Ask Jason Atnip why he’s working toward his first 100-mile race, and the answer is simple. “Why 100 miles? I guess, why not?”
It’s a question that I, too, may answer in the same way. Our outlook is similar, as is our ultra history to date. Mine consists of seven ultras, including a 100K, three 50-milers and three 50Ks.
Atnip has completed three 50-milers, a 40-miler and two 50Ks. For his first at the century distance, he is targeting the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, which will be Sept. 27-28 in Virginia. (My first 100-miler is later this year.)
“Naturally, I want to step up and see what it’s like to run a 100-mile race,” says Atnip, who lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “I want to experience the training and commitment that’s involved in running 100 miles. I want to know what it feels like to cross the finish line at a 100-miler and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.”
I learned of Atnip and his epic quest when he wrote about it on Medium. But I wanted to know more about his own personal motivation.
‘I was hooked. I wanted to run more.’
Atnip got into running later in life. After playing tennis in high school, he planted himself on the couch for much of his 20s and 30s before remarrying. His new bride was into fitness, which inspired Atnip. “I wanted to get active but wasn’t sure what I could do,” he recalls.
Around five years ago, a co-worker asked Atnip if he’d be interested in running a local half marathon, The Middle Half. That lit the spark.
“I knew what a half marathon was but was pretty naive about what it took to run one since I’d never even ran a 5K,” he says. “My friend set me up with Hal Higdon’s beginner half-marathon program and off I went. I literally thought I was going to die multiple times training for it.”
Spurred on by completing that first half marathon, Atnip decided he would run The Middle Half every year to stay healthy.
In time, one half marathon wasn’t enough.
“After running it a couple times I decided I wanted to run a different half so I signed up for Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in Nashville,” he says. “At that point I’d upped my training and was putting in some decent miles every week when a friend sent me a message and asked why I was not running the marathon. So what did I do? I signed up for the marathon with only about four weeks to race day. That day was brutal. The temperature was very hot and I probably wasn’t ready to run a marathon. But even though it was tough I was getting satisfaction in running that far.”
Atnip crossed the finish line and instantly wanted more.
“After that I was hooked, I wanted to run more,” he notes. “I wanted to get involved in more races. I loved the feeling of crossing the finishing line, the satisfaction of putting in the work and the satisfaction of the journey to run in each race.”
It did not take long for Atnip to be introduced to the ultra running world by ultra runners from his local running club. “I was interested but at the same time I was intimidated,” he admits.
Still, Atnip was intrigued by the journey, the process of completing an ultra.
“What really interested me was the amount of work put in to running an ultra and how it felt like a journey,” he says. “I wanted to experience that so I signed up for my first 50K, the Yamacraw 50K.”
The race threw everything it had at Atnip. Rain. Snow. Cold. Mud. Multiple creek crossings.
“It was tough,” he says. “I had awful knee pain but I pushed through and finished. After that I thought about how much I enjoyed the flow of ultra running meaning that it didn’t happen fast and you constantly had to be ready for whatever was thrown at you and adjust.”
Yeti or not, here he comes
Atnip says his favorite ultra to date is the Dam Yeti 50-Miler in Damascus, Va.
“It was my first 50-miler and the atmosphere was second to none,” he says of the race, directed by Jason Green. “The course is beautiful. Everyone treats you like family. The RD hugs every single finisher and makes you feel like you just won the race, regardless of where you finish. The race is built upon having fun. People there aren’t serious, which makes it very laid back or about as laid back as you can get for a 50-miler. I highly recommend it.”
His experience at the 50-miler is why he chose the Yeti for his first 100-miler.
“The 100-mile course is basically the same as the 50-mile course but extended so I know the course and know what to expect,” he explains. “The course itself doesn’t have a whole lot of elevation gain and is a rails-to-trails course. With the incredible atmosphere and the friendly course that race only made sense.”
It’s early in Atnip’s training, of course. Along the way, he will challenge his own fitness, find out about his mental acuity, test his nutritional needs and more. Are more 100s in his future? Time will tell.
“I think my future with 100s or more all depends on how this one goes,” he says, admitting that since Yeti is a Western States qualifier, he will put in for the lottery. “I’m afraid to commit to doing anymore without knowing how I’m going to feel after I finish this one. However there are several other races that I want to run that are either 100 or close to that distance so I guess I’ll see if I still feel that way. I never say never because if you’d asked me five years ago if I’d be running ultras, I’d say, ‘No way.’”
Name: Jason Atnip
Hometown: Lebanon, Tenn., now lives In Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Number of years running: 5 years
Weekly miles: 40 miles (currently averaging about 60)
Point of pride: Finishing the Tunnel Hill 50-miler with early stages of hypothermia setting in.
Favorite distance: 50 miles
Favorite pre-race food: Honey Stinger Salted Caramel Waffles
Favorite gear: VaporKrar Hydration Vest
Favorite inspirational song: Right Now, Van Halen
Favorite inspirational phrase: “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional.” — Haruki Murakami
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