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Katie Galyean

For many people the challenge of running a 5k is satisfying. For others seeking a bit more stimulation, a marathon or triathlon might be the solution. For Joey Luther, however, even that was not enough.

Last year, Luther, son of Joe and Jane Luther of Elizabethtown and an East Bladen alum, completed his latest 100 mile run, otherwise known as an ultra marathon.

Luther said he was not interested in running until he moved from Elizabethtown to Colorado. “I went to Colorado for grad school, but also because I was very interested in things like hiking. Colorado has these mountains that are over 14,000 feet, they are called the 14ers. When I moved in 2002, I became obsessed with the 14ers,” said Luther.

Luther said he fell in love with hiking on trails. He began linking the mountains together for longer, all-day hikes. “It would turn into a 20 or 30 mile day,” he said.

It was on one of these hikes that Luther first encountered an ultra marathon. “I was finishing a mountain, driving back down the road and they stopped my car when all of these runners kind of ran in front of my car carrying headlights and flashlights and all that kind of stuff. It was the Leadville 100.”

Luther did not start out with 100 mile races, however. “White Lake had a half triathlon back in 2003 I think and that was one of the first endurance races that I did actually. I lived in Colorado, but I came back to Elizabethtown to do that race,” he said.

When asked why he does these races, Luther said it is for enjoyment and challenge of it all, as well as to get his mind cleared from work.

“I think there are a lot of people that are good at taking on challenges, so they are very successful and make it to a CEO position or something like that and they want another challenge,” said Luther. One of the main demographics that Luther has seen in these races is people who have been very successful in the business field.

These ultra marathons take more than a lone runner, they also require a crew. Luther’s father, Joe, has often crewed for Luther during these races. Every 15 to 20 miles during the race, there is an aid station where the runners can get more water, food, and meet up with their crew who carry more personal supplies with them like changes of clothes.

“I will carry the changes of clothes for him,” said Joe. “Last year we [did] the Hardrock 100 and he had a total of two whiteouts, snow storms, in the middle of the night. So, the weather can change significantly to where you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt to where you need coats and hats and gloves.”

40 hours is usually the time limit on these 100 mile races. Luther said it usually takes him about that long to finish, but there are others who can go faster. “There are professional runners that compete too and they can pretty much cover the course in half the time that it takes me. It will take me 30 or 40 hours and they can be [finished] in 16 to 20 hours,” he said.

The longevity of these races gives people time to get to know one another and make new friendships. Joe said everyone looks to help each other and give encouragement. “Everybody is so friendly, they share stuff, you help everybody out, it’s just a real fun experience,” he said.

Luther said the 100 milers stemmed from a 100 mile horse race. In 1974, one of the racer’s, Gordy Ainsleigh, horses ended up being disqualified at mile 29 due to lameness. “He decided he was just going to run it on foot,” said Luther. “And he did. He finished and still runs today.”

The 100 milers really became popular in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Luther has completed a total of 10 ultra marathons with four of those being 100 milers. He has also ran across the Grand Canyon three times, which was 45 miles, and then 60 miles along a pilgrimage trail in Spain to a peninsula that was once known as the end of the earth.

In the future, Luther hopes to do all of the classic 100 milers, as well as other races along the way. “My future plans involve doing a few more and just enjoying the sport,” he said.