Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The 12 Hour Treadmill Challenge


         Oddly enough, the idea for the 12 hour treadmill challenge came to me while I was running on a trail. Often referred to as the "Dreadmill" for it's mind numbing, boredom inducing repetition, it is often a last resort for most of us. Even on the best of days, I would only last about an hour on one without losing my mind. So as I ran along the trail that day I wondered if it would be possible for me to last 12 hours on a treadmill. If I could somehow recalibrate my brain to endure a 12 hour treadmill run, then a 1 hour run would feel like a piece of cake right? It was right around this point I began to question my own sanity.
  But the idea stayed with me. I began to think about what it would take to pull this off. If I tied it in with  a fundraiser and publicized it, that would put enough pressure on me not only to start it, but to finish it as well! I took the idea to my bosses at the gym, who had grown accustomed to my ultra running madness and always asked me every Monday what type of crazy running event I participated in over the weekend. They too questioned my sanity, but gave their approval. The next choice was to decide what charity to do this whole thing for. The choice was easy for me. The National MS Society. My friend Jen has MS, as well as some other folks that I know from the gym. Charity, check. Gym approval, check.  Date: Saturday, June 15th, 7am-7pm 
  Holy S**t!
   I worked social media pretty hard in the days up to the event, and also put up signs throughout the gym. The local chapter of the MS Society posted about it on their Facebook page as well. No turning back now!
  I got to the gym at 6:45am and was let in early to set up. I had a table, poster and some MS information that my friend Jen provided for me. Under the table was my cooler with hummus wraps, a few diet cokes and some fruit. I had some potato chips, raisins and peanuts and a generous supply of GenerationUCAN. Three water bottles, Nuun hydration tablets and some extra shorts, shoes and shirts. I also had my phone and Walkman W, which were both fully charged.

 I watched the clock strike 7am, and pressed the start button.

  As far as goals, it was mainly to survive 12 hours without breaking down physically or mentally. Physically, I knew it was not going to be a problem. It was the mental part that worried me. My main focus was to stay in the moment and take things an hour at a time. I would be doing a run/walk approach, as I was fearful I would go out too fast early and crash hard. I settled in, and focused on getting in about 4 miles in an hour. That would put me close to my mileage goal of 50 miles, which I thought was reasonable.
  The first few hours cruised by, the gym was busy and I was getting some good donations. I felt good, and was surprised that I was not bored. Lots of friends were stopping by to chat, so that made time go by. I was taking a GenerationUCAN shake every 90 minutes and keeping up with my hydration. I was also making a concentrated effort not to turn and look at the clock on the wall, which was a mere 5 feet away. Stay on the grind. Stay on the grind.

    12pm. 5 hours down! I was now starting to take in a bit of solid food, my homemade hummus wraps, which I must say were quite tasty! I had brought four pairs of shoes and the bulk of the miles so far had been in my Saucony Kinvara 4's. I was sticking to my goal of 4 miles in an hour too.

Grinding it out!

As the afternoon wore on, the gym began to empty out. My friend Tim, who has already ran 20 miles that morning, came down from Raleigh to join me for a few miles. Jen's husband Mark came by too, and the three of us ran and talked for a bit.
  Tim and Mark had left, and I guess it was around 4pm or so when I looked around the cardio deck at the gym and realized I was the only one there. I was still feeling pretty good, hydration and nutrition were good, although my pace had dropped slightly. My feet were a little sore, but I kept changing the grade on the treadmill to  alter my foot strike. I had switched to my Montrail Rouge and had broken out a diet coke to treat myself. Damn it tasted good! I was still doing quite well mentally, much to my surprise! Staying focused on an hour at a time and a mile at a time was working well so far. I kept grinding away. When I started to get tired, someone would come by and donate and thank me for what I was doing, which was a HUGE boost.
  5PM  Two hours to go!
 Several people had trickled into the cardio deck and were getting their workouts in. I was at a point now where I knew I could make it. Right after this revelation both my phone and Walkman died. Thank God the treadmill had a TV!
  6PM The final hour. I was still in the Montrail Rouges, and despite bringing nine different shirts, I had only changed shirts one time. I also had only taken three pee breaks, dashing downstairs to void then running back up before the machine reset. The treadmill did reset on me three times while I was running, but luckily I was able to scribble down the mileage each time so as to not loose track.
 Before I knew it, the announcement came over that the gym would be closing in 15 minutes. Home stretch!
    The gym was empty as the clock struck 7pm. I hit the stop button. I had made it! Mind and body intact! (well, for the most part!)
Total mileage:  46.25

 I gathered up my gear and staggered to the car. 12 hours on the treadmill had seriously messed with my proprioception! I got home, took a glorious shower and ate some dinner. My friend Tom, who owns the local Italian restaurant, was kind enough to stop by the gym with a order of linguine with garlic, oil and grilled veggies. I destroyed the pasta, slipped on my ProCompression socks, then promptly passed out.
  I had met the challenge and broke through some mental boundaries, but the best feeling was handing the donations over to Jen on Monday and getting a hug!
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to offer encouragement, ran a bit with me, donated onsite or online and kept me on the path for 12 hours!

12 Hours, 46.25 miles completed
Over $350.00 dollars raised on site
Please consider donating! Here is a link to my friend Jen's MS Fundraiser Page. Please note "Treadmill Challenge" when you donate! http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?px=2383055&fr_id=19790&pg=personal
Equipment used:
Freemotion Incline Trainer

Saucony Kinvara 4
Montrail Rouge
Salomon Speedcross 3
Innov8 F Lite 195


Brooks shorts, Runworx Tech shirt, Klean Athlete Tech shirt

GenerationUCAN Packets (Lemonade)
Corn tortillas with homemade hummus
Peanuts and raisins
Potato chips

Nuun Hydration tablets Citrus Fruit Flavor
Diet Coke 
 Media Distraction:
Sony Walkman W
Cell Phone
Thanks to MTV for airing a "Ridiculousness" marathon that kept me laughing and entertained!




  1. Wow, that is so impressive on so many levels! I too think of the treadmill as the "dreadmill", my longest run was 18 miles and I told myself once "never again".
    Wow, and do do this for such a great cause! Highly impressed, I have to tweet this out, its pretty cool!

  2. Wow, amazing! Great job on preparation and focus.

  3. Really awesome, well done! That would drive me crazy which is the reason I might attempt it. Having said that, I've never run on a treadmill. Give your legs the rest they deserve.

  4. Great job Gene! Sounds like a sufferfest.

  5. Mind over matter.....you proved that one! So proud of ya Forrest, I mean Gene!

  6. Respect! No way in Hell I could have done that.

  7. Hi Gene,
    What a great way to raise funds for MS. Way to go on following through!

  8. You are truly incredible! Next time I'm whining that I have to run 3 miles on the treadmill, I'm going to remember you. Such an inspiration!

  9. I am impressed! There is no way I could run on the dreadmill for 12 hours! When I was training for my half over the winter, I dreaded my long runs on Sundays. Furthest I went on the treadmill was 1.5 hours, probably about 10 miles!

    I give you mad props, what an awesome way to raise money for charity.

  10. That is so amazing! There is no way I could do 12 hours on the treadmill mentally (or physically!) I scream uncle after about an hour.

  11. This is indeed proof that the craziest ideas originate on the trail. Congratulations on this amazing feat!

  12. So amazing and inspiring. It shows that one person can make a difference. Thank you from someone living (and running) with MS!