Going the Distance

May 22nd, 2014 No Comments

100 Miles of Will Power

The C&O Canal 100 is a 100 mile race starting at Camp Manidokan in Knoxville, Maryland and runs along the canal between Antietam Creek and Noland’s Ferry. This scenic running challenge takes athletes past historic sites along the Potomac in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Lake Linganore was represented at this year’s C&O Canal 100 by community members Eric Eller and Bert Salter. Both Eric and Bert trained extensively for this extreme distance run—although it wasn’t until after the race was over that these neighbors realized they were both preparing for the same event.

Eric Eller has been running recreationally since college, and now at 45, Eric’s become a competitive runner. In 2012 he and his wife Beth ran their first marathon together and shortly thereafter he began seriously considering an ultramarathon as his next goal.

Eric’s neighbor, Bert Salter shares a similar running history. Bert was always athletic, playing sports like baseball and lacrosse, however running became a later passion. Bert began running in 2010 and shortly after completing his first half marathon he was inspired by Dean Karnazes’ book, “Ultra Marathon Man” and began to set his sights on extreme distance running.

Both men have participated in shorter events—if you consider a 30 mile run easy—the shorter distances were always intended to buildup endurance and overall mileage as they worked towards their end goal: a 100 mile race. As Eric states, “For a 100 mile race, you need to practice on getting as much time on your feet as possible. So my longest training runs were up to 30 miles, on up to eight hours of running. Overall, I ran around 40 miles a week for four months before the race, with a 20+ mile run every couple of weeks.”

Bert and Eric have discussed competing in 50 Milers and 70 Milers prior to the C&O Canal 100. Bert’s running routine ranged from 15-30 miles throughout the week and 15-25 miles on the weekends. Bert says “Working full time and having a family make workouts an interesting task and the training isn’t always possible, so I run when I can and try and get others to join in to keep me motivated.”

Eric trained as much as possible on the C&O Canal tow path so that the race course would be more familiar, although with such an unforgiving winter finding cooperative weather conditions was difficult. He found that most of his training was at the YMCA’s indoor track and at home on his treadmill.

When competitive runners approach a 100-miler, dedication and training are just the obvious components, but preparing for the intensity of what your body will endure is critical, and building mental toughness is key. The sheer volume of time spent on your feet (up to 30 hours straight) can create many physical challenges. Soreness and fatigue can be compounded by upset stomach and muscle cramping. Ultramarathoners must use their mind to fight their body’s urge to stop and rest. Eric says “The main advice I’d give to someone who wants to run a 100 mile race is to build a good running base and work your way up to the distance. You don’t have to be a great athlete or be really fast to finish a 100 miler; you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort and learn how to keep yourself moving for a very long time, regardless of how tired or sore you feel. The other thing is to talk to as many people you can find who have run the distance. There’s no beating the experience of people who have already run 100 milers.”

Eric and Bert both trained with a support system of family and friends. Each can attest to the benefits of having a team with you on race day to reinforce mental toughness and also to help make the experience enjoyable. As Bert puts it, “I was nervous leading up to the race that my training hadn’t been good enough and was questioning whether or not I was going to be able to go the distance. Having never gone this far and knowing what can, and will, go wrong, I was worried about all sorts of issues: feet, stomach, cramps etc. But for the most part there weren’t a lot of if issues and when there were, the volunteers were quick to help out and get me going again. During the race there were a few very low points that I had to get through and the day ended up being warmer than expected for April so that made it interesting. I started and finished the race with a good friend and had more friends and family help out along the way making for an even better experience. When the race was over the sense of accomplishment was amazing and more than I would have imagined—it far outweighed the pain I was experiencing over the next few days as I recovered.”

Eric Eller completed the C&O Canal 100 in 26 hours and as he puts it, “I learned I could finish a 100 mile race and still be able to walk afterward—and that I could have fun the whole time!” Both Eric and Bert are already registered for Burning River 100 in Ohio this August. Bert Salter can’t wait for the next event, saying “I am a firm believer that if I can do this, anyone can. I only wish I had learned about them [100 milers] sooner and found out I liked running when I was younger.”

Eric and Bert have only just recently discovered they are neighbors with a shared passion for ultramarathons. This connection came to light when Eric reviewed the race results online after the event. Eric noticed another runner listed from New Market and out of curiosity he contacted Bert through Facebook. They quickly realized they were neighbors all along. Both living in the Meadows, training for years up and down the hilly trails through Lake Linganore—yet they never knew each other! Now, as they both prepare for their next event, Burning River 100, you may see this dynamic duo training together. They have certainly become ‘fast friends.’

How has this experience changed the way you approach other challenges in life?

“Finishing a 100 mile race definitely was a confidence boost. Finishing something that big helps stretch the limits of what you think you can do. I’m definitely planning to run the race again. It was a lot of fun, and my crew had fun with it as well. I’m already signed up for my next 100 mile race – the Burning River 100, in Ohio the first weekend in August.” – Eric Eller

“It has made the smaller challenges seem easier to overcome and made me slow down and not stress as much, at least in theory! Being on the trail for so long and constantly pushing forward is synonymous with what it takes to get through every day. Sometimes it’s fun and you are feeling great and other times it is tough, you feel like crap and want to go lay down but you can’t and you don’t.” – Bert Salter

Want to Compete in a 100 Miler?! Check out these resources for support: | |

*Get in touch with the local ultrarunning community: There are a lot of runners out on the trails on a regular basis in the Frederick watershed, but a good place to start is local running store “If the Shoe Fits” on the Golden Mile in Frederick. (Check out:

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