This is an account of the events leading to determining the King of endurance athletes in 1986.
The 4th New Astley Belt 6 Day Race
A 144 hour race from March 30, to April 5, 1985
At last, the New Astley Belt 6 Day Race was a true world championship event. The top endurance runners from around the world were entered. There were 28 entries by race day.
A indoor six day race had been held a few weeks earlier in Boulder Colorado with some U. S. records being broken. Stu Mittleman had set a new Modern Day U.S. indoor record with 577 miles. Now Stu wanted to add the outdoor record and the New Astley Belt to his laurels.
The defending New Astley Belt champion, Don Choi from San Francisco, was returning to defend his title. He still held the U. S. outdoor record at 511 miles.
Robert Perez would be a formidable a contender based on his 502 mile performance last year.
Harlan Martin was entered and had showed promise at Boulder with 473 miles.
The French Champion, Emile LaHarrague, was back in the States, anxious to reverse a defeat by Mittleman at Boulder.
The Australian champ, Bob Bruner entered, looking extremely fit. He was confident that he would take the Belt home, satisfying his many sponsors. Winning the belt would mean more endorsements.
Gary Cross was back. Winner of the Rowell Cup last year for finishing 3rd with 423 miles. His backers felt he was ready to take on the best in the world.
John Wallis, winner of the Rowell Cup in 1982, was back and couldn’t be overlooked. John ran 447 at N.Y. last year.
Bill Schultz, a top ultramarathoner from Pennsylvania, was on hand to keep pressure on the top men.
Pete Saccone, from San Diego, who had matched Don Choi last year for two days was back. His appearance was impressive. The lean, muscular, vegetarian, was in magnificent condition. Although confident, he admitted before the race that he thought, the Aussie, Bob Bruner would take home the belt.
Fifteen of the entries were contenders, experienced hopefuls, dreaming of owning the New Astley Belt and the title “Long Distance Champion of the World”.
A spirited competition was expected for the U.S. record for 50 plus. Clarence Richey, the current record indoor record holder with 377 miles indoors at Boulder, and Dick Collins, the outdoor record holder at 357 miles. They seemed pretty evenly matched, although this was only Richey’s 2nd 6 day endeavor and Collins had vast ultramarathoning experience.
There were 2 women entered.
Karina Nequin, a beautiful athlete from Illinois, was the current U.S. Women’s indoor record holder with 400 miles scored at Boulder. She had proven that she could compete with the men.
The second woman was Vivian Corres, who made her debut at Boulder with 281 miles, felt she now had the experience to complete the 300 miles necessary be a finisher in Astley Belt competition.
Two race walkers were entered. They hoped to break the outdoor U.S.racewalking record, held by Bob Davidson. They were, Jonathon Rem, an impressive looking athlete from California, and Tom Kline from New York.
Thirty minutes before the race was scheduled to start, a meeting was held to outline the rules and procedures. All runners were present except Cross and Mittleman. Mittleman sent a representative.
Collins was practically pawing the dirt in anxiety. He looked extremely fit. He must have lost 20 pounds since last year. He was still the biggest man in the field at 6 feet and weighing about 175.
Race Director, Betty Dietrich, was busy with the lap counters at the scoring table, going over procedures and assessing the people she hired.
As the gun sounded, Choi, and Schultz set out at a strong pace. Then Choi dropped Schultz as he covered the first lap in about 80 seconds. I had never seen him tear out like this. To my amazement, he covered the first mile in about 5 and a half minutes leaving everyone behind.
Everyone was running strongly except the racewalkers and Stu Mittleman. Mittleman appeared two minutes before the starting gun wearing a snow white warm up suit. He began walking at about a 15 minute pace in the 80 degree heat. He had a confident smirk on his face as he nodded to photographers. A three day growth of whiskers adorned his face and he wore an earring. He looked average in size being about 5’9″ and weighing 145. After walking about 8 laps, he began running strongly, keeping pace with Cross, Saccone, and Bruner.
Choi, Cross, Wallis, Bruner, Leventhal, and LaHarrage, were all small in stature, averaging about 5’5″ in height.
