A New World Record - 100x10000 m Mass Relay

Florida Striders Track Club (USA), 77:17:25 hrs, Jacksonville, Florida (USA), 3-6 Dec 2009

by Mike Marino

It was a simple question I asked during a Florida Striders board meeting. I’d twice been part of a swim relay for a world record, and each time it was a lot of fun, so I figured our club could do the same with running. I didn’t have a specific record in mind and wasn’t sure of any specifics; I just thought it would be fun. The answer to the question was a tentative yes, and with it a massive coordination effort ensued.

Nine months of e-mails, phone calls, committee meetings, and hours upon hours of work followed. All kinds of adjustments had to be made along the way. I initially requested that we set a new record with a 100 x 5K relay in March. I got a response in April stating there was a similar record already established, a 100 x 10k relay, and we were approved to do that instead. It was initially just a world record attempt, but that garnered little interest. So we made it a benefit for The Donna Foundation, a charity that provides assistance to women with breast cancer. It had to be done on a track. We were rejected four times and it wasn’t until after the summer break that we would find a school, Bishop John J. Snyder High School, willing to let us use their track four days.

Other things would fall into place. Video evidence was required, with a recommendation to have the entire event professionally filmed. A contact through the Donna Foundation worked at Florida State College at Jacksonville and sold the idea to their media department, so we caught a huge break there. The film crew could also serve as witnesses, as there needed to be two independent witnesses at all times. We would still recruit witnesses though, as a way to get more people involved and so not to put so much on the film crew. And Bishop Snyder turned out to be the perfect fit. They had a brand new rubber track and helped out however they could, giving us full access to their facilities.

We got the 100 runners about six weeks before the event and even had to turn some away, but kept a list of alternates. The runners included a wide range of folks, some blazing fast, some not so much, eight guys in their 60’s, and one 10 year old kid whose conditioning coach (yeah, you read that right) assured me he could complete the 10k in well under the pace we needed. This list of runners, however, would remain in flux up until the event. I lost track of the number of changes to the runners prior to the order being established. And when the preliminary running order went out two weeks before the event, it had two open slots due to people dropping out just before the order was announced. The two open slots were filled and two swaps in the running order were made – it was a week before the event. Five days before the event and a runner got injured, an alternate was called to fill the spot. One more runner drops three days before the event, another alternate found to fill the slot. The day before the event I get a call from Bishop Snyder. Inclement weather that night resulted in their soccer game being rescheduled to the next night, when two of their kids were scheduled to run. Two more scheduling swaps made.

The first day of the event, December 3rd, arrived. We were finally to what we felt would be the easy part of the event, the running. It was up to each runner to show up and deliver though, as it took all 100 runners to get the world record, and it took only one runner not finishing their 10k for the entire attempt to fail. 

It was a beautiful day, but as with most things with this event, it would change. The forecast included a long period of rain, and this would be followed by wind and cold. And while everything had been planned out as much as it possibly could, we knew something would come up and that we would just have to deal with it. Was it going to be someone not showing up?, would it be the schedule?, would someone get hurt?

The first runner, Tim Deegan, started at 10:00am. There was excitement, energy – we were going for a world record. A good number of folks came out for the start, including students and faculty from Bishop Snyder. Tim finished his 10k, passing the baton to Kristin Smith. Kristin finished her run and gave the baton to CalLee Davenport; CalLee to Melissa Saunders, and on and on. By that night though, we were 19 minutes behind schedule; runners weren’t going as fast as projected. This trend would change. Regina Sooey ran over four minutes faster than expected, George Hoskins ran over three minutes faster than projected, and others were either right on their projected time or a minute or two faster. By Friday morning, were within two minutes of the schedule.

Intermittent rain began Friday afternoon, but it had no impact on us. Then things got exciting. Our oldest runner, Paul Smith (68) handed the baton to our youngest, 10-year-old Carter Bradford. The kid was electric on the track. He ran steady, strong. He was undaunted by the First Coast News cameraman following him around the track, and he was turning in negative splits. Carter put up a 43:37 and handed the baton to his mother, Lorna Bradford, a minute ahead of schedule. For the first time since the first runner, we were ahead of schedule. This trend would continue.

By that evening the rain was steady. It would get heavy at times, but was pretty much falling straight down. The temperature was in the 50’s and there wasn’t much wind...yet. Just before midnight, in pouring rain, we reached the halfway point when our 50th runner, Ryan Sloan, finished with a 35:13. The runners Friday night and early Saturday morning seemed to embrace the conditions and even enjoy them. The rain was making life miserable on the film crew though, who couldn’t let their equipment get wet. It was tough on the witnesses and volunteers too, as they had to sit or stand and watch. Our documentation was getting wet too, as water was getting through our supposedly waterproof tent. We kept going though, and runners were going faster than projected; we were over twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Our first minor scare came when I got a phone call Saturday at about 1:40am: “Hey Mike, I’m at Bishop Kenny, where’s the track?” the caller/runner would ask. Luckily, he was there well ahead of schedule and there was no traffic to contend with – he would make it to Bishop Snyder about 40 minutes before he was supposed to run.

