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Ultimate Hike for Children's Cancer Research...28.3 miles in one day

Ultimate Hike for Children's Cancer Research...28.3 miles in one day

June 29, 2014, Foothills Trail - I have just returned from volunteering at the Ultimate Hike on the Foothills Trail...it was different, both because of the time of year and because of seeing it from a different angle: volunteer instead of hiker.

Although our Columbia team was smaller, the overall group was diverse and larger than 2013 (a lot of familiar faces among coaches and hikers). There were also a couple of insane people:

  • One lady hiked barefoot...she said that boots hurt her feet and changed her walking geometry...hurting both her knees and hips. She only walked 22 miles but stopped because of a knee issue, not feet. The Rescue Squad guys did a LOT! of foot and muscle taping on Saturday. When they looked at her feet, they said they were in far better shape than many of the people who had worn boots.) I was totally amazed!
  • The other crazy one was a guy who ran most of the way. He set a new record for the "hike" ...28.3 miles in under seven hours. (He had quit smoking and lost 60 pounds in the last year...prior to Saturday, his longest run had been 14 miles...less than half of what he did on Saturday.)

There were many heart-wrenching connections to childhood cancer this year...many success stories and some who lost a loved one. Through their stories and through the intensity of the experience, you build a strong bond. I said that I knew some of the people in that room better than some friends I had known for years.

Coach Mel Blackwell had a great team (including a member from West Columbia -well, actually, far west Columbia...Utah!)and they all finished together and strong! Mel had obviously trained them well and earned their love and respect.

Which is good because people on other teams were dropping like flies on Saturday. One lady slipped on a wet log bridge early in the hike and had to be evacuated; the runner flew off another wet bridge horizontal and landed in the water; several people used the warp van because they were hurting or so far behind, and several people just stopped because of injuries. I can't say enough about the wonderful volunteers from the Oconee County Rescue Squad who stay with us throughout the hike and offer every kind of support. Some of the most unlikely looking hikers were fast and strong. The Greenville team (that shot out so fast last year) followed a slow pace this year (same coach, different team members). I have been a hiker and backpacker for 20 years but this group has taught me many things about hiking.

It was overcast and not nearly as hot as it could have been for late June. However, it was plenty hot and I understand that by the river, instead of being a cooling break, it was miserably humid. I do not know how they were along the entire trail but near aid station three (after the long section and the endless up-hill) there had been a forest fire and small black flies were everywhere...insect spray seemed to have little effect. They didn't bite but they buzzed around your face getting into your eyes and mouth.

The longer daylight of June meant that everyone was out before dark and we drove back to the hotel in daylight.

Being a volunteer was just as awesome as you might expect, but it was long hours of hard work. We worked late preparing everything and getting the vans loaded. At the aid stations, we sat for hours waiting for hikers and calculating where they should be...then we scrambled furiously when a group came into the aid station. The hikers have worked hard to qualify for this experience and the sponsors are committed to making it memorable. We did everything we could to assist the hikers.

Frankly, on hike morning, I felt a little left-out when the hikers took off into the darkness. I have already signed up to hike again in 2015. I hope you will consider doing it as well.

NOTE!!! 2015 Hike weekend is May 15-17 with the Ultimate Hike May 16...cool mid-May (this is not Mother's Day!) and we plan to begin recruiting soon. Mel Blackwell will coach again. 28.3 miles in one day is a challenge but past participants have demonstrated that most people can do it...men, women, young , not so young, hikers and non-hikers. It is an experience you will never forget!

To learn more, or to sign up, go here.

About the Author

James A. Brannock

James A. Brannock

James Brannock is a Columbia personal property appraiser (furniture, silver, art, antiques, etc.). He began backpacking when his son was in Boy Scouts and spent 10 days backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch...he continues to backpack once or twice a year with friends from those Scouting days. Brannock and his son, Calder, walked the Coast to Coast Trail across England in 2010 (see the photo from the Lake District). On the Ultimate Hike for CureSearch-Children's Cancer Research, Brannock walked over 30 miles in one day...some eight miles further than any previous single day personal record.

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