As the day wore on Choi increased his lead on the field. Nightime fell and the contenders for the belt began to separate from the field.
Before the race began I thought that Choi, Mittleman, Cross, Wallis, LaHarrage, and Bruner, would all reach the 100 mile mark on the first day. They all performed well, but Wallis fell from contention first covering only 65 miles during the first 24 hours.
At the end of 24 hours, all runners were in shock. Don Choi, the defending “Long Distance Champion of the World” had chalked up 136 miles.
Stu Mittleman, the U.S. indoor record holder had scored a tremendous 124 miles, only to find himself 12 miles behind.
Shortly after the first day ended, Bob Bruner asked to speak to me in private. We retreated to my trailer, and Bob explained to me that he would be flying back to Austrailia on the first available flight.
I couldn’t understand his decision. He ran over 105 miles the first day and was in 3rd position.
He told me that his reputation at home was such, that he was expected to bring home the belt. Anything less would result in a loss of some of his endorsements. He could return home now claiming injury and save his reputation.
He said that he considered the competition to be between Choi and Mittleman. His confident demeanor was shattered and I could see that he wanted to withdraw.
Only the quiet Frenchman Emile LaHarrague, joined Choi, Mittleman, and Bruner in reaching 100 miles.
Right on their heels was the amazing Katrina Nequin with 98 miles. She was now a established contender. Also in contention were, Saccone, Cross, Scharffenberg, all exceeding 90 miles.
The rest were scrambling for the cups and trophies given to the top 10.
The 24 hour top 10 leaders were:
Don Choi 136 miles
Stu Mittleman 124 miles
Bob Bruner 105 miles
Emile LaHarrage 100 miles
Katrina Nequin 98 miles
Del Scharffenberg 95 miles
Pete Saccone 93 miles
Gary Cross 92 miles
Bill Schultz 81 miles
Jerry Dietrich 80 miles
Dick Collins 80 miles
First day casualties were Jeff Spera, who left for home in Oregon after 37 miles, and Jonathon Rem, the racewalker. Jonathon walked 60 miles the first day, but withdrew from the competition stating exhaustion as his problem.
As we moved into the afternoon heat of the second day, the runners were now showing some fatigue
Don Choi was the exception as he continued to set a blistering pace. For some reason he was wearing tights in the 80 degree heat.
Mittleman looked strong continuing his planned schedule.
Late in the afternoon, a sunburned Clarence Richey was dragging himself around the track. He looked terrible while walking 20 minute miles. Betty asked him if he needed anything. He seemed offended, saying that everything was fine. He continued to struggle through the rest of the day and became invigorated when darkness fell.
Collins ran strongly all day and took his usual 8 hour break that night. He racked up a nice 65 miles during the day to lead the 50 plus contenders. Clarence Richey was a surprise, chalking up 70 miles by staying on the track for 20 out of 24 hours. He was now only one mile behind Collins.
Mileages were mounting during the night, but all efforts took a backseat to Don Choi’s running. His breaks were few and his running magnificent. I decided to check the U.S. record for 48 hours.
Surely someone running for six days could not reach such a lofty goal. The record for a 48 hour event was held by Ray Krolowitz. Ray’s record was 224 miles. I didn’t think Choi could reach that total after his amazing 136 miles on the first day. Yet as the night gave way to dawn, Choi was still running like a man possessed.
With less than one hour left in the 2nd day, Choi rolled past the U.S. record for 48 hours.
After running with the U.S. flag for the traditional 3 laps, he took a 10 minute break and then continued on to raise the new record to 227 miles.
Mittleman meanwhile was running very well, chalking up 86 miles for the 2nd day. He must have felt some discouragement as he lost more ground to the amazing Choi who increased his lead to 17 miles.
The top mileages for the 2nd day were Choi 91, Mittleman 86, Leventhal 72, Schultz 71, LaHarrague 70, Pete Saccone 70, and Clarence Richey 70.
Katrina Nequin continued to amaze us with 68 miles moving into 4th overall.
It looked like a two man contest for the belt, but we still had a long was to go and the top 10 contestants looked strong.
