I would run 100 miles

Local duo complete 100 mile ultra marathon

South Tama’s Scott Bolen (left) and Nate Van Dyke (right) stand together at the finish line after completing the Booneville Backroads Ultra 100 Mile Race on Sept. 5. The two have been preparing and competing in long distance races over the past year that culminated in the 100-mile gravel road challenge. -- Contributed photo

Over gravel roads in Dallas and Madison Counties, two South Tama County educators ran a race of a lifetime.

On Sept. 4-5 STC Physical Education teacher and coach Nate Van Dyke along with STC Middle School Assistant Principal Scott Bolen participated in the Booneville Backroads Ultra 100 Mile Race.

The two have been running together for the past year in preparation for the challenge, though the running bug took hold for Van Dyke three years ago.

Van Dyke first got serious about training for long distance runs when he prepared and raced in the 2018 IMT Des Moines Marathon.

“I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” Van Dyke said. “I competed in college with wrestling and then weightlifting in my twenties and I was looking for another challenge or something else to compete in.”

Van Dyke said an attractive benefit of distance running is that it’s a sport and activity that can be sustained into later adulthood.

For Bolen, his interest in running took hold in 2020 when he found himself unexpectedly working from home as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation.

“I’m somebody that two or three years ago would have thought I was crazy now for doing an ultra marathon,” Bolen said. “But I got into reading about it and researching it and once I got started, I felt like I had done my homework to be successful.”

Over the past year Van Dyke and Bolen have been traveling to all points of the state to run in long distance trail runs, gradually increasing their miles with contest.

The preparation led up to the Booneville 100-mile race over Labor Day weekend.

Van Dyke and Bolen were just two of 18 runners that finished the event out of 37 that signed up. There were 11 participants that weren’t able to finish the course and another eight that didn’t show up on race day.

The race began at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 4. Just over 23 hours later (23 hours and 43 minutes to be exact), the duo crossed the finish line in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday.

“I don’t know if it’s still hit me, that accomplishment,” Bolen said. “By the time we came across the finish line it was 4:45 in the morning and we were just ready to be done.”

Both runners said the uncharted nature of the last 50 miles were a daunting challenge.

Through their training, the two capped their longest runs at 50 miles, trusting in the cumulative miles they were putting in by running six or seven days a week to give them the cardio foundation to push through 100 miles in one shot.

The course was run almost exclusively on gravel roads in the rural areas south of Waukee and Winterset.

Van Dyke said it wasn’t the most hills he’s had to deal with in a race, but that the course was nonetheless challenging from an elevation perspective.

Both spouses of the runners, Tolly Van Dyke and Amber Bolen, helped to crew the team by traveling to the checkpoint stations every 10 miles on the course. They were there to help the runners get fresh pairs of socks and shoes or to help with the nutrition strategy the runners were working with to ensure they had the right amount of energy at the right time to keep going. They were also there at the finish line to celebrate after the two completed the day-long challenge.

Fellow STC coach Baron Davis, who is a distance runner himself, came out to the course around the 10 p.m. mark to run alongside Van Dyke and Bolen for a couple hours to keep them company and to provide some encouragement in the later stage of the race.

For ultra marathoners, nutrition is key to sustaining an effort across an extremely long distance like 100 miles.

Van Dyke recalled downing what felt like everything but the kitchen sink from Gatorade and concentrated energy gel packs to pizza and Zebra Cakes as they needed the carbohydrates to keep their energy up.

Since finishing the 100-mile race in early September, the two took about a week to recover and have gotten back out on the road running shorter distances around Tama County to stay in shape.

Bolen next plans to compete in a 50 mile race in Granger, Iowa around Thanksgiving while Van Dyke is considering going after an Ironman Triathlon in the future.

“I think everybody has something in their life that can challenge them,” Van Dyke said. “Whether it’s a 5K or 10K run or something completely different like writing a book. I think it’s important to test our limits and if you’ve got something on your bucket list, if you put the effort into it and don’t quit while you’re doing it, you can achieve that goal.”