National runners pull all-nighter in Lebanon

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Apr 4, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Many circles were completed around Winfree Bryant Middle School on Saturday and Sunday as 35 runners gave it their all to make the US National 24 Hour Running Team at the last qualifying race this year. 

Local runner Greg Armstrong organized the race. Armstrong is a science teacher at a local school, but two years ago he qualified for the US National 24 Hour Running Team and represented the United States on the world stage in Italy. Now his mission with putting together the qualifying event in Lebanon was two-fold. 

The event also helped raised awareness for the nonprofit Run4Water that helps provide clean drinking water to people around the world and in America. 

“I wanted to put together an event to give our runners the best opportunity to qualify and help get the best athletes to represent the US,” Armstrong said. 

The race took place from 8 a.m. on Saturday until 8 a.m. on Sunday, making it a full 24 hours of running for the 35 men and women participating. The goal was to win a spot on Team USA to compete against the best in the world at the international 24 hour running event in Belfast coming up in July. 

Jon Olsen, the last American male to win the world championship, was present at the event on Saturday, as well as many other runners that have won recognition for their running accomplishments.

Three people that ran at the event on Saturday made the team, which is made up of six men and six women. Two that ran Saturday made alternates, including Bob Hearn, who became the first American over the age of 50 to break 150 miles during a 24 hour run. He ran just over 152 miles and missed making the team by 0.03 miles. 

View full race results

Gina Slaby, Jon Olsen and Steve Slaby made Team USA. Bob Hearn and Megan Alvarado made alternate. 

The U.S. Ultra and Track and Field Association helped Armstrong organize the event, making sure the track around Winfree Bryant was exactly 0.5 miles and helping provide medical staff for the runners. Runners also brought along a team that would hand them water and snacks as they ran by. 

“Everybody is really prepared for a 24-hour race,” said Tracey Outlaw, social media manager for the U.S. National 24 Hour Running Team. “It’s not like a 5K where you can just show up in the morning and get through it. For a 24-hour race you really have to be prepared, so a lot of people brought in their crews to make sure they’re hydrating correctly and having the right nutrition.”

Fundraising was part of the event. A portion of the funds raised went to help runners make their way to Belfast, and the rest went to help the Run4Water initiative. 

Armstrong said there’s a child that dies every 20 seconds because of a preventable water-related illness. The Run4Water organization helps in Africa by building wells and also closer to home in Appalachia.

“A lot of people find it hard to believe that three hours from where we’re standing right now there’s children drinking from contaminated wells, creeks, so we install sterilization systems,” Armstrong said. 

Run4Water also takes about four or five trips a year, globally, to places like Nicaragua, Haiti to drill and repair wells.

To learn more about Run4Water visit run4water.net


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