Written by Eric Friedman, Race Director - www.skydiveultra.com
As many first time Race Directors will tell you, there is great stress involved with planning and preparing a race even with the cucumber-cool attitudes of the ultra-running community. We strive to put on an event without issue, where people can simply show up and have a great time without concern. In this case, logistical difficulties proved quite challenging. We had 6 distance divisions, including 92 runners, with 64 skydivers—yep, skydivers. Our event is the only event in the world that starts by leaping out of a plane at 13,500 feet, covering the first two miles at over 130mph. All we had to figure out was the start wave times based on a moving number of entrants, jumpers, last minute video requests and the day’s skydiving community crowd. HA!
Race day started at Skydive Spaceland-Clewiston with a mix of 72 Floridians and a smattering of runners from New York, Tel Aviv, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, New Jersey, Australia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Mississippi. Runner’s ages ranged from 10 all the way to 72, with 46 men and 48 women. In addition, we had several extremely inspirational runners in our group; Joel Pecker, Brian Thomas, and Denise Carter. Two are cancer survivors that ran the 10k and 26.2 division—both having chemo treatments within 10 days, and the other a tough-as-nails competitor that trained for 5 months, losing a total of 80lbs (down from 360 to 280) with a goal of completing the Skydive Ultra 50 miler. Joel had not run a mile when he started but worked his weight down and mileage up to complete the distance in 18 hours (unofficial time finisher but official distance finisher).
At 9am, the plane lifted off with the first wave of runners. 15 minutes later the waiting runners gathered around the spectator area as brightly colored parachutes popped open 4,500 feet up in the sky. 4 minutes later our first runner/jumpers were coming through the start gate with their chip timer bracelets to begin their skydive-running adventure!
The course, a beautiful mix of packed dirt roads, packed gravel, short asphalt, and grassy alleys amid beautiful, fresh, sweet-smelling sugar cane fields. Large retention ponds provided stellar reflections of the sunset and sunrise while providing cover for the gators and snakes seen along the way. The 8 mile loop was made of two separate loops, one being 4.5 miles and the other being 3.5 miles with a single aid station in the middle allowing for runners to have all their personal gear available and friends and family support every hour or so.
As the day wore on, the heat and humidity continued to build, but so did the camaraderie and positive energy. FURs (Florida Ultra Runners – Find us on Facebook) represented the majority of racers meaning most were already friends. The relaxed atmosphere created by these friends led to an intense level of banter, bad jokes, inspirational comments, and heckling from the “FURgaphone,” that I used to torment tired runners. Each finisher also received a couple toots from my air horn before receiving their well-earned finisher’s medal or buckle.
We had an amazing time. Without the help of a few volunteers, the race would not have come together. David Yancey and Robert Rounsavall operated the aid station while Smith “Smitty” Baptiste documented the event with photos and videos. One of the coolest messages came from the skydivers that came to our running field to tell us how crazy we were for running 50k, 50m or 100 miles. The runners, in response, could not believe how crazy the skydivers were for making hundreds or thousands of jumps. I guess crazy is as crazy does….seems like skydivers and ultra-runners are a perfect match and share the crazy gene. Check out all the shenanigans on our website or on our Facebook page for photos and videos of the event. SkydiveUltra.com & Facebook.com/SkydiveUltra
Official Division Winners
· 100m Ron Martin 22:36:16 Age 51
· 50m Ryan Thomas 9:01:10 Age 28
· 50k Marc Drautz 4:57:01 Age 40
· 26.2 Jade Friedmand 5:42:55 Age 29
· 13.1 Lance Sanson 2:07:52 Age 46
· 10k Adam Money 54:05 Age 30