The top 10 after 48 hours:
Don Choi 227 miles – a new U.S. record for 48 hours
Stu Mittleman 210 miles
Emile LaHarrague 170 miles
Katrina Nequin 166 miles
Pete Saccone 162 miles
Gary Cross 157 miles
Del Schaffenberg 155 miles
Bill Schultz 152 miles
Craig Leventhal 147 miles
Dick Collins 145 miles
Clarence Richey 144 miles
None of the contestants quit after two days, but Chuck Eidenschink from Oregon fell behind finishing pace of 50 miles per day. Ronald Olson from California, also fell behind.
It was obvious that both men would not be finishers. It amazed me that we could still have 18 finishers. All 18 remaining runners looked good.
The wear and tear of the event began to show on some of the runners as positions began shifting during the 3rd day.
Mittleman looked very strong as he continued his quest in an almost mechanical fashion. He ran 91 miles.
Choi, who should have been exhausted after setting the record for 48 hours, was still streaking around the track. However, he was now taking more walking breaks. He still chalked up 85 miles surrendering only 6 miles of his lead over Mittleman.
Del Scharffenberg, our entry from Oregon, began to insert himself into contention for the top three with 80 miles. Del had one leg slightly shorter than the other, and it was amazing to see him limp around the track, at a strong running pace, lap after lap.
LaHarrague the Frenchman, Saccone the California vegetarian, and Bill Schultz, the iron man from Pennsylvania, all ran 64 miles.
Karina Nequin continued to impress everone with a 60 mile day. By the end of 3 days everyone looked haggard except Mittleman and Nequin. Karina always appeared showered and beautifully attired as she continued running strongly.
Dick Collins continued to lengthen his lead over Richey with 60 miles for the day.
The top 10 after 72 hours
Don Choi 312 miles
Stu Mittleman 301 miles
Del Scharffenburg 235 miles
Emile LaHarraggue 234 miles
Karina Nequin 226 miles
Pete Saccone 226 miles
Bill Schultz 214 miles
Dick Collins 205 miles
Gary Cross 197 miles
Clarence Richey 193 miles
John Wallis, considered the top master in the field, continued to fade. It was apparent that he would not finish in the top ten. Gary Cross seemed to have lost his resolve. As the 3rd day wore on, he found himself falling farther behind the leaders. Gary would run only 40 miles on the 3rd day.
Jonathon Rem, the racewalker, reappeared during the 3rd day and walked 42 miles before leaving again, this time for good.
There were still 18 runners on schedule to be finishers.
During the 4th day the field seemed to separate into four groups.
Group one was the contenders. The contenders for the belt and cups were: Don Choi, Stu Mittleman, Emile LaHarrague, Pete Saccone, Bill Schultz, Del Sharfenberg, and Karina Nequin.
Group two were scrambling for trophy spots in the top 10.
Group three had settled for a finishers plaque by reaching the 300 mile minimum required.
Group four were non-finishers staying to see how many miles they could get.
10 runners did not reach 50 miles for the 4th day.
The real disaster had struck in the early morning with several hours left in the fourth day. Choi left the track with a nosebleed. Mittleman had been making steady gains on Choi during the night, and Choi looked tired.
Choi returned to the track with his nose packed. After a few laps he left the track again. The nosebleed had continued and he was swallowing the blood.
He asked Betty to summon the event Doctor.
I wondered why Choi didn’t seek advice from Mittleman’s doctor, who was trackside.
I knew their rivalry was intense and Choi was somewhat intimidated by Mittleman’s entourage.
Betty summoned a doctor who everyone knew would say. “Stop running”. What else could he say? Doctors always said the same thing no matter what the problem or injury might be.
Don Choi retired from the competition, and a few hours later Mittleman assumed the lead with about an hour left in day four.
Mittleman’s total for the fourth day was a magnificent 93 miles. Moreover, he had averaged 98.5 miles per day so far in the competition. His lead over Scharffenberg was 98 miles, and over LaHarrague by 102 miles.
