To say Nancy Walker likes to challenge herself is an understatement.
The Petrolia mother of two and educational assistant with the public school board likes to run. She started in a high school fitness class and began running small events. Eventually, she was running half and full marathons. Three years ago, she discovered the ultra-marathon and her interest was piqued. At the time, she wasn’t planning on a new challenge but she found she was “always striving for the next thing” and wasn’t satisfied simply trying to beat her best marathon time.
So she went for a 50-mile run. She loved it. “Ultra marathon trail running is a lot different than marathons,” she says. “It’s a very caring and friendly atmosphere.”
Then last year she was running in memory of a friend who died suddenly. When 2016 rolled around Walker wasn’t planning any big events until a friend, celebrating a milestone birthday, convinced her to run the Death Race. It was difficult and Walker didn’t finish. “The Death Race was the first race I’ve never finished,” she says. While she told her kids that it was okay because she had tried her best, Walker didn’t want to end her season that way. She found the 100 mile ultra marathon Run Woodstock online and signed up.
She followed her training program and then on the second weekend of September, Walker went to Pickney, Michigan for the big event.
The run started at 4 pm in the afternoon since the ultra-marathoners would have to run through the night. Running in the darkness didn’t bother Walker nearly as much as running through the freezing cold and pouring rain of the death race. “This was much better because I wasn’t cold; that’s what I kept telling myself.”
Walker had pacers who ran with her, including her husband, Dan. She kept her mind off the run by thinking about her friend, Isaac McLean, who was involved in a crossfit competition. “And you think about the finish line and what you’re going to do when your done.” Walker finished the run in 25 hours and 21 minutes.
She’d hoped to hit 27 hours – an average time on the ultra-marathon circuit.
“I have to admit, my hips were pretty sore,” she said. “But I felt pretty good. I trained well and I wasn’t injured…I was probably at my best.”
Walker was surprised when The Independent called to talk to her about her accomplishment. She usually doesn’t talk about her running. “I have running friends and they get it, most people think I’m pretty crazy…It’s not something I talk about a lot with people, because they give you that look.”
But Walker believes anyone could train their body to do this. “People say ‘I could never do that,’ but you could. Ninety per cent of it is mental. You have to put in the training and the time, but it’s that mental piece that you tell yourself can do it.”
But will she do it again? “This is something I’ve conquered. I would like to someday try it again.”