In 2009 at the age of 38, Steve Collins hit rock bottom.
“I got divorced, I was overweight and a pack-a-day smoker,” Collins said. “I knew I had to change my life, I made a choice to start running.”
A retail manager for City Market and living in Moab, Utah, at the time, Collins signed up for his first 5K, The Hogback Hustle in New Castle.
“I began running lightly at first and worked my way up to 5K distance within the first week. I also quit smoking,” he said. “The 5K hurt. It was tough, and I coughed a lot.”
Within his first year, Collins worked his way up to half-marathon distance, competing in the 2010 Canyonlands Half in Moab. By then, he had moved to Durango and began joining group runs with Durango Motorless Transit. Running alongside people who had done ultradistance events got him thinking about raising the bar on his running.
“I got the ultra bug after running with some SCRUD (Southern Coloradans Running Ultra Distances) members at the DMT trail runs. I realized after talking with them that anyone could do an ultra if they put their mind to it,” he said.
Collins completed his first 50K at the 2012 Durango Double, followed shortly thereafter by a 55K and then Mexico’s Copper Canyon 50-miler in March 2013.
“Every race you get into, whether 5K, 10K or half marathon, you’re taking a leap to the next distance,” he said. “It’s a matter of putting the time in and having that mental grit that you’re going to complete it.”
After running Copper Canyon, Collins decided to sign up for a 100-miler.
“I signed up for the Bear 100 in Utah,” he said. “I decided that if I could do 50, then I could go farther.”
Training for ultradistance events can be life consuming.
“I felt like I had a whole summer where all I did was run,” Collins said. “Other parts of your life begin to slip, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It was like a second job, 20 to 30 hours a week of running. You gotta love it!”
Finding others to train with never was a problem.
“I had a good support group, especially when I didn’t feel motivated to run,” he said. “There’s enough going on in Durango that I could always catch a Saturday-morning run or an evening run with others and add on more if necessary.
“You can always find other people to inspire you,” Collins said. “There’s always a better story out there than your own. A lot of people go through a lot to run.”
The Bear 100 proved to be a very challenging event and taught Collins a lot, which will help him train for his next 100.
“The first 60 miles were fantastic. I felt well trained,” he said. “The last 40 were tough and slow. There were points of utter despair and utter elation. I learned that I could do a 100 – it’s not an impossible distance.
“I’m nothing special. People are pretty amazing. Anyone can do it,” he said. “I love what’s around the next bend. Running will change anyone that welcomes it into their life for the better.”
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.