Great Savannah Endurance Challenge 24 Hour Ultra Recap

Kelly Luckett & Tony Varney.  I forgot his dog's name, unfortunately.

Kelly Luckett & Tony Varney. I forgot his dog’s name, unfortunately.

The Great Savannah Endurance Challenge 24 Hour Ultra is quickly fading into history but it’s impact is still being felt…mainly, in my house.  My house and yard have not quite recovered from the neglect of putting on this race!  There is still some race paraphernalia strewn about my living room! Speaking of history, though, we made some during this race!  The highest mileage run during the GSEC 24 was 133.184 miles by Mrs. Lara Zoeller, smashing the Georgia 24 hour open female record by 33 miles!  And, the amazing feats didn’t end there!  Ten runners crossed the 100 mile threshold in 24 hours or less and earned some pretty nifty belt buckles.  I only had eight buckles on hand!  So, I’ve had to order two more.

I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this event.  I witnessed amazing feats and accomplishments.  Many personal records were met and exceeded at GSEC 24.  We had several first time ultra runners crank out more miles than they thought they ever could! Last week, I showcased first time ultra runner, Ms. Emily McLaughlin as the Rocking Runner of the Week.  She picked GSEC as her first venture into ultras ran an impressive 33.2 miles in 6 hours!

Our poster child for this race, Mrs. Kelly Luckett, got a personal record at GSEC by running 100k (62.1371 miles) in 20:28:17!  Think about that for a minute.  This lady has a below the knee prosthetic leg and was doing lap after lap at the race track on Hutchinson island for 20 hrs, 28 minutes and 17 seconds!  And, in that time frame cranked out 62.1371 miles!  Is that not amazing and inspiring?  This run, benefitted the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  Mrs. Luckett represented quite well for CAF!  Major props to Kelly Luckett!

The amazing Kelly Luckett, our GSEC 24 hour poster child.

The amazing Kelly Luckett, our GSEC 24 hour poster child.

Approximately 75 runners ran the GSEC in temps that reached 85 degrees.  Running on this asphalt race track the temperature felt like 100 degrees from noon til 6:00 pm.  A lot of runners were weakened by the unrelenting heat but they continued to push themselves, digging deep and tapping into a strength they did not realize they had!  With the evening, came a cooling relief from the heat but not from the humidity.  The mosquitoes were also pretty bad at night despite Chatham County Mosquito Control spraying prior to the race.

I don’t have a lot of races under my belt as a race director but I can honestly say that the GSEC 24 has been the most difficult race for me to manage to date.  There were so many obstacles to overcome just to get the runners to the starting line.  Number 1, we knew from the very beginning that getting the Hutchinson Island race track measured and certified was of utmost importance.  GSEC 24 was after all a 24 hour ultra billed as a flat, fast course to set personal records and break local, state, regional, etc records.  To make the records official, the course would have to be certified.  So, that was one of the first big tasks to do.  With the guidance of ultra race director extraordinaire, Tim Waz, of Lowcountry Ultras, we took on that task this past March.  We measured and calibrated a calibration course and then measured the race track.  I got all of the numbers down, forms filled out and sent off to Mr. Woody Cornwell (state of Georgia certifier).  A week after submitting the forms we had the Hutchinson island race track certified at 2.213 miles.  Getting this task completed was a huge weight off of my shoulders but the work didn’t end there.

Garth Peterson and I after he completed GSEC with 119.5 miles

Garth Peterson and I after he completed GSEC with 119.5 miles

Getting the permit and permission to hold the event at the race track for 24 hours was another tough task.  A lot of people still find it difficult wrapping their heads around the idea of a 24 hour running event.  Just about everyone I sought out for permits and permission had so many questions about what the GSEC 24 was all about.  “For real? People are gonna be running 24 hours?”, were common questions asked when explaining this race to city and county peeps.  Regardless of all of the questions, though, Chatham county and the City of Savannah were incredibly friendly and accommodating. Because this race took place on a car race track that is owned by the City of Savannah and, is a race track that is open to traffic, there was some bureaucracy to deal with.  All came together, though, and the race happened.

I’m very grateful to all of the people that helped bring this race to fruition.  Obviously, no one man is an island and this race could not have succeeded as it did without so many generous, friendly, selfless people and, without the branches of local government that patiently worked with me.

