Ultra runner conquers 100-mile race of a lifetime103 miles in 24 hours, 58 minutes and 21 seconds
One hundred miles.
Actually, it was 103 miles. Those final three home-stretch miles counted the most for 46-year-old Canton native Laura Paxton Rollins.
How could a person physically muster up enough energy to run a grueling 100-mile race?
Rollins wanted to find out for herself, so she did.
After conquering half-marathons and marathons, she stepped into ultra-running, which is anything longer than a marathon, she explained and ran a 30-mile and 50-mile race. Last June, she officially began training for a 100-mile race.
“Ultra-running is all about beating yourself — and I wasn’t getting any younger — so I wanted to see what I could do for me,” Rollins said.
To train, she ran five days a week, typically 25 miles the first day, then two days of clocking in 15 miles followed by a 12-mile day and a 6-mile day. Other times, she pulled 20-mile runs back to back.
To condition herself to run in the dark, sometimes she ran 10-12 miles on a Friday night, then slept and ran another 20-25 miles on Saturdays.
“It’s all about training yourself to run on tired legs,” she said.
Eating clean is all-important.
A typical breakfast consisted of protein-powered coffee, granola cereal, seaweed rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly and chia seeds. Lunch and supper meals usually included lean protein like chicken or seafood, rice or sweet potatoes and as many vegetables as she wanted.
Two to three healthy snacks like protein shakes, fruit, nuts, peanut butter, protein bars and beef jerky were also an important part of her training diet.
After over six months of intense training, she was bitterly disappointed on 100-mile race day of Dec. 17, 2016, in Triangle, Virginia, when unexpected icy weather halted her race at 73 miles.
“That day, I was at peace because I knew I had tried my best and it was the weather that stopped me, but about three days later when the soreness wore off, the disappointment started settling in,” said Rollins.
She later signed up for another 100-mile race on Dec. 31, 2016, in Alcoa, Tennessee.
The big race
At 8 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, in 40-degree weather — which Rollins describes as perfect running weather — she took the first step in what would become her epic race of a lifetime, alongside runners ranging in age from 20-somethings to 70-somethings.
Clocking around 12-minutes miles for the first 70 miles, she only stopped around every hour, which was around every five miles, for very quick breaks from one to 10 minutes to drink, eat while standing up or use the bathroom.
“In some trail runs, the woods are your bathroom, but this race did have portable toilets set up,” she said.
Her fellow racer husband, Mark Rollins, was there for her to provide food, water, a change of clothes and any other assistance.
In the entire 100 miles, she only physically sat down twice, once to tape off her foot and another time to put hand warmers in her socks.
She didn’t sleep for the entire time, even though the runners are allotted 30 hours to finish the race and can sleep briefly if they choose.
“I was feeling good and moving so I wasn’t gonna stop and the adrenaline kept me awake,” she said, noting that she ran in the new year at midnight when 2017 officially began.
Even after 70 miles, her slowest mile was a mere 16 minutes.
Her husband ran with her the final 40 miles and her best friend power walked the last mile.
When she crossed the finish line on Jan. 1, 2017 at 8:58 a.m. after 103 miles, her official time was 24 hours, 58 minutes and 21 seconds, earning her second place in her age group of age 40-49 and 10th place overall in the female category.
“I had never run 103 miles consecutively and I’m not a crier, but I broke down and cried,” Rollins said.
“Besides my daughter, Starr, this has been my most rewarding accomplishment,” she added. “I think I’m on my runner’s high even now and it still hard for me to wrap my head around that, ‘Yes, I can finish 100.’”
Rollins’ next fitness goal is to train alongside her husband for a 72-mile rough terrain race dubbed the “Georgia Death Race,” happening April 1 in Blairsville, Georgia.
It’s named that because, according to Rollins, the race includes over 40,000 feet of elevation change in 72 miles and only a third of the racers who attempt the race actually cross the finish line.
“Last year I pushed myself and asked myself, ‘How far?’ so, this year, I’m pushing myself and asking myself, ‘How much?’” she said.
To contact Rollins, look her up on Facebook under Laura Paxton Rollins and message her.