Q&A with Ultra Runner Scott Kummer

Scott Kummer
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a variety of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run and what are some of their running goals.

As a teenager, Scott Kummer, now 43, was addicted to drugs and alcohol before becoming an overweight smoker. Now he is an accomplished runner having run several ultras of varying distances, including some of the nation's hardest courses.

Do you have a favorite race in the Midwest?
The Potawatomi Trail Run in Pekin, Illinois. In part because it was my first 100 [miler] but also because it is one of those races where the race director is at the finish line bawling his eyes out. He hugs everybody and knows everybody’s name. They have a 30, 50, 100-mile, 150 and 200-miler. The course is a 10-mile loop, and everybody sets up camp, and it’s a whole weekend of helping each other through it. It’s a great race.

Potawatomi State Park.
Potawatomi State Park. Rick Techlin

For all these long races, you need a support crew. Is that part of the appeal to you, that it’s a team effort as well?
Yes, I like that sense of community. If you were at the Kettle Moraine 100, you would walk away and say who were those flatlanders? Because we were everywhere, crewing and helping everyone, cheering random strangers. I love that sense of community. And then when people cross the finish line… I had a friend who paced someone else in after 100 miles, and she was bawling here eyes out, because she felt like she ran 100 miles by helping him. I love that. There is a lot of camaraderie and cheering at a marathon. I’ll be out there at the Chicago Marathon cheering. But it’s not the same insofar as there is a very few amount of people who can go and do a 100-mile race by themselves. And in a lot of senses (ultras) are more of a community event.

How much are you running a week to train for these things?
For me, optimally, I’m running between 60 and 100 miles a week. Sixty is the average that I shoot for. But I’m a professional, I have a job and a wife and all that, so sometimes the variable is free time. There might be a week where I don’t get to run at all, and then I might have a week with a light schedule and get in 100 miles. I try to get in at least two double-digit runs in on the weekend, like 20 and 20 or 30 and 30.

Do you do any speed work?
I don’t do any speed work. Just mileage. Just because I love running I don’t look at it like I want to get faster or anything like that. It’s just more that I love running, I love the challenge and I love getting out there. I don’t mind finishing last, which I haven’t actually officially done, but I’ve been close… twice.

Why do you think ultrarunning and other endurance sports have become more popular?
What draws people to these sports and events is different for everyone. In the ultrarunning world, there are people who come from marathons, and they just want to put the sticker on their car. Or they look at it like I might be able to run faster than these people. So the winning times are blowing up in this sport. And at the same time there are a lot of people who aren’t finishing anymore. They just read Born to Run and think, I can do that, and they don’t train enough and are shocked that they couldn’t finish.

It’s become a really weird hodgepodge of old timers and newcomers to the sport. At a 100-mile race I did last weekend in Minnesota, I was running with this 60-year-old guy, and he’d run this race 18 times—18 times! [He was] nice as can be with helping everyone one else along the course. And then there are other people who are über-competitive, who want to get sponsors, you know, and want to make a name for themselves.

It’s just many different types of people. And the events are blowing up in terms of how fast they fill up. Even in the three years I’ve been doing it. There were times when I could just sign up the week before the race. Now I just signed up for the Angeles Crest 100 (in Wrightwood, Calif.) next year, and registration opened and closed in 12 minutes. And it’s really hard to say, next year I’m going to be really healthy in August to run this race. But if you want a chance to do it you have to sign up now.

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