Top 10 after 4 days-
1. Stu Mittleman 394 miles
2. Don Choi 390 miles
3. Del Scharffenberg 296 miles
4. Emile LaHarrague 292 miles
5. Pete Saccone 287
6. Bill Schultz 282
7. Karina Nequin 280
8. Dick Collins 262
9. Clarence Richey 250
10. Gary Cross 242
Day Five –
Day five was weird day in some respects. There were contrasting experiences.
Stu Mittleman had a letdown. With Choi gone he had no competition. It was hard to stay motivated. He ran 72 miles on day 5. A great total for anyone else, but not for a man who had been averaging over 98 miles a day.
On the other hand, Pete Saccone and Emile Laharrague were encouraged by Choi’s departure.
Saccone chalked up 73 miles and Emile did 71. Only 2 miles separated the two runners in the battle for the Fitzgerald Cup, going into the final day.
Karina Nequin was set to shatter the outdoor women’s 6 day record reaching 330 miles in 5 days.
Schultz reached 62 miles for the day to keep his hold on 4th secure.
Collins continued his assault on the Men’s 50 plus record, chalking up 60 miles and increasing his lead over Richey to 25 miles.
Richard Kegley, The U.S. Record holder for 60 plus, had fallen behind for finisher status this year. He ran a galliant 59 miles but was still 12 miles short of 250. He would need 62 on day 6 to become a finisher.
Gary Cross became discouraged or injured and only completed 40 miles for the day, resulting in a pack of runners at his heels for the 9th place trophy entering the last day.
Tom Kline the race walker, fell to 31 miles for the day killing his chances for finishing. He would need 59 miles on the last day and he looked resigned to his fate.
Most of the field scored in the high 40’s, except for Ronald Olson and Vivian Corres, who had no chance of finishing since day 2.
It appeared we would have 17 finishers unless someone ran into big trouble on the last day.
Top IO after 5 days were:
1. Stu Mittleman 466 miles
2. Don Choi 390 miles
3. Emile LaHarrague 364 miles
4. Pete Saccone 361 miles
5. Del Schaffenberg 353 miles
6. Bill Schultz 344 miles
7. Dick Collins 322 miles
8. Clarence Richey 298 miles
9. Gary Cross 282 miles
10. Jerry Dietrich 280 miles
The 1st Woman, Karina Nequin with 330 miles, has won The Linden Cup
The Belt and Cups would go to the first three finishers. It looked like Mittleman, La Harrague, and Saccone, going into the final day.
The trophies would go to the next seven. Cross, in 9th, looked reachable for Wallis, Osran, Ransom, Coffee, Leventhal, or Dietrich.
Day Six –
Collins took the limelight on the last day. As he had so many times in the past, he skipped his nightly 8 hours of sleep and ran straight though to the finish. He took some breaks but scored a magnificent 70 miles to send the new U.S. record for men over 50, to 394 miles.
Mittleman added 68 to his winning total to win the belt by over 100 miles.
The LaHarrague duel with Saccone for the Fitzgerald Cup, started with only 3 miles separating them. As the day wore on LaHarrague began to increase his edge by staying on the track without breaks. His blisters were horrible and he was reduced to walking much of the time, but he struggled on ignoring what must have been terrible pain.
The 3rd highest mileage for the final day was scored by Leon Ransom. A 64 mile effort on the final day moved him up to 13th finishing position.
Richard Kegley had been written off after falling behind on day 5, but this tough 64 year old U.S. record holder from College Place, Washington, surprised all by racking up 62 miles in the final 24 hours to become a finisher in 15th place.
Clarence Richey ran a nice 60 miles on the final day to gain 2nd position on the all time list for 50-59 year olds. He would finish in 8th place among the men and get one of the coveted trophies.
Karina Nequin finished with 52 miles to put her new outdoor world record at 382 miles. She finished 8th overall, and was first woman, winning the Linden Cup.
Del Scharffenberg finally had a bad day falling from 5th to 7th place by finishing with a 31 mile day.
Don Choi finished in 6th place although he left more than two days earlier. His total for 3 days and 20 hours was still high enough for 6th place.
I heard someone mention that Choi was entered in a 1000 miles race in 4 weeks, but I dismissed it as a silly rumor. I thought Don would probably run a marathon each week until his next six day race.
