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Ultrarunners Compete To See Who Can Log The Most Miles Over 6 Days


Running a marathon, 26.2 miles, is a lot. But for some, that's just the start. Ultrarunners push themselves for 50 miles, 100 miles or, in the case of this story, 600 miles over a six-day period. LaToya Dennis from member station WUWM reports that ultrarunners from around the world are in Milwaukee this week hoping to push themselves to new limits.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: Jim Fiste (ph), at the age of 77, is hoping to finish his 51st ultrarun.


DENNIS: I met up with Fiste as he was gearing up for the Six Days in the Dome - The Redux, a challenge where runners will compete to see who will log the most miles over a six-day period. With less than a week to go before the race, Fiste was taking it easy so I joined him for a light jog.


DENNIS: While elite runners could top 600 miles, most runners will be targeting shorter distances. Fiste says his goal is 250 miles, and he'll mostly be walking.

JIM FISTE: My average pace, you know, for 144 hours, is going to be over 30 minutes. But if I sleep four or five hours a day, (laughter), and I take breaks, 144 hours gets toned down quite a bit.

DENNIS: For Fiste, the later it gets, the tougher it gets, mentally and physically. He hits a wall right around Day Three. And, yes, he says he has contemplated quitting.

FISTE: These things can hurt. (Laughter). And so you think while you're doing them. You do question yourself - what in the world am I doing out here?

DENNIS: A lot of ultraruns are on mountains and trails, but this one is actually indoors. It's taking place on a three-lane track that wraps around an ice rink where Olympians train. I ask race organizer Joe Fejes how many laps it will take to hit 600 miles.

JOE FEJES: Two thousand, one hundred and seventy-seven times, and then run another half of a lap.

DENNIS: Now, I (laughter) can't help but laugh at that because I cannot imagine. (Laughter).

It's chilly, around 55 degrees. But Fejes just doesn't think that will stop elite runners from putting up big miles. And it's ideal, he says, because there's ample space for sleeping.

FEJES: You know, you really can't run for six days without getting some sleep.

DENNIS: Fejes is 53 and currently holds the American record in the six-day race, 606 miles, set four years ago. But he's expecting the most competitive race between people in the 75-to-85 age groups. He says that's mainly because this race isn't about speed, but endurance.

FEJES: It seems like patience, pacing are better suited for, let's say, the more mature, experienced ultra-athlete.

DENNIS: And he says what's most important is people getting to do what they love, run. For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

LaToya Dennis joined WUWM in October 2006 as a reporter / producer. LaToya began her career in public radio as a part-time reporter for WKAR AM/FM in East Lansing, Michigan. She worked as general assignment reporter for WKAR for one and a half years while working toward a master's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. While at WKAR, she covered General Motors plant closings, city and state government, and education among other critical subjects.