How I Ran My First Ultra

How I Ran My First Ultra or 'Runnin With Wally'

by Gene Joseph

It was spring of 1982 and Wally was gearing up for WS that June. I didn't know these guys very well, but heck, I had run some marathons, so what was 49 miles?! The plan was to run a round trip run from Ross's house near Alvernon and Grant and I don't remember the exact route, but out to Colossal Cave and back. Not exactly a trail run, either. Wally was a plan runner. He thought about what he should do and he would plan it out and usually stick to that plan. He was also a note maker. I remember that he would take off his hat and his plan would be pinned to the inside of it, written in Wally short-hand. Ross was to pace him at Western, so of course he was running, and there were some others, all of whom I met that day. I was intrigued! Before the run, Wally took me aside and gave me some inside information on eating and drinking for ultras. It sounded great! He said that we would stop every 20 minutes by his watch, eat a pack of twinkies and drink two orange sodas. I thought, 'wow, I love this stuff! Ultrarunning is gonna be my thing!' I was a little concerned about who was going to pay for all of this. This would have amounted to 16 1/3 packs of Twinkies and 32 2/3 orange sodas (they were cans and I'm pretty sure that they were Orange Crush--it used to be my favorite). We got off to a great start and by about mile 10, I was feeling pretty good, although I did notice that I was the only one, besides Wally, going with the 'Wally Diet'. Before mile 20 I was dreading the beep of his watch. By mile 25, I was sick as a dog. A very sick dog, at that. I dropped out at that point, since it was difficult to run and puke my guts out at the same time. I still consider this my first ultra, though, because after a couple of hours and having a completely empty stomach, I dropped back in to run to the finish, getting 35 miles for my first ultra. Wally went on to run Western in under 22 hours that year.

The lessons that I learned were these:

I am not Wally!!

Puke when you can.

I have absolutely no sense at all, because I still wanted to do this stuff,

although I have cut way back on the Twinkies.