Then things got nasty. At about 4:40am Saturday, the rain really started coming down and with it came gusts of wind. Further, the temperature began to drop, going down eight degrees in an hour. Ed Kelly was on the track when it started; all he could do was just keep moving. Then our first real scare came. Kent Northey had to deal with these conditions for his entire run. The wind had picked up so much that it actually took him off stride. This, combined with the already wet conditions, aggravated a knee issue he had from months before. Kent fought through it though, and got the baton to the next runner. There were a few instances of the rain letting up for the next two runners, Anthony and Kim Iselborn, but they too had to deal with periods of heavy rain and wind. And poor Kim, her cute little pink hat was either falling down in her eyes due to the rain or about to blow off due to the wind.

The rain finally let up and would eventually stop by the middle of Saturday morning, but the wind and cooler temperatures remained. It was actually good running weather, and the runner’s times were showing it. Through the next fifteen runners, only two runners went slower than projected, and each of them was only a minute off their projected time, whereas others were taking off time in chunks. Rushton Callaghan, Ann Krause and Ed Higginbotham were four minutes faster than projected, and Mike Ryan was over six. Other runners were two and three minutes faster than projected. We had gotten 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Our worry now was a runner being late, especially during the overnight, so a decision was made. Runner #98, Kellie Howard, would run in slot #78 to get us closer to the schedule for runners 79 through 98, and then only the last two runners would be impacted. The move worked. We were back within 12 minutes of the runners’ scheduled start times.

Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning was cold with temperatures in the 30’s and steady wind. The trend of fast running continued, though we would get another scare. Runner #82, Tim Dalton, was cruising at about a six-minute mile pace when he suddenly slowed down with about three miles to go. He felt something pull near his knee. He resorted to a shuffle that was getting him around the track; he didn’t want to walk because he was afraid he would stiffen up. He finished, iced his knee, took some ibuprofen, cheered other runners on for a while, and left the track with a stiff legged limp. There was some question with runner #86 too, me. I’d had seven hours of sleep during the then four days of the event. I guess sleep is overrated – I ran pretty well to everyone’s surprise, myself included.

The rest of the way was smooth. By 8:30 am Sunday morning, we were on runner 93 and I had spoken with all the remaining runners. They were all coming, and we even had an alternate, J.J. Porter, at the track just in case. We were at a pace to break the record by 12 hours. Runner by runner, lap by lap, we were getting closer. My instruction to runners was, “don’t fall down.” Runner #98, David Kelley, finished his 10k in gritty fashion. Then runner #99, Kim Lundy, was giving the baton to the final runner, Donna Deegan. By this time, many runners, their families, and even some witnesses had come back to see the finish.

The excitement and energy was amazing; you could almost touch it. Applause got louder for every lap Donna completed; the excitement was building. Donna came around to complete lap 24 – ONE LAP TO GO!! Just about everyone joined Donna for the final lap. Randy Arend and I held a pink ribbon to mark the finish. As Donna came down the final straight away, everyone was cheering, a cowbell was ringing, an air horn was blowing, and then Donna broke through the ribbon. Finally, 77 hours, 17 minutes and 25 seconds after we started running, and about nine months after we started planning the event, we had done it.

Rousing applause, a bunch of high fives, some hugs, and a presentation of a check to Donna for the over $6000 we had raised followed. For many people there, it was a moment they may never forget.

Our work wasn’t over though. Now all the documentation had to be put together, the film had to be edited down to an hour, we had to gather media clips and articles of the event; all of which has to be submitted for verification of the record. We did something incredible though. A team of 100 runners, 50 witnesses, 12 film crew members, and many volunteers came together for a single purpose. Many folks made friends in the process, we raised money for a great cause, and, if approved, we did what we initially set out to do – set a new world record.

 Thanks to everyone who supported the World Record Event at Bishop Snyder High School. The runners, witnesses, film crew and volunteers – everyone was instrumental in the success of the event. Special thanks as well to all the committee members, who all put in several hours of work and had many ideas that were utilized and made the event possible. Randy Arend handled all the entry forms, many of the donations, the insurance, and spent several hours at the track ensuring all event and witness documentation was completed. Kellie Howard also spent a lot of time at the track completing event documentation and ensuring witnesses completed their statements. Regina Sooey recruited just about every witness and coordinated the witness schedule. Keith Poythress dealt with (and is still dealing with) the shirts and made our lap counter. Sarah Horn from the Donna Foundation was key in setting up their website for donations and initiated the contact that resulted in Florida State College at Jacksonville filming the event (this was huge). Dave Bokros got us the time machines used for the event from First Place Sports and was helpful in many ways during the event. And finally, Nate Stanley, Lou Pereira and everyone else we came into contact with from Bishop Snyder High School were so helpful. They basically gave us full access to their track and facilities not only for the event, but also for five “practices” leading up to the event. They also gave us access to a golf cart and one of the most popular items of the event, the cowbell that we banged and clanged every time a runner had one lap remaining.

The event was a unique and exciting experience, and while it was a lot of work, it was also a whole lot of fun. Thanks so much everyone.

World Records for Mass Relays,
Florida Striders Track Club,
Back to the World Record Homepage