Two weeks ago, BRO running correspondent and blogger Mark Lundblad wrote about running from Mount Pisgah to Mount Mitchell, a 66-mile solo adventure between two of the highest summits in the East. He described getting lost, running in the dark, and running out of fuel. But he forgot to mention one small detail: he shattered the course record.
Mark broke the previous record by nearly an hour, completing the run in 14:07. Even more impressive is that he broke the record by himself, without any other runners to push him, and despite wandering off-trail and severely bonking.
The previous record was set by Adam Hill, the founder of the unofficial Pitchell trail challenge. “Mad-A” realized long ago that trail running didn’t—and shouldn’t—require an entry fee. He has since created many other running challenges and informal trail runs across the Southern Appalachians, but Pitchell was his first. It began innocently as a long run from his house in Asheville to the summit of Mitchell, the highest mountain in the East. A year later, Hill moved hthe starting line from his house to the summit of Mount Pisgah. In 2004, he and a merry band of trail runners set off from the Pisgah summit at midnight, ran all day, and arrived at Mitchell’s summit before the sun set. Since then, Hill has been running Pitchell every year, and his blazing record of 15:06 seemed untouchable…until Lundblad came along.
It’s not surprising that Mark would forget to mention his course record. He is the most humble runner I’ve met. He constantly downplays his own accomplishments. He is more interested in hearing about your race experiences than telling you about his. He coaches, volunteers, and even maintains the most difficult section of the Shut-In Ridge Trail as a way of giving back to the trail running community.
But that’s not the only reason Mark conveniently omitted his course record. Breaking a record wasn’t the sole intent of his Pitchell adventure. As he wrote in the blog, “This 66-mile trek was about running for a different reason. It was a personal challenge on an entirely different level. It was a much less selfish running experience. I found out that I didn’t need that racing event carrot to test myself.”
Races are great ways to set goals, but even a national champion athlete like Mark Lundblad has found that you don’t necessarily need a bib number to reach deep inside yourself. The Southern Appalachians abound with mountains and trails to test your limits. Whether you set a course record or a personal record, the real race is always within.