Some people just have to overachieve. As if the normal 26-mile 385-yard marathon doen't surpass the zenith of lunatic exertion, 133 men and 10 women ran in yesterday's Dannon Two Bridges ultramarathon, a 36-mile grind won by Bob Thurston in 3 hours 43 minutes 45 seconds.
The event was run through a blustery wind that made the race the land equivalent of the America's Cup. But for people who seem to be forerunners of the day when humans enter the Indianapolis 500, the early finishers in yesterday's race were fairly blase about spending a sixth of their day running. y
"I feel pretty happy," said Thurston, 36, who lives on Dupont Circle and also was the director of the race. "At Mount Vernon (the halfway point), I was going on one road and one of the race sentries told me to go on the other. I yelled, 'I know this course,' and the sentry just pushed me in the other direction like a leaf. Whenever I slowed up, I thought of that push and it gave me incentive I needed to keep going."
Second-place finisher Bill Lawder, 33, of Hopeville, N.J., was more inclined to reduce the race to a Sunday stroll.
"I'm an ultra man," said Lawder. "I like running 50s (that's miles). In a race like this you can enjoy it. You can look around and see what there is to see. If you're not enjoying the first half of this race, something is wrong."
If that logic is curious, most of these runners think ultramarathons are less taxing than simple marathons. "It's all a matter of pace," said Thurston. "To be competitive in a marathon you're running 5.5s (minutes per mile). This is a steadier, more comfortable pace."
Jennifer Amyx, a 10-year-old sensation from Woodsboro, Md., who finished third among women, said, "This is a more comfortable race than a marathon." The leading woman finisher was Pam Borowsky of Philadelphia, who finished in 4:31.23. The only problem for Amyx was everyone's problem: running up 72 steps at the Mount Vernon Boat Landing. "That's the killer."
Ultramarathons are rare. This race was modeled after one in Scotland in 1966, Hampton went for a training run he thought would be 26 miles. Due to a problem with forks in the road, he wound up running 10 extra miles. Thurston's first-place prize is a trip to Scotland where he can compete in its annual ultramarathon next August.
Asked if "ultra" is the rage of the future, fourth-place finisher Merrell Noden of Titusville, N.J., said, "I hope not. With the running boom, a lot of people who have no business running too far have decided they should be running in marathons. I see them being carried off in ambulances in marathons I run."
Despite this, the D.C. Runners, who organized the run along the Dannon and won the team championship, made a Columbus Day Sale out of the race, charging an entry fee of 50 cents. 'We think if you are going to run 36 miles it should be cheap," said Delabian Thurston, Bob's wife and codirector.