In the Sept. 8 edition of Here and There, I asked if any of you could run from Maple Creek to Swift Current. The reason for the question was that two Medicine Hatters were preparing to run that distance and more during the Lost Soul Ultra Marathon held Sept. 9-10 in Lethbridge. Extreme runners Murray Barker and Karen Fogen completed the 100-mile race. I phoned them afterwards to congratulate them and to see how they felt.
To be honest, I expected both of them to sound groggy, tired and even crabby. Not because they’re like that, but because that’s how I’d feel after running continuously for 29 hours, which they did.
I spoke with Barker first and when he answered the phone he sounded surprisingly chipper. His calf was a bit sore, but otherwise he said he felt fine. His tone was very believable so I think he was telling the truth.
Next, I called Fogen. She sounded happy and upbeat, too. I couldn’t believe my ears. Her good mood didn’t waiver during our entire conversation. She was telling the truth also.
More surprisingly, she rolled her ankle two hours into the race and was speaking to me with an air cast on. She explained the injury didn’t seem so bad at first so she walked for a while then was able to run again. It wasn’t until Fogen removed her shoes after the race that the swelling kicked in.
“If you’re determined you can do anything,” Fogen said, although she concedes the course was challenging because of its steep, rocky nature along with its twists and turns. At times, the runners scrambled over deer trails on the side of steep coulees. The infamous Lethbridge wind added an element of challenge, too. Still, she’d run the race again and she credits the organisers and volunteers for the quality of their event.
Fogen already has plans to run the Death Race in Grande Cache, Alta., next August. The Death Race is 125 kms of canyons and mountain summits through the rugged Canadian Rockies. She also has her eyes set on racing in Iceland, bit concedes that might be a few years away.
In regards to the Lost Soul, Fogen described a mixture of emotions when she crossed the finish line. She wanted to cry and was thankful the race was over, but she also felt awesome for completing the event.
When asked what went through his mind when he crossed the finish line, Barker answered, “Thank God it’s done.” He was hungry and his feet hurt, but he too had a sense of profound accomplishment.
Over the years, Barker has competed in literally dozens of marathons and often signs up for the same event year after year. For example, he has run LeGrizz, a 50-mile race, 11 times.
Situated in Montana’s Glacier National Park, LeGrizz is one of the world’s oldest 50-mile races and yet relatively few people have completed it on 10 occasions or more. Only 48 runners have done so and they’re honoured with the Ten Bears Award, which is a grizzly bear statue set on a hefty slab of wood.
Barker hasn’t limited his athletic focus to running. He’s also finished a number of triathlons and admits swimming is his weakest event. He also volunteers to help plan races, to mark the course or to keep time. Barker was a volunteer at the High Altitude Challenge held at Cypress Park Aug. 20.
In the future, Barker would like to run Iron Man Austria due to its impressive lake-side scenery. The cost of travel is a limiting factor, however. That being said, he isn’t sure how much longer he’ll run the super-long distances because he doesn’t recover as well now that he’s 53. For Barker, the long-term affect of completing many races in his lifetime is a sense of not needing to prove himself to anyone. Barker doesn’t compare himself to others.
The Medicine Hat paramedic said his job is very physical. He needs to stay fit to avoid injury when lifting patients so the 30-year veteran first responder eats well and exercises regularly. Health is his lifestyle. “It’s a part of what I like to do,” he said. Barker added he sees a lot of sick people in his job and because of this being unhealthy doesn’t appeal to him.
“I want to stay fit and healthy,” Barker said and he encourages people to do the same and to set goals for themselves. For Barker, running gives him purpose, which is perhaps the most important element in remaining healthy.