Bill Schultz had to run 58 miles on the final day to keep Collins at bay. Schultz hung onto 4th place with a nice total of 402 miles.
The battle for 9th and 10th place trophies was close during the final day. Craig Leventhal’s father, who was his handler, offered his son a $10 reward for every time he lapped myself or Cross.
The other Competitor for 10th place was Dennis Coffee from California. He finished with a commendable 55 miles, but was unable to catch Leventhal in 10th place.
In the end we had 17 finishers.
1. Stu Mittleman 534 miles a new outdoor U.S. record
2. Emile LaHarrague 423 miles
3. Pete Saccone 412 miles
4. Bill Schultz 402 miles
5. Dick Collins 394 miles* a new U.S. record for 50 plus
6. Don Choi 390 miles
7. Del Scharffenberg 384
1. Karina Nequin 382 miles* a new world outdoor record for women
8. Clarence Richey 357 miles
9. Jerry Dietrich 326 miles
10. Craig Leventhal 323 miles
11. Dennis Coffee 319 miles
12. Leon Ransom 315 miles
13. Bruce Osran 301 miles
14. Richard Kegley 301
15. John Wallis 301 miles
16. Gary Cross 300 miles
Non- finishers were:
Tom Kline 270 miles
Ronald Olson 251 miles
Vivian Corres 222 miles
Bob Bruner 113 miles
Jonathon Rem 102 miles
Chuck Eidenschink 89 miles
Jeff Spera 36 miles
This race, The Fourth New Astley Belt Six Day Race, was the final race of the series.
The original Astley Belt was retired by Charles Rowell following the 6th Astley Belt race in 1881.
The New Astley Belt Series ended one hundred and four years later, after the 4th race in 1985.
The New Astyley Belt Series summary of the top finishers was as follows:
The New Astley Belt winners
1982 – Don Choi
1983 – Don Choi
1984 – Don Choi
1985 – Stu Mittleman
The Fitzgerald Cup winners
1982 – Stan Leventhal
1983 – Mario Escobedo
1984 – Robert Perez
1985 – Emile LaHarrage
The Rowell Cup sinners
1982 – John Wallis
1983 – Jerry Dietrich
1984 – Gary Cross
1985 – Pete Saccone
Three runners finished all four New Astley Belt races. They were; Don Choi, Jerry Dietrich, and Dennis Coffee.
To my surprise, I found the rumor of a 1000 mile race was true. The race was scheduled just four weeks after our six day race and Don Choi was entered. The Canadian Champion, Trishel Cherns was entered, along with Emile LaHarrague, and Bob Wise, the former racewalking record holder.
The thing that amazed me the most was a time limit of 16 days. To complete 1000 miles in 16 days, contestants would have to complete 62.5 miles per day. I wasn’t sure that was possible. Sigfreid Bauer was listed as the man who had accomplished this feat, but I was skeptical.
I was disappointed that the glory of our greatest six day race could be short lived. A 1000 mile race would overshadow our event if successful. Could the great Don Choi accomplish such a feat?
The field was open. I liked that. I hated invitationals. How could you say the winner was the best if his opponents were selected?
The Sri-Chimnoy 1000 Mile Race Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, New York
The field looked a little weak to me with about 4 runners I thought might deport themselves well.
Don Choi, of course, was the main man. The 3 time long distance “Champion of the World”, loomed the overwhelming favorite.
Trishel Cherns was a multi day runner with experience. He could give Choi some competition, given the length of this event.
Emile LaHarrague of France seemed doomed to fail, because he just finished the NAB 6 day race, finishing 2nd to Stu Mittleman. However, guts, determination, and a “never say die” attitude made him a factor. Emile simply ignored injuries and kept going no matter what.
I deduced that Bob Wise was entered with the goal of bettering the six day race walking record. I thought he might do it because they were racing in a shaded park in New York on a paved surface in May with cool weather. Also he previously held the indoor record for 6 days.
Cahit Yeter had a reputation as a 24 hour runner, so I thought he would fade after a day or two.
