By Tamas Mondovics
For most recreational runners, taking part in a local 5K neighborhood road race is a pretty worthy accomplishment. But to one local runner, FishHawk resident Army Sgt. Mike Morton, such a race is more like a faded memory.
Thanks to his unequaled dedication, commitment and love of running, Morton, recently returned from Poland as a member of the U.S. Ultramarathon team, after competing in the 2012 24-Hour World championship, which he won, not to mention breaking the U.S. record.
To win the gold, Morton ran nonstop 172 miles in 24 hours beating the closest competitor by about 10 miles, which in terms of numbers is the equivalent to running more than six marathons in a single day, averaging seven mph for 24 hours straight.
Of course, for the 41-year-old athlete, the race was the end of a more than two decade-long journey, which began with his love of running in high school.
Morton joined the Navy in 1990, during which time the local 5K races were the order of the day. Three years later he began running marathons that led up to a series of successful 100-mile ultramarathon races.
Unfortunately, a surgery in 1998 coupled with the events of 9/11 required some change of plans, one of which included Morton switching from the Navy to the Army.
While for the next 10 years running was not the priority, Morton’s love of running did not run out of steam.
“I still had a bug for running and wanted to get back to doing what I loved and to reach my goal of completing a series of long distance ultramarathon races,” he said.
In March, Morton won a 100-mile race in Umstead State Park, N.C., where he ran the first 12.5-mile park loop in a little more then seven minutes, and continued for the next 87.5 additional miles before reaching the 100 mark at a record-breaking 7:55 average pace, which is faster than most recreational runners’ 5k times.
With Umstead behind him, Morton prepared for and also won two local races in May, and then in June, all of which was a way to get ready for his dream of running the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California.
And yes, Morton won Badwater, in 22 hours and 52 minutes missing the record by just 76 seconds.
Of course, Morton made up for this race by winning his gold in Poland last month.
“For me running is a mental release,” he said. “Its not about the competition but the love of the sport and the physical challenge along with the ultimate results of accomplishment.”
Morton’s latest accomplishment can be found at http://www.iaaf.org/news/newsid=67756.html.