Sunday, April 13, 2014

If the Shoes Could Talk ....

These are Ken's shoes and hydration pack. On April 12th 2014, Ken's shoes and hydration pack completed 31.1 miles on the Horse-Shoe trail. Of course they didn't do this alone. Ken was there along with 30+ friends (or soon to be friends) either running or supporting the run. This is a story about how the shoes, their owner and the friends got there.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....  Wait, wrong story. Yet it does feel like it all started that way. On October 23, 2013 Ken Dorris typed

"I wish I was a faster runner... I can not qualify for anything longer than a marathon times b/c I dont meet time requirements.. sigh.. No 50 or 100 in my future.. Was looking at Tussey 50 as my first 50.."

And before Ken could delete his statement from Facebook it was decided that an event would be held to give him the opportunity to complete a 50. You see, Ken belongs to a group called Misery Loves Company (MLC) and true to the name they rallied around determined to get him through training and his first ultra marathon. Within minutes of his initial statement and for the next 11 days there were over 39 replies with suggestions and encouragement. Including this exchange:

Pete White: How about we create an MLC race, the Do This Dorris 50M? Who's in? 
October 23, 2013 at 10:28pm 
Ken Dorris: I love you Pete White!! im in! how about we run it in march? Say the 22nd?!!
October 24, 2013 at 8:52am 

And with that, preparation and training began in earnest. At least that was the intent. Training would take place mostly in Winter and Mother Nature was not on the MLC team. The Philadelphia area had it's third snowiest Winter (since 1872) with 62.9 inches of snow and record breaking low temperatures. Some of the participants traveled miles and miles and miles and miles south of the area just to have the chance to run on ice-free and snow-free surfaces.

Initially posted to MLC FB page
by Destrie Cossaboom
Photo credit: Randy Hall

Randy HallMotivated and on schedule, tho finding a good place for a long run this weekend may be a challenge.
Destrie Cossaboom: The map shows rain in Dover. I'll most likely end up back at the beach for my long run again!

So the runners either traveled distances or trudged throw snow & ice. One group was heard to refer to their outing as "an advanced training course in slogology". But train they did. Even if it meant frozen beards; wind burnt faces and eyelashes that stuck together. Ken's comment on the photo below "... but it was AWESOME!!"

Meanwhile work was underway to set up support staff; identify a location & date; and to name the event. In short order the RD lined up an Admiral of Aid Stations (Maggi); Viceroy of Volunteers (Paula); Minister of Money (Mike) and Sergeant of Selling It (Sara). OK so that last one is made up because I cannot remember the name of Sara's role but my made up one does accurately define it.

After considering a variety of dates from March through April and locations including Valley Forge, Coventry Woods and Lums Pond a group vote settled on April 12th on the Horse Shoe Trail. Naming the event was a bit more involved and a lot more fun :). From the first day of Ken's infamous - but often misquoted - FB post, names for the event flew across the Internet. Here are just a few of the suggestions:

The Militant March? The Militia Mash?
OGWIWTA which stands for "Oh god, whose idea was this, anyway?"
The Peoples Ultra
Thought you were lucky
The Ken Dorris Dash
The Dorris 50

The final vote came down between 50 Shades of Sore and Everyone KEN Run. 50 Shades of Sore won and the event became an option between 50k (31.1 miles) or 50 miles.

As the Winter gave way to Spring the days lengthened. The snow and cold weather, however, were much slower to move out. Yet the runners continued to train and sign up. Some unfortunately had injuries and had to drop out. Many of those signed up to support the runners. And as with everything else in life some had difficult decisions to make:

Michael MitchellDilemma... 50 shades of sore, or 50 shades of sun. My wife just asked me to go on a trip with her that weekend to sunny Tucson, AZ. 
(In the end he stayed home and signed on to be one of the support staff as well as run 13.1 miles on race morning)

Speaking of volunteers - Misery Loves Company is an amazing supportive group. A couple of emails and that quick we had a full roster of aid station managers and extras to spare. They made it easy to organize. They were willing do anything and everything that was asked of them. Many stayed all day (12 hours +) and more than a few stayed well beyond what they had originally signed on for as the weather played a bit of havoc on the runners pace.

