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McCarthy just fin­ished her 50-kilo­meter ultra-marathon.

When imag­ining an ideal diet and workout schedule, many picture green smoothies and protein shakes, cutting down on sugars and carbs, hitting the gym a few times a week, and maybe even the weekly three or four mile walk-and-jog. None of these, however, cut it for senior Karissa McCarthy or Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele.

Over the summer, McCarthy and Steele raced in the Wood­stock Festival’s ultra-marathons located in Pinckney, Michigan. McCarthy ran the 50-kilo­meter ultra-marathon. Steele com­peted in the 100-mile race, in which he dropped out around the 75-mile mark. 

McCarthy, a dis­tance runner since her first year of high school, said she has always loved to push herself to her physical and mental limits. She raced and com­pleted her first marathon one year ago, but she fin­ished the event feeling as if she hadn’t eaten or hydrated enough to support her gru­eling effort. McCarthy learned from her mistake and came back strong for a 50-kilo­meter race this year.

“I really focused on getting in a lot of calories and a lot of liquids; I took in roughly 200 to 250 calories per hour,” she said. “That made the race feel a lot better because I didn’t bonk at all.” A runner “bonks” when they feel a sudden onset of fatigue during a race.

McCarthy spent time training over the summer, which pre­pared her for the longest race of her life so far. When asked what she enjoyed most about ultra-marathons, McCarthy didn’t hes­itate.

“Ultra-running has an awesome com­munity,” she said. “You get to talk to these people you’re running with, and it’s really cool to hear their story. They’re just so enthu­si­astic about pushing their minds and bodies to do some­thing that means a lot to them.”

McCarthy also said she believes anyone, with enough training and the right diet, could run an ultra-marathon. She said it’s just a matter of the right prepa­ration, con­sis­tency, and mental for­titude.  “Humans are meant to run,” she said.

Freshman Mark Sprague, who cur­rently runs an average of 60 miles per week as a member of Hillsdale’s cross country team, spoke about the long races ultra-marathoners endure.

“It seems crazy to me that they can do all those miles at one time,” he said.

Steele also par­tic­i­pated in an ultra-marathon totaling 75 miles.

Steele has been running ultra-marathons since 1983, and he said he loves the sport just as much as the day he started. He appre­ciates the inter­esting crowd ultra-marathon running draws, the euphoric expe­rience of running for mul­tiple hours in the wilderness and great out­doors, and the humbled state of being ultra running requires.

“It just kind of changes your def­i­n­ition of fitness,” Steele said. “You have this hope that you can go out and do some­thing for 12 hours, and you can. It doesn’t require you to be super­human, just really ded­i­cated.”

Steele said “min­i­malist” training is important for ultra-marathons. For him and many of his friends, shorter interval workouts accom­panied by weekly long runs are the optimal way to stay con­di­tioned for long race days without running them­selves down. 

“I think that’s what keeps you in the game for a long time and pre­vents you from getting burnt out,” Steele said.

Steele runs with two titanium hips in place of his own, the dete­ri­o­ration of which were con­genital, not resulting from overuse in ultra-marathons. Neither replacement has dampened his spirit or passion. Instead, it has only seemed to amplify it.

“I think people should occa­sionally take on things where they don’t know if they’ll succeed or not,” he said. “When I was driving over for my 100-mile run I was thinking, ‘this is actually scary, I have no idea how far I can get into this thing.’”

Steele said running ultra-marathon is just one way to push oneself. 

 “It doesn’t have to be running, but whatever you do, you should find stuff to chal­lenge you. I think that’s what makes life exciting.”