Andy Pele ran 100 miles in 24 hours, 50 minutes and two seconds -- a third-place finish in the inaugural Black Hills 100 Ultramarthon Set.

The mental and physical weight of his 100-mile, day-long journey struck the Columbia, Mo., ultramarthoner as the finish line came into view at about 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. He wished his wife was there to greet him. 

“I almost started to sob,” said Pele, while recovering in the aid tent. “It’s real emotional in the end.”

After passing under the digital timekeeper, Pele bent over to catch his breath as the intensity of his feat set into his body. He made his way to the aid tent -- his muscles difficult to control -- with the help of an emergency medical technician.

The weekend event was Pele’s second 100-mile endurance race; he ran his first in 2008.

“After the first one, I didn’t really want to do another one, and my wife was going to hold me to that, but, that was 2008 and I have friends who are doing them,” said Pele, who trained for about four months prior to the race. “It’s a fun adventure.”

He briefly got lost, wiped out in a deep rut busting his lip and ran through a nasty hail and lightning storm.

“I don’t know how I kept going,” Pele said. “I expected it not to be very hard, but I think the difference is some of these little hills are just really steep.”

From Woodle Field in Sturgis to Pactola Reservoir, the out and back 100-mile race largely followed the Centennial Trail and included climbing about 16,000 vertical feet. Runners also competed in the 50-mile race and the 100-kilometer race along the same route.

About 90 racers started the 100-mile run on Saturday, but by Sunday morning only about a third of the initial competitors were still in the race, according to Chris Stores, one of the race directors.

“Some things you can’t plan for like a massive hail and rain storm in the middle of the night,” said Stores, referring to the inclement weather that rolled into the area during a key part of the race. “Right about then, a lot of them were getting to mile 50 -- which is kind of a big aid station out at Pactola Reservoir -- and kind of made the decision there that maybe they didn’t want to run through the hail and the lighting and the night.”

Typically, endurance races have about a 60 percent finish rate, Stores said. Officials were hoping to get a gauge of how challenging the course is, but the weather foiled those plans.

Pele felt fairly safe during the storm, but joked about thinking of the large payment his wife would receive from his life insurance policy if he died on the course.

“Some of the lightning got pretty close, which made me a little nervous,” Pele said. “The hail would just kind of bounce off my head once in awhile or my hat and it sounded like a click or something. That kind of scared me like it was actually lightning rather than just a piece of hail.”

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For North Ogden, Utah, runner Phil Lowry, the storm was a game changer.

“I was hooting and hollering. I had never experienced anything like that in the backcountry; I mean the lightning was just amazing,” Lowry said. “It was like Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’ just running down the middle of this road just like ‘whatever.’ I was just delighted because it cooled me down and washed all the sweat off of me. It really invigorated me mentally. It was great.”

Lowry finished the race about 18 minutes shy of 24 hours, claiming second place. The Black Hills 100 was his 28th 100-mile ultramarthon.

Saturday’s high temperatures and humidity challenged Lowry, who is used to training in drier, cooler weather. He also got lost three times.

“It happens. You just have to mentally recover from it,” Lowry said. “That’s the thing about this sport, you have to have a mental resiliency that is extraordinary. I think the people who succeed are the ones that are the most mentally resilient.”

Contact Holly Meyer at 394-8421 or holly.meyer@rapidcityjournal.com.

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