MEDINA, Ohio -- "Running is the best part of my day."
That’s how ultra-marathon runner extraordinaire Connie Gardner of Medina describes the sport she has been in love with since her high school days. Now, on the brink of the age of 50, Connie continues to assault the record books. She just set the American record, 149 miles run in 24 hours, at the World Championships in Poland.
"I didn't know I was close to the record, but I was passing some very good runners," she said when we chatted near the trails of the Brecksville Reservation, where she does a lot of her running.
Gardner, the mother of two girls, got into running ultra-marathons a few years ago. An ultra-marathon is any race over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
The first time she realized how good she is in the sport was at a 50-mile race in Kentucky a few years ago. She came upon a male runner about 30 miles in and asked where the leaders were.
“‘We are leading,’ he said and I laughed," said Gardner, "Gee, I guess I am pretty good at this.”
She usually runs twice each day, at least an hour, and on the weekends tacks on some very long runs. For example she might run 30 miles on a Saturday and perhaps another 20 miles on Sunday. She has competed in the prestigious races like Western States and Badwater, which is 135 miles through nature’s furnace, known as Death Valley.
The irony is that Gardner has to find races to enter, knowing she can grab a win and get some purse money, which she can use to help finance her way to bigger races. It’s a tough existence, but Gardner knows ultra-running is now a huge spectator sport and there is just not a lot of money in it.
Connie does not fret about this. She told me the sport has allowed her to run all over the world.