Ultra time for triple marathoners
When Sean Meissner of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and N.K. Martin of Bakersfield, Calif., finished their marathons on Sunday afternoon at Pope Beach, the top runners were cooling off in Lake Tahoe or finishing their interviews.
But what they accomplished was, in many ways, more of a feat than breaking a Lake Tahoe Marathon record.
Meissner and Martin were the top two placers in the first 78.6-mile Tahoe Ultra 3-Day Stage Marathon. They were part of a 26-ultra runner contingent attempting to run marathons on three consecutive days.
Meissner and Martin were more than up to the challenge, mustering enough energy to run the final 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 3:21, respectively.
“You just hope each day when you wake up that you have enough inertia to go forward,” Martin explained. “Once you get those first two steps in, I think you’re OK.”
For the record, Meissner won the “race,” with a three-marathon unofficial time of 9:56. However, he was proud, most of all, of not walking at all during the high-altitude test.
“I wanted to be under 10 hours,” said an elated Meissner, who prepared for the survival test by running 75-80 miles and biking 120-150 miles per week.
“If you can run a marathon, physically you can do this, but you have to be mentally strong.”
By winning the first two marathons, Meissner was in pretty good shape entering Sunday’s final leg. But Martin, who trailed by only 6 minutes going into the final 26.2 miles, made a bold attempt to overtake the leader.
“I’m a better hill runner than he is, and he knew that, so he took off at the start,” Meissner said. “I started reeling him in on the hills, but he had enough to hang on to his (final leg) lead.”
Martin learned about Meissner’s superior ability on the hills during the first two marathons.
“He passed me on the hills the other two days, so I wanted to get ahead of him as far as I could,” Martin said.
Ryan Sparks, Meissner’s support crew for all three days, also played a big part in the outcome. He biked ahead of his college buddy to check on Martin’s progress several times.
By the final day, there was a bond with their competitors that Meissner and Martin experienced that they hadn’t experienced in other races.
“It was cool … it was kind of like a fraternity,” Meissner said. “I don’t know all their names, but today most of them started with either the walkers or with the women (marathoners), so they started ahead of me. So when I passed them, I talked to each one of them as I went by.”
Added Martin, “We had a good nucleus of guys together. Everyone hurts at the same time and you’re going through same thing.
“I didn’t view it so much as a competition as a survival test for me, because it’s the first time I’ve done it.”
Both men differed on whether they would try the event again.
“Give me a week, and I’ll give you an answer,” Martin said.
Meissner, on the other hand, already felt obligated to return since he’s the the defending champion.
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