Sara Maltby with her medal and sponsor gift of Orange Mud towel

Sara Maltby with her medal and sponsor gift of Orange Mud towel

I want to give a big shout out to the following awesome people that made this race happen and succeed:

  1. Sara Maltby.  She ran the GSEC 6 hour race, was first place female with 39.83 miles and after her win she hung around all day and night helping other runners with pacing and encouraging them during the difficult parts of their race.   When she wasn’t pacing other runners she was working the aid station.  On Friday, she was helping to set up tents at the race location.  The night before, Sara cut fruit, boiled potatoes and made sandwiches for the runners.  Mrs. Maltby, again, has demonstrated that she has a heart of gold and a heart of a champion.  Thank you, Sara!
  2. Mark Waters.  Helped lay out the traffic cones and stantions the day before the race in 95 degree heat!  That was a very tough task!  On race day, Mr. Waters was there helping out with the timing for most of the day!  Thank you, sir!
  3. Michelle Daniels.  Mrs. Daniels got us a lot of ice!  A LOT OF ICE!  She made the connections so that we could resupply ice and water thanks to Westin.  She helped out at the aid station all day and most of the night ensuring our runners were well taken care of.  She also helped pace runners.  She filled water coolers throughout the day and the night before the race made dozens of sandwiches for the runners.  I am very grateful for all of her help.  Thank you, Michelle.
  4. Tony Varney.  Tony met me at 3:30 Saturday morning and helped get us to race time!  He worked with me the entire day and most of the night with the timing.  We could not have executed this race without Mr. Varney.
  5. Michele Timmerman.  Mrs. Timmerman drove all of the way from Greenville, SC to Savannah just to help out with GSEC!  She stayed all day and most of the night before driving back up to her home.  She kept our runners well fed and hydrated and ran many miles pacing our runners. Thank you, Michele!
  6. Kelly Luckett.  Kelly wasn’t only a runner at GSEC but the inspiration behind this race.  She was a tremendous source of wisdom for me and helped me keep seeing the bigger picture whenever I felt overwhelmed with the roadblocks that would surface.
  7. Beverly English.  Beverly showed up bright and early on race day and had indicated she would only be able to help for a few hours and yet she stuck around all day and a great deal of the night helping out with the timing and the aid station.
  8. Linda Leake.  Linda is a friend from way back that I haven’t seen nor talked to in many years.  Yet, when I first placed a call for volunteers she was one of the first to answer the call.  She handled packet pick by organizing all of the swag bags by alphabetical order and placing shirts in the bags.  She was a tremendous help and I’m very grateful for her help.
  9. Verity Gray.  After finishing up her 6 hour run where she got a new PR, Ms. Gray then showed up early Sunday morning and paced Lara Zoeller to her finish and then stuck around and helped breakdown after the race including picking up traffic cones that had been laid out for the race.  Thank you so very much, Ms. Sexy-Ten! 😉
  10. Tharon Lambert & Savannah Striders.  President of Savannah Striders, Mr. Tharon Lambert helped out in more ways than one and I greatly appreciate all of his help.  Not only did he arrange for us to use a lot of Strider equipment for the race he filled up water coolers for the runners and helped resupply us with ice.
  11. Kenny Linton.  Kenny ran for six hours and hooked us up with 500 pounds of ice!
  12. Cecilia Arango & Matthew Roach handled the packet pickup at Fleet Feet with Linda.  Thank you both!
  13. Tim Waz.  Tim got me into this crazy, cool world of race directing.  I’ve learned a great deal from this man on how to organize, promote and run a race.  He helped me with the measuring of the race track and promoted GSEC every time he had a chance.  I am so very grateful for Tim’s help and guidance.
  14. Jane.  I wish I could remember Jane’s last name.  Jane was kind enough to pickup breakfast and coffee for us on Saturday morning and deliver it to the race location.  That was very awesome of her.  She dropped off the food and then left without expecting anything in return.  She’s such good people and I’ve done her such a disservice by forgetting her last name.
  15. Nancy Mauldin.  Late into the evening Nancy came in at the right time to help out with the timing as we were getting tired and proned to mistakes.  So, a big thank you to Nancy!
  16. Jenn Duvall.  Jenn came in late Saturday night and handled the aid station.
  17. Chris & Melissa Ramsey.  Power couple, Chris and Melissa, helped out with the aid station and timing and, provided some much needed and appreciated beer!
  18. Troy Butler.  Troy handled race day packet pickup and then helped out with the timing.
  19. Stacie Pottenger and Molly Cohen helped out with the timing and getting the pizza to us!
  20. Stephanie & Brad Coy showed up at 3:00 am on Sunday and prepared breakfast for everyone.  How awesome was that?  They then cleaned up and packed the aid station when the race was over.  And, the leftover food that was left over they took to Feed the Hungry at Forsyth Park. Thank you!
  21. Stephen Henry of City of Savannah made sure that the gates at the race track were lifted before the race.
  22. Jessica of Fleet Feet helped out at the aid station on Saturday night.
  23. Barbara Baucom & Monica Middleton of Chatham County.  Both of these ladies were very helpful in helping me get the permit for using the race track.  Thank you.
  24. Melissa Milligan watched and took care of Mr. Gypsy when I couldn’t during the race.  I thank you, Melissa!
  25. Lynn Childress of Westin hooked us up with an endless supply of water and ice throughout the duration of the race.  I’m so very grateful.
Mr. Tim Waz

