About 10 years ago, Nathan Rau of Waterloo started running with the express purpose of staying in shape.
“I hated every step,” Rau recalled. “Over time, it just became something I really started to love.”
Rau’s love of running grew to the point that on Nov. 10-11, he ran an ultramarathon of 100 miles.
Rau ran in the Tunnel Hill 100 in Vienna, completing the course in 20:52:06. That was good for 34th place out of 206 finishers.
“It was by no means winning anything, but for me it was a very, very good day,” the 42-year-old said.
The winner was Zach Bitter of Phoenix, Ariz., who set the world record for fastest 100 miles on a trail at 12:42:40.
After his humble early goals, Rau started getting more serious about running after joining the Idiots Running Club, an online organization that brings runners of varying proficiency and seriousness together.
He started running farther and farther, with the help of a coach and friends who are also in the club.
Rau’s desire to run long distances came as a motivational tool.
“It kind of just built off of that,” Rau explained. “You kind of just need something you can shoot for as you keep extending your distances.”
His distances kept increasing until a few years ago, when he began to consider running 100 miles.
“The first bug I got was I ran a 50-mile (race) at Tunnel Hill a few years ago,” he said. “I stayed to help crew for someone doing 100. That’s what really put the thought that I would like to do 100 some day.”
Rau began physically training in March, running two 50-mile races this summer to prepare. He also ran more than 60 miles per week in the weeks leading up to his race.
Rau said the most crucial part of his training, the mental aspect, took about a year to complete.
“It’s sort of trying to get through that mental block, I’d say, to believe you could do it,” he noted. “I had a really good 60K in March that surprised me with how well it went. I thought, ‘well if I ever am going to try a fall 100, this is the year because I’m not in terrible shape coming off the winter.’”
The Tunnel Hill 100 also included a 50-mile course. All told, more than 700 runners participated in the event.
“They’re not quite as unusual as people might think,” Rau said of the ultramarathons. “There’s several within driving distance of St. Louis that either are 100 or 50 (miles long). The term ‘ultramarathon’ gets thrown around a lot, but really that just means anything longer than a marathon.”
The event began at 7 a.m. Rau credited his crew of people helping him with finishing the strenuous run.
“The crew is a huge part of this,” he said. “I had like seven or eight people. Some of them would come out and join me on the course. Some of them would be there when I would hit the aid stations, which were every 3-7 miles. They would be there with food, a change of clothes and stuff like that if we needed it. The crew is a really important part of it to make it go well and I had just an outstanding crew.
“The whole weekend was pretty amazing, largely because of the relationships we had with the crew that was there with me,” he added. “It’s hard to describe how good it is to see them when it’s two o’clock in the morning to see those flashlights and know they’re there to help you. It feels really good.”
Rau said he feels the same way about having finished a 100-mile race, although he is looking for his next challenge.
“It definitely feels good to have that one out of the way,” he said.