Adequate training for endurance races is a must for some runners but not for Tara Knight.
Knight, who owns a cheerleading and tumbling gym and is a personal trainer in Monroe, took an unorthodox approach to training for her first ultra-marathon. She didn’t.
Well, that is, already a runner having run some half-marathons and one marathon in 2006, she kept the same low mileage she was running and, on a whim, decided she wanted to race the Full Moon 50-kilometer trail race in Perryville, Ark., on Saturday, July 14.
“I decide Saturday morning, literally, when I wake up Saturday morning that I’m going to go up there and try to run this ultra. I drove up there by myself,” Knight said.
Knight, 30, says she usually runs around 20 miles per week and normally doesn’t exceed five or six miles a day but ran 16 miles on June 9 completing a half-marathon and 5-kilometer race on the same day. She says she thought about doing the 25-kilometer race that was also offered instead of the 50-kilometer distance in Perryville, but decided to stick with the longer distance when she arrived at the race site.
Knight said she thought the fact that the race had a 7 p.m. start time would benefit her, but she also failed to foresee a problem it would cause her.
“I knew that this Full Moon 50k was coming up, and I figured since it was a night run that if there was a chance of me being able to make it, it would be during the night,” she said.
However, she thought the course would be sufficiently lit at least enough for her to navigate the trails, but that turned out not to be the case.
“All I brought was my cell phone, and one of those little red blinkers to keep me lit up,” she recalled saying she did not bring the recommended headlamp.
She says by mile 13 or 14, less than halfway into the race, she could barely see well enough to continue running. “I got to the halfway point, and I was going to have to stop. And I said I can’t make it any further. It’s pitch black.”
Fortunately, at an aid station around 10:30 or 10:45 p.m., a man gave her a headlamp so she could keep going. Though she walked the final three miles of the 31-mile race, she crossed the finish line now officially an “ultra-runner” which had been on her bucket list of feats to accomplish.
But she is not stopping there. She plans to run a 50-mile race in August and then the Cajun Coyote 100-kilometer (62-mile) trail race on December 1. She says she does plan to increase her mileage somewhat to get ready for those races, but says she thinks to merely complete ultra-marathons, high mileage is not necessary.
“As long as you’re in good condition and take care of your body, and you wear the right kind of shoes; you wear the right kind of gear and you listen to your body, you can do any distance you want to do.”
Knight says though she has never done much long-distance training, she stays in shape with “high-intensity workouts” in the gym about four times a week.
Still, she acknowledges that those runners with certain time goals in a marathon or ultra-marathon should probably include 4-hour or 20-mile runs in their training programs.
Though Knight says Monroe has plenty of fast runners in the area, she says not many of them participate in ultra-marathons. “I think they don’t probably run ultras because they’re intimidated by the clock. They want to have a certain time,” Knight said.
Knight, on the other hand, says she enjoys the accomplishment of finishing longer races rather than shooting for a specific time in short races. “I like being able to push myself beyond the distance of what most people think they can run and run these crazy distances with no training just to show that it is possible if you put your mind to it, and you listen to your body well enough,” she said. “I want other runners to understand that ultras are hard but they’re very realistic.”
By Zachary Fitzgerald