Mr. Tim Waz

If I’ve missed somebody that helped make GSEC the success that it was I do apologize.  There were so many that made this race a success! Without the help of so many we never would of pulled this race off!  So, I thank you whole-heartedly!

After the GSEC 24 I have truly questioned whether I will continue to put on races.  Every race I’ve put on has been a tough labor of love.  GSEC has been the toughest.  I don’t pay myself for putting on these races and yet they consume so much of my time.  We live in a society where we think of our time in monetary standards.  I know that I have.  But, putting on these races and having so many people give so much of their time without expecting a financial return has humbled and impacted greatly.  Witnessing volunteers give up precious time away from loved ones and from the things that are important to them just to ensure that runners can achieve their goals and to take care of these runners as if they were their very own family has impacted me greatly.  It has changed my perspective.

What am I trying to say?  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I did not get into race directing to make money.  And, I didn’t get into race directing just because I want to make money for particular charities.  I got into race directing because I wanted to bring a new dimension of running to Savannah by introducing ultra distances, relays and other challenging events to this town. I wanted us to have local ultras.

Bren Tompkins during the GSEC 24

Bren Tompkins during the GSEC 24

In the process of putting on the races that I have I’ve learned a great deal about people and the human spirit.  I’ve learned about charity to your fellow man and to your community.  I’ve learned that it’s not about the race but about the people that make the race – both the runners and the volunteers!  The great achievement of a runner at a particular race has a direct relation to the volunteers that are there, ensuring that the very runner can achieve all they set to achieve.  The volunteer is just as great and important as the runner.

During these races I have watched athletes push themselves through barriers they never thought possible for them.  I’ve witnessed friends achieve amazing results!  One runner, a good friend of mine, Bren Tompkins, broke the 100k open male record for the state of Georgia when he pushed through that threshold at 9:41:08!  Just a year ago I used to leave Bren in the dust when running with him.  Today, I cannot stay within sight of him because he has gotten so fast!  Through running, it seems to me that Bren has learned that there isn’t much that he cannot accomplish.  And you know what?  I believe that about him!  That man is going to do great things!  Just you wait and see!

Lara and Alec Zoeller during the GSEC 24

Lara and Alec Zoeller during the GSEC 24

I have watched one young runner blossom into an amazing elite athlete!  I witnessed Lara Zoeller cross the 100 mile threshold May 26 2013. Since then I’ve watched her push the envelope even more as she continues to grow as a person and athlete.  On May 24th and 25th of this year, I witnessed Lara break 133.184 miles in 24 hours!  Despite the exhaustion, the heat, the pain, this young lady found a strength in her that has inspired me so greatly.  As I watched Mrs. Zoeller run down the clock I felt I was witnessing greatness.

Putting on GSEC, Savannah Rails to Trails Ultra, Chase the Sun and Little Tybee Conquest has been a labor of love for me.  It has also been a great enhancing lesson about overcoming obstacles and perseverance.  The runners at these races have demonstrated to me that the human spirit is so much stronger than I ever realized.  Being an RD has shown me that greatness is in each one of us.  We just have to dig deep for it and tap into it.  At GSEC, that greatness was demonstrated in all 75 runners and, in all of the volunteers that helped make this race!

With the lovely Ms. Verity Gray

With the lovely Ms. Verity Gray

Thank you all!

See you at the next run.




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3 comments for “Great Savannah Endurance Challenge 24 Hour Ultra Recap

  1. Jacy
    2014/06/09 at 11:32 am

    THANK YOU Dan and to all the volunteers!! It was such an amazing, unforgettable experience. We have a race report coming too… from a relay team’s perspective.

  2. 2014/06/09 at 9:28 pm

    The hearts and souls of you, the volunteers and even runners that were done but stayed on to help others were obvious in every aspect of this event, for 24+ hours Dan. I’m grateful and inspired.

    • 2014/08/02 at 5:27 am

      Thank you very much for a great day on Saturday. I felt really loekod after all the way around the course and had loads of support from the Marshalls.I have only just taken up running so hopefully I will be back next year to improve my time )

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