And now back to our regularly scheduled Umstead stories.
The Umstead 100 was first held in 1994 and included just two entrants, RD Blake Norwood and Tom Newman. Beginning in 1995 it became an "official" race. I'm not really sure when I first became aware of it becoming an event as most of my memories of the 90's a blur. I refer to most of that era in my life as "The Dark Years". I won't go into any of that right now. Maybe a book someday? Anyway by 1991 I was hardly running at all and had no social life outside of immediate family and was living in depression without realizing it through most of the decade. So, anyway things were starting to get better for me emotionally by 96. I had taken up whitewater kayaking. mountain biking and I had began playing Soccer in an over 40 league so at least I was staying active. I ran a couple of hundred miles per year and did an occasional 5k or so but hardly considered myself a runner anymore and still had no friends and didn't really want any. I was always ready to retreat to my cave and other than kayaking when I had to go with a group on the dangerous stuff I did everything alone.
In 1998 I happened to have a soccer game around noon in Cary so before game time I decided to go by and check out this 100 miler I had heard about. I'd been aware of ultra's since very early in my running back in the 70's and had actually subscribed to ultrarunning magazine in 1982 or 83 but never got around to doing one. In fact I had only run one bad marathon in 1981 but back to this story. So I stopped at Camp Crabtree which is where the race HQ was that year and walked around to check things out. The only familiar face I saw was Joe Lugiano but I didn't really know him other than from knowing he was NCRC President at one time and I had seen his name in some ultra results. I hung around for about an hour and it looked interesting to me so after playing my soccer game I decided to return for awhile longer.
Once I returned and began hanging out I decided to offer to help at the aid station. After awhile of this and enjoying and learning about this sport of ultrarunning first hand, Blake asked me if I could sit at the finish and write down runners numbers as they came through each lap. I ended up working there until 11pm when I finally left for home. I was really having a great time and didn't want to leave. I don't have too many memories of the race but I did meet Joel Zucker as he came through a couple of times. You couldn't miss him because he was quite a character, a loud and loquatious New Yorker. Joel was one of the founders of the ultralistserv and unfortunately passed away several years ago after the Hardrock 100 which he loved so much.
One of the highlights for me was seeing Eric Clifton who I knew was one of the top ultrarunners in the country for many years and is still running quality times as a masters runner. He is famous for running in his homemade "jester" running tights. I was amazed to see him running so strong and consistently for so many laps. Just before he was due to come in to finish, Blake came over and handed me a card to give to Eric when he won. Blake had to leave to take care of something important and regretted not being able to be there to congratulate Eric as he crossed the line. How ironic it seemed that I, the walk on volunteer that no one knew was given the honor of meeting the race winner ! I thought it was funny that as soon as Eric finished he walked straight to a picnic table to sit and then after doing all that great running had to be helped into the lodge.
The other major impression that I got was a young lady that came through a couple of times and was always smiling and seemed to be enjoying herself. She had planned to stop at 50 but told me she couldn't believe how good she felt and decided to go out for another lap. Several hours later she came walking in very slowly and when I asked her how she felt she said "that was a really bad idea".
Later that year in October in the middle of the Fall soccer season I tore my left ACL which proved to be a pivotal moment in my life. I suddenly realized how much I missed running regularly,competing and training , setting goals and working to achieve them. I did a lot of praying over it and committed myself to doing all I could to get back to running. I was ready and willing to give up soccer, as well as pick up games of basketball and any other sport that may lead to further injury and keep me from running again. Well you know how that ended up.