by Andrei Nana
It’s rare that everything comes together at an inaugural race. Yet when Andrei and Claire Nana — both accomplished ultra-runners — conceived of the first six day race in Florida, they had nothing less than an “international quality event” in mind.
Beginning with organizing the competition on a USATF and IAAF certified course, a USATF sanctioned race with a Bronze IAU Label, planning the event when weather would be ideal, and providing top notch organization, the 2014 Icarus Florida UltraFest proved to be the ideal setting for two records to be broken and one US National 24 hour Team qualification.
But record breaking was not the only goal of the Icarus Florida Ultra Fest as the event is like no other. Offering 13 separate races, Icarus offers 3, 6 , 12, and 24 hour events on three separate days, all designed to allow those new to the sport of ultra-running the opportunity to run with an elite, international field of ultra-runners during the 6 day race.
“It took quite a bit of organization to make sure that we provided a place where elite ultra-runners could break records, qualify for national teams and have their results recorded,” Andrei Nana shared. For Nana, the vision began when he met Jesper Kenn Olsen, a Scandanavian ultra-runner who has won 4 six day races, but is probably best recognized for his two world runs (complete circumnavigations of the globe on foot).
“When Jesper mentioned to me that there are no six day races in Florida, and that he’d like to have one, the seed was planted,” stated Nana, who has since run over 22 races of 100 miles or more, including the Spartathlon in Greece in 2013, and 2014.
That seed materialized when Andrei and Claire competed in UltraMilano-Sanremo — a 175 mile race across Italy — just after getting married.
“It took a tremendous amount of planning, but we really wanted an international quality event with an international field, beginning with Jesper,” Claire continued.
The international field was indeed well represented with Jovica Spajic, the 24 hour Serbian record holder at just 27 years of age, Charlotte Vasarhelyi, the Canadian women’s six day record holder, Michele Notarangelo, who holds the Italian