Nathan Whiting seemed a competent ultrarunner and I thought he could possibly average 40 miles a day or so for several days, maybe even the 16 days they would be running.
To my surprise, Stan Leventhal was in the field. It would be very interesting to see how he would do. He was a real dynamo. I knew him well from the first Astley Belt Race. He ran 50 miles in 80 degree heat in 8 hours, and then went to his tent and crashed for 10 hours. He ran in surges of this kind throughout the race. He actually posed threat to Choi starting the fifth day of their competition, but Choi used stalking strategy to best him and left him behind on the sixth day of their battle. He still finished second to Choi and was the holder of the Fitzgerald Cup. However, his surge and die style didn’t seem right for a race of this duration. For this event you would need to string together a lot of steady days, with maybe two or three lighter days of recovery.
I thought Choi would surpass 900 miles if he wasn’t too depleted from his recent U.S. Record for 48 hours.
One thing for sure, nothing is predictable in a race this long. I felt there would be no finishers. The only person with a chance was Choi.
The race started as advertised, and Choi took the immediate lead with 107 miles on the first day. The Canadian, Trishel Cherns was in 2nd place with 88 miles. I was surprised to find Bob Wise, the racewalker in 3rd with 81 miles.
Nathan Whiting and Cahit Yeter were well placed at 80 miles as expected.
Four of the 12 starters failed to meet the 62.5 miles needed per day to reach 1000 miles.
The second day saw Yeter drop out, along with others. Only 2 days had gone by and there were only 6 runners above the 126 miles needed to be on schedule.
Choi topped the field with 82 miles and was pressed by Leventhal who came to life with 81 miles, while moving into 3rd place.
Cherns still held 2nd with a 5 mile lead on Leventhal.
Whiting took sole possession of 4th with 61 miles for the day.
Emile LaHarrage was a surprise in 5th. Seemingly none the worse for the wear and tear of his six day effort 4 weeks ago, he reached 139 miles for the first two days.
Bob Wise fell to 6th place, but was still averaging over 62.5 miles per day with 135 mile total.
After two days there were only 6 racers above the minimum required to reach 1000 miles.
The 3rd day saw some shifting as Leventhal topped all runners with his second straight 81 mile day. His effort moved him into 2nd place 23 miles behind the leader Choi, who ran 63 miles.
Cherns was now in 3rd with 218 miles followed by Whiting at 210 and Wise at 205. Wise had the 2nd highest mileage for the 3rd day with 70 miles.
LaHarrague was now in 6th and slightly behind average. It looked like he would be the next casualty.
Choi bounced back on the 4th day to let everybody know who was in charge with 86 miles.
Levnthal seemed depleted from the past two 81 mile days as he was only able to total 39 miles while dropping to 4th place.
Cherns resumed 2nd and Whiting moved into 3rd place.
Wise was in 5th place and looked good.
LaHarrague was showing the courage that was his trademark, and was back on schedule.
Totals after Four Days.
1. Don Choi 338 miles
2. Trishel Cherns 296 miles
3. Nathan Whiting 275 miles
4. Stan Leventhal 268 miles
5. Bob Wise 263 miles
6. Emile LaHarrague 255 miles
To finish 1000 miles in 16 days runners must average 62.5 miles per day.
To be on schedule for 4 days, required 250 miles.
Days Five and Six
Days 5 and 6 saw the predictable collapse of Stan Leventhal. His aggressive running style was ill suited for a race of this duration. His totals of 36 on day 5, and 5 miles before retiring on day six, marked the end of his effort.
Meanwhile, the indomitable LaHarrague flourished. Emile moved past Leventhal and Wise to take 4th position.
Six Day Totals
1. Don Choi 466 miles
2. Trishel Cherns 441 miles
3. Nathan Whiting 406 miles
4. Emile LaHarrague 394 miles
5. Bob Wise 379 miles
The five remaining contestants were all experienced 6 day racers, but what loomed ahead? They weren’t even half way toward 1000 miles.
Day Ten –
By this time one fact was apparent. 1000 miles in 16 days was not impossible. It was doable, but it would take a super athlete to do it.
