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‘Morgue’ swallows up runners

Wasatch aid stop is end of line for many

SHARE ‘Morgue’ swallows up runners

BRIGHTON — At about 1 a.m. Sunday, Karl Meltzer, this year's winner of the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, was already long gone.

This is the mile-75 aid station. If runners stay here long enough, they can get too comfortable — they can lose their will to keep going.

Runners call this spot "the morgue," because this is where so many people DNF, that is, they sign a piece of paper that declares "did not finish."

It's warm in here. Friends and family gather round spent runners as they limp and waddle in. There's food. A place to lay down. It's tempting to not go back out into the cold night air.

Flashback to three hours ago:

10 p.m. — Runner David Hunt, 44, arrives, weighs in at 160 pounds. All runners have to weigh in. If they've lost too much weight from their pre-race poundage, they have to stay and eat, or they quit.

10:01 p.m. — Jeff LaMora comes in with a pacer to the applause of his pregnant wife, Elizabeth, who's no slouch herself with 13 marathons under her belt. Jeff's on medication for a back injury. He's tired, but he looks good.

10:05 p.m. — Nine runners have left the aid station so far. One of the previous front runners declared DNF here earlier. Kevin Shilling wrote on his form "no longer having fun" as the reason for quitting.

LaMora, 30, a Utah Transit Authority employee, puts his head down for a quick nap. His pacer, Ernie Floyd, figures he'll let his friend sleep for about 10 minutes.

10:20 p.m. — Tom Nielson, 44, is in and out of here, gives someone a kiss before leaving.

David Toone, 45, readies for essentially his fourth marathon in 24 hours. His two sons and a son-in-law are pacing him.

University of Utah professor Patrick McMurtry, 44, says, "I can't believe I'm going to be feeling this good two hours from now," just before he slips out the door.

10:35 p.m. — Betsy Nye, blond hair, wire-rimmed glasses, T-shirt with chili peppers all over, comes bopping in. Nye, 38, brushes her teeth, changes her clothes and is quickly off toward her third Wasatch victory in a row.

Nye finished in 26 hours, 36 minutes and 53 seconds. A little less than four hours later, Barbara Elias would cross the finish line at The Homestead in Midway. She was followed by Susan Anderson Ayers.

Meltzer, 35, would win with a 20:46.35, not quite beating last year's course record. Joe Kulak, 35, came in an hour later, and about a half hour after him came Tim Spence, 47.

The oldest runner to cross the finish line, Grant Holdaway, 72, barely made it, finishing in a time, of 35:58.07. This is Holdaway's second official finish under the 36-hour time limit.

10:53 p.m. — Toone checks out, son by his side. It starts to quiet down inside the lodge after Toone's huge contingent leaves.

LaMora is now on the ground, fetal position, fast asleep. At this point in the evening, there have been 59 DNFs.

11:30 p.m. — Michel Colby waits outside in the cold with camera in hand. His son, Mark, 35, is on the way through the darkness.

Back inside, Park City resident Keith Bronstein is one of the few people still along the course, which starts near Kaysville. He's watching the race merely as a spectator, no friends or family in the race.

Bronstein's favorite part is the opportunity to get so close to the runners, like being on the golf course with Greg Norman and being able to ask him, "So, what club you going to use here?"

12:20 a.m. — Last year's third-place winner, Brandon Sybrowsky, 32, is sleeping in a truck in the parking lot. A week ago he ran in a 93-mile race in France. His motivation for simply finishing his 12th Wasatch 100 is rooted in a tribute to race organizer Stephen Utley, who died of cancer last June.

Jason Moyer, 30, signs his DNF form. He's feeling dizzy, short of breath, achy rib cage. He finished last year — he'll probably make the trip again next year from his home in Bend, Ore.

12:30 a.m. — Alan Hadley, 46, leaves the lodge, looking back to say, "So, that's why they say, 'Don't go in there.' "

By this time, LaMora has thrown up, but he's awake, trying to muster the physical and mental energy he needs.

12:44 a.m. — LaMora finally leaves, more than 2 1/2 hours after arriving. He eventually finishes.

A minute later, Russ Evans, 44, yells, "121 out!" He, too, escapes this place — about 18 others don't.

Race director John Grobben would later say, "If you're not ready for Wasatch, it's going to whup on you." More than 80 of 230 runners declare DNF by 2 p.m. Sunday.

1:05 a.m. — The moon is bright over the mountains. To the west an electrifying storm moves in — some runners will get caught in it. The morgue awaits more victims.

E-MAIL: sspeckman@desnews.com