras?
Well, I always wanted to do a marathon. So I did that. At the time I was living in the Gettysburg area and the JFK 50 is a big thing around there. Everybody was like running this 50 miler and I was like I might as well do that. That was my first one. That’s kind of how that got started.
How was your recovery after your 48 hour?
I gave it 4 -5 days before I starting jogging. I took the dog out for a 3 – 4 mile walk just to get the blood flowing. Nothing strenuous.
What advice do you have for anyone contemplating their first ultra, whether it’s a 50K or 50 miler?
I guess go out slow. Go out slow. Conserve your energy.
What words of wisdom do you have for those contemplating their first 48-hour ultra?
Go out slowly and don’t try to run the whole thing. Have fun out there. The last 20 miles I walked most of it.
How similar/dissimilar are 24 and 48-hour ultras?
I’d say with the 24-hour you try to run almost the entire time, albeit quite slow. With a 48-hour there’s a lot more of a mix of running and walking.
Are you considering another 48-hour?
Don’t have another 48-hour scheduled at the moment but I’m not opposed to doing it again. But I’m curious about what a 72-hour would be like. Might as well just see the progression.
What makes someone run an ultra? What is it about ultrarunners that allows them to run grueling distances or to walk miles and miles when they get tired?
I’ve always wondered about that. I think ultrarunners tend to be very self-driven. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed.
Peter, a ceramic artist, ran the Burning River 100 mile ultra in July. He is setting his sights on the less grueling Labor Pain 12-hour trail ultra in September. In 2000, Peter hiked the Appalachian Trail - 2, 162 miles. He hiked from June 6, 2000 to November, 5, 2000.
To read more about his hiking the Appalachian Trail, read this recent article in the Bristol Herald Courier.