During days 9 and 10, Whiting and Wise had fallen by the wayside. They were unable to maintain the brutal pace of 62.5 miles per day.
Choi continued to dominate and reached 721 miles for 10 days.
LaHarrague defied all logic. He continued to amaze with with days of 62, 68, 67, and 63. He moved into 2nd place and was now in a position to accomplish an amazing feat. He had 652 miles for 10 days.
Cherns remained steady. He was now in 3rd place with 641 miles.
To be on schedule for 1000 miles in 16 days required 625 miles.
Ten day totals:
Choi 721 miles
LaHarrague 652 miles
Cherns 641 miles
Choi now had 914 miles. He had began to show signs of being human. His daily mileages began to drop on the 12th day. He covered 54 miles on day 12, 31 miles on day 13, and 46 miles on day 14.
It didn’t matter that much because he now only needed 86 miles and he had two days to do it. Still, 42 miles a day at this point was not to be taken for granted.
Cherns – 900 miles. – Trishul had passed Laharrague and continued to close the gap on Choi. At the end of 14 days he had reached 900 miles. There was no question. He would reach 1000 miles on the 16th day.
The question was, could he catch a fading Choi to win the event?
LaHarrague – 875 miles. – needed 125 miles on the last 2 days to make it. He was exactly on schedule. He needed 62.5 miles per day to make it.
There were now 48 hours left. An eternity for most runners. But these three were no ordinary athletes. The 15th day loomed large. It was now “make or break”.
The totals on day 15 were magnificent. These three supermen achieved impossible mileages after running for 14 days.
Cherns was top man with 72 miles. That brought his total to 962. He needed only 38 miles to finish and he wanted to finish first.
Laharrage ran 70 miles to bring his total to 945 miles. He needed 55 miles on the final day to finish.
Don Choi ran 64 miles and hung onto his lead with a total of 978 miles. His lead over Cherns was down to 16 miles.
15 day totals
Choi – 978 miles
Cherns – 962 miles
LaHarrague – 945 miles
It was apparent that all three runners would reach 1000 miles before the deadline of 16 days.
Only 6 hours, 24 minutes had elapsed in the 16th day when Don Choi reached 1000 miles.
Three hours and 13 minutes later, Trishul Cherns finished his 1000 mile journey.
Eight more hours passed and Emile LaHarrague reached 1000 miles.
Don Choi, U.S.A. – 15 days, 6 hours, 24 minutes, and 43 seconds.
The 2nd Sri-Chimnoy 1000 mile race. April 26, thru May 11, 1986 Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, New York
This was it. The Creme de la Creme, The Battle of Champions, The coup d’ gras, The final showdown, and the most significant endurance footrace in over 100 years.
Don Choi, Sigfreid Bauer and Stu Mittleman meeting man to man over 1000 miles. It could be the greatest endurance contest of all time. Not to be overlooked was Trishul Cherns, number 4 in everybody’s ranking of the top men.
DAY ONE – The start
What strategies would unfold during the first day? Would Choi race out to a big lead?
Past performances favored Mittleman running a strong but conservative first day.
Bauer liked to lead his races start to finish. Would he top Choi on day one?
During the night it became evident that Bauer was determined to take the lead the first day.
Mittleman and Choi wanted to lead also and the mileages were high at the end of the first day.
Day one totals – Top 10
1. Sigfreid Bauer, New Zeland – 120 miles
2. Stu Mittleman, U.S.A. – 116 miles
3. Don Choi, U.S.A. – 111 miles
4. Alan Fairbrother, England – 103 miles
5. Trishul Cherns, Canada – 102 miles
6. Jerry Schuster, U.S.A. – 100 miles
7. Dan Coffey, England – 93 miles
8. Willie Rios, U.S.A. – 81 miles
9. Marv Skagerberg, U.S.A. – 77 miles
10. Jacque de Roquefeuil, France – 75 miles
Six men over 100 miles! Imagine running 93 miles on the first day and finding yourself in 7th place. All of the top 10 men were contenders.
It was the greatest ultramarathon field of all time.
Were these first day mileages too high for a race this long?
