One Mile Per Hour, One Marathon Per Day

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Sophia Cordoba

Claire, Emily and Kiah finishing the last mile of their 24-hour challenge.

It was 6:00 am on a Sunday morning when senior cross country runners Kiah Snyder, Claire Galvin, and Emily Poag set out for their first run of the day. Monday morning, over 24 hours later, their workout came to an end.

Over a year ago, Claire had first suggested the idea of attempting a 24-hour running challenge in which the runner would complete one mile at the start of each hour. The suggestion had quickly faded as an afterthought until Kiah brought up the idea once more at the start of the summer. The joke started to solidify into reality once Emily expressed her excitement at the idea- now the three could blame each other for having to carry through on such an exhausting plan. 

Now, those concerned with details may have questioned the accuracy of the article from the title. After all, a day only has 24 hours while a marathon consists of 26.2 miles. However, the difference of 2.2 miles isn’t particularly significant once you’ve run that far- at least according to Claire (before the challenge). Thus, the three runners decided to up their targeted mileage to the full 26.2 miles for the day. 

Naturally, the day started strong. As varsity level runners, the three were quite used to early morning runs of much higher intensity. Their years of experience also gave them plenty of routes to choose from, twelve to be precise. At the start of each set, one person would set the direction and set the pace for the crowd. However, after hours of no sleep and far too much physical activity, they couldn’t always run straight. Claire and Emily recalled running into each other on a street corner in a state of confused fatigue. 

Neighbors also enjoyed a degree of confusion during their 24-hour challenge. Parents playing with their children outside would witness the trio head out two or three times and assume that they had been running for hours on end. One man witnessed them at 6:00, 7:00, and 10:00 am, leading him to voice his concern.

“You’re still running?!”

Yes, they were indeed still running. 

Heading into the afternoon, the trio began to get creative with ways to stay awake. An attempt was made to start a monopoly game. Half of a bee was crocheted. They even took a dive into the neighborhood pool.

Kiah claims to have “neither swim nor tread,” leading me to wonder how she ever made it out of the pool. Perhaps it was with the same type of impossible determination that got her through miles at four in the morning. 

I stopped by Claire’s house around 7:00 pm to check on their progress. The group was halfway through their challenge, surviving off a strange combination of beverages (ranging from water to coffee to Chobani yogurt smoothies), pizza, watermelon, ice, and Advil. With only 10 miles left after their 8:00 pm run, they were stuck in a situation of “too far to turn back now.” The thought of finally hitting the single digits was just about the only thing that would bring the light back into their eyes. 

Perhaps the only part of their challenge I could safely recommend was their constant stretching in Claire’s living room. With past knee, shin, and thigh injuries, these seniors had to be careful not to repeat history. However, “stretching” might be a generous term to apply. Sprawled out on the floor, Claire, Emily, and Kiah looked more asleep than awake. 

When I left the group around nine, they were preparing a schedule of coffee and power naps to push through the night. Watching them stumble through the kitchen and groan each time they bent their knees, I couldn’t help but cast my doubts that they would complete the challenge. However, if there’s one thing all cross country runners have in common, it’s resilience. 

Cross country athletes run without a finish line in sight. At meets, they often find that the steepest hills appear on the worst of their days. In the fall, practice is held in the early afternoon, when the heat off of the pavement is at its peak. In short, it’s not a sport for the weak of heart. Mental fortitude comes before any physical prowess. Emily, Claire, and Kiah proved that with each strained smile in the pictures they took at the end of each mile. 

I joined them once again for their final run at 6:00 am. I’m sure I caught them in a better mood than they had been near 3:00 am. Despite her exhaustion, Kiah even managed to throw up a peace sign before they began their final run. When Claire’s watch finally beeped, signaling the end of a mile, they slowed to a walk with a soft grin. 

Past all the grumbling about immediately needing a bed to sleep in, it was clear that they were proud of what they had accomplished. Who wouldn’t be? In 24 hours, they completed a physical and mental marathon like no other.