Meet The Man Who Ran 100 Miles In World Record Time
The Proclaimers once claimed they would walk 500 miles but if anyone was actually able to pull off such a feat it would likely be Zach Bitter.
Last month, the 33-year old set a new world record when he ran a ridiculous 100 miles in 11 hours, 19 minutes and 13 seconds.
Breaking it down further, he ran around a track 363 times - essentially completing 32 and a half consecutive 5Ks, four marathons at around 2 hours 58 and averaging almost 6:47 minutes per mile during the Six Days in the Dome event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 24 August.
Zach, a three-time national champion and three time Team USA World 100km, has a knack for overcoming obstacles that your average Joe wouldn't even dream about attempting.
His latest challenge was something he had fixed his eyes on for a while now and Bitter was again able to make the seemingly impossible, possible.
"It was actually quite a long journey," Bitter told SPORTbible, humbly reflecting on his unprecedented achievement.
"I did my first of such events back in 2013 at an event called, The Desert Solstice Track Invitational in Phoenix, AZ. At that particular event, I was able to set the than American 100 Mile and World 12 Hour Record.
"After that, I set my sights on the 100-mile World Record. I missed it a few times in those years but learned a lot about how to specify for an event like this and structure my training in a way to make it achievable. I am a high mileage runner in training. I routinely hit over 5,000 miles per year since about 2010, so you could say I have put in a lot of time and miles to get to where I was at this event. It is funny how you can seemingly normalise anything given enough time and work.
"When I was starting my collegiate running career, I remember thinking that my coach was crazy when he told me by my senior year I would do summer training that would hit 90-100 miles per week. I like to describe it as micro stressing. If you gradually increase the stimulus, over time with proper recovery, you can build up and normalize what would have previously seemed impossible.
"It was the first time I have ever negative split a hundred-mile race. Meaning my second fifty miles was faster than my first fifty miles. You are on razors edge, but if you can pace it just right the momentum builds until the end, which creates the perception in your mind that things are as difficult as they may be."
Of course a unique test like this is anything but plain-sailing. Zach stopped a total of three times for approximately four minutes, with toilet breaks an obvious necessity.
His wife Nicole was on hand to supply him with his nutrition throughout the day, typically comprising of between 8-16 ounces of water every thirty minutes with a scoop of Xendurance Fuel-5 in the water. When hour five came about, he started using an instant Yerba Mate Tea called Unimate to also mix in with the water so that he got an extra caffeine boost.
Doubts crept into his mind at the halfway point but confidence in his ability and a sheer will to win saw him run his second fifty miles even faster and right his wrongs from four years ago.
"When I came through fifty miles in 5 hours, 40 minutes and 38 seconds, I hit a rough patch for a bit - doubting I could replicate that time for the second fifty miles," Bitter added.
"When I crossed the line and realised I had run the second fifty miles two minutes and three seconds faster than the first, it felt like a huge weight came off my shoulder.
"With that said, the unique nature of this event is that if I had a great day, I would have time on the clock to see how far I could go for 12 hours. I had to quickly refocus and see if I could make it around that track a few more times. Ultimately, I got to 104.88 miles, breaking my previous 12 Hour World Record from 2013.
"I never seriously considered stopping, but I did hit a bit of a rough patch between miles 40 and 50 where I questioned if I was going to be able to break the World Record. At one point, I did contemplate easing off a bit and saving myself for a future event I am doing in Greece called the Spartathlon.
After seeing that my lap splits were still in the range, I reflected on how much time and energy it took to get to that point and decided to keep pushing. As I got closer to mile 70, I was able to treat it more like a long run I do fairly often on the weekends. My longest training run for this race was 32.5 miles, so when I got to within that I began to just focus on doing one more of those.
"When I reached mile 80, I was determined to push hard through the finish. Mostly because in 2015 I was in position to break the World Record if I could hold a seven minute-per-mile pace and couldn't do it. I was pretty determined to not let that happen again."
Having pushed himself to the absolute limit, the feeling of crossing the finish line was one of absolute euphoria for Zach. He celebrated with "a fair share of beef and cheese" while catching up with his family a couple of days after his greatest achievement to date.
He summarised: "I strongly believe that someone will come along soon and run a faster time but knowing that I was able to set my sights on a goal nearly six years ago, trust the process, learn from my mistakes along the way, and ultimately reach my goal is a priceless experience. I will always remember that aspect of it."
They say there's no rest for the wicked and that is the mantra Zach is living by. He doesn't have any time to put his feet up as at the end of September he will partake in the historic Spartathlon, a 153-mile race that goes from Athens to Sparta.
Forrest Gump eat your heart out...