DAYS 2, 3, and 4
Zigfreid Bauer continued to pour it on the field with unbelievable running.
He followed the first day with days of 95, 90, and 80, to pull away to a huge lead of 41 miles over 2nd place Don Choi.
Could the race be over this early?
Mittleman and Cherns were in third 17 miles behind Choi.
Leading Totals for 4 days:
Bauer – 385 miles
Choi – 344 miles
Cherns – 327 miles
Mittleman – 327 miles
Fairbrother – 315 miles
Bauer decided to take a few breaks on the 5th day. His lead was a huge 41 miles. He coasted to a modest (for him) 55 miles. His 5 day total = 440
Mittleman came through with his biggest day since the first one. He totaled 88 miles moving into 2nd place. His 5 day total = 415
Choi finished the day with 44 miles. Did he crack under the pressure, or would he come back tomorrow? We would soon find out. His 5 day total = 388
Meanwhile the youngest runner in the field, the 29 year old Canadian, Trishul Cherns, ran 77 miles passing Choi and assuming 3rd place. His 5 day total = 404
Six days was significant because of Six Day racing.
Bauer bounced back with 73 miles on day six to bring his six day total to an impressive 513 miles.
Meanwhile Mittleman carved out his second 88 mile day in a row, raising his total to 503 miles.
We had a contest! Mittleman had closed to within 10 miles of Bauer.
Trishul Cherns was still in 3rd with a nice total of 474 miles.
Serving notice were two London entries in 4th and 5th. Alan Fairbrother, a crafty veteran at 49 year of age, and Dan Coffey, age 54. Fairbrother had 445 miles for 6 days, and Coffey had 435 miles. Coffey’s total surpassed the U.S. 50 plus record of 396 by Dick Collins by 39 miles.
Choi now 7th with 50 miles , was not going to reach 1000 miles in 16 days unless he started running some 60 plus days. He seemed disheartened that he could not compete with Bauer and Mittleman.
Six Day Totals
Bauer – 513 miles
Mittleman – 503 miles
Cherns – 474 miles
Fairbrother – 445 miles
Coffey – 435 miles
Choi – 428 miles
Bauer responded beautifully to Mittleman’s threat with 74 miles on day 7 and 61 miles on day 8.
But, Mittleman now smelled victory as he continued to pour it on with 86 and 92 mile days! Mittleman now had the lead.
But, Bauer was not finished.
Bauer outscored Mittleman on day nine 86 miles to 84, to stay in the fight.
Bauer scored another big day with 85 miles, only to be crushed by Mittleman who ran an incredible 92 miles. The battle was over.
Bauer cruised to 51 miles while Mittleman eyed Bauer’s world record and ran 75 miles.
During the 12th day, Mittleman did it! He set a new world record by finishing 1000 miles in 11 days, 20 hours, 36 minutes, and 50 seconds*.
He had smashed Bauer’s record by 16 hours. He was the only man to ever break 12 days for 1000 miles.
Bauer finished the next day in 12 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds.
1. Stu Mittleman, U.S.A. 11 days, 20 hours, 36 minutes, and 50 seconds.
2. Sigfreid Bauer, New Zealand, 12 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 secs.
3. Trishul Cherns, Canada, 13 days, 7 hours, 50 minutes, and 45 seconds.
4. Alan Fairbrother, England, 13 days, 22 hours, 13 minutes, 3 seconds.
5. Dan Coffey, England, 14 days, 10 hours, 11 minutes, 50 seconds.
The rest of the remaining runners retired when Coffey finished on the 14th day.
The question was finally answered. No doubt remained.
Stu Mittleman was “The Endurance Champion of the World”.
It’s amazing to note that Mittleman’s 1000 mile mark is still the U.S. Record at the time of this writing 31 years later. Mittleman’s 6 day mark still ranks #2 on the U.S. list.
Choi is still ranked #8 on the U.S. list for 6 days, and his 48 hour record still remains #9 all time.
Choi’s performances are impressive since he set his marks outdoors.
The ULTRARUNNING/USATF list recognizes both indoor and outdoor marks mixed.