On the night before the event Maggi, Sara and Mike took this (and some other stuff)

and turned it into this for each of the aid stations:

PB &J sandwiches; Bananas; Grapes; Cookies; Peanut M&Ms; Hard candy; Trail mix/granola bars; Potato chips; Pretzels/PB pretzel bites; Chicken broth/soup (limited; later aid stations); Water; Gatorade; Coca cola; Electrolytes (Succeed S! Caps); Vaseline; Wet wipes; Hand sanitizer; Basic first aid kits; Duct tape; Bug spray; Bear repellent (just kidding although bug spray might have been useful)

Also, on the night before the event, race director Pete White had this to say,

"We have 23 registered for the 50K and 13 for the 50 miler; runners are coming from 4 states and as far away as Pittsburgh and northern Virginia; (the) group has collectively finished nearly 320 recorded races, including 138 50Ks, 76 50 milers, and 23 100 milers; 100M finishes include Western States, Pine to Palm, Mohican, Hallucination, Oil Creek, Burning River, Pinhoti, New Jersey, Massanutten, Indiana Trail, Rocky Raccoon, and Umstead; finishes include 18 overall or gender first-place awards; Ken Dorris will finish the 50K, even if we have to carry him"

Ken Dorris: Crap
Paula Tansey: Ken Dorris, YOU are the reason some of us are getting up a 0 dark thirty to make this event happen. You will NOT fail. Keep smiling and keep moving .... 
Maggi Buckler: ... OR ELSE!
Ken Dorris: Double and triple crap! question of the week... how many 50 milers beat me to the finish line?! lol
Ryan Schannauer: Ken .This entire run is your fault.
Pete White: Yeah, Ken, what were you thinking? 
Ken Dorris: I am not talking to either of you tomorrow!!! Ryan Schannauer, Pete White
Critter Alexis: I am going to attempt to get my drone going so I can get some drone footage of the runners coming through the Northside road aid station. I promise I won't drop it on any one. 
Pete White: I think the drone has a "Ken will finish" custom program--luckily, Ryan is a computer programmer and kindly donated his time to create it

On April 12th the sun rose at 6:36 a.m. and would be shining for the next 13 hours and 11 minutes. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. We would just make it.
As I've said, Mother Nature is not on the MLC team and she (I wish my gender could disown her quite frankly) continued to throw curve balls at the runners. After a cold wet winter and continued chilly weather in the weeks before the race, April 12th brought bright sunshine and temps that ran from low 40s at the start to low 70s by midday. Gorgeous by some standards but not so much to run in when you haven't had time to adjust. With little and no leaves on the trees the sun beat down on the runners. Many of the runners struggled with hydration as a result. The rough winter weather dropped numerous trees and other debris along the course making the already challenging course even tougher. As a result, most ran slower than they ever have for these distances. Of the 12 runners planning to go for 50 miles, only 2 completed that distance.

And quite frankly, the day was

I think Gary Peterson captured the feeling of the day best: Yesterday was a really great time.......I had a really great day and once again achieved my goal that I have at all events, which is to have fun. Had a blast!!!! Another up side is that I got to meet a whole bunch or people who I only previously knew via fb.

Whether you ran or supported the run, I think we all agree it was a day of fabulous "company" and there wasn't anything "miserable" about it. (OK maybe that hill at mile 23 but you know what I mean!)

For captioned photos I took at the event click here.


As I researched this post I found a photo of the shoes fresh out of the box. 


  1. Great post. So glad I could be a part if it and sorry I couldn't stick until the very end.

  2. Thank you and no worries. Life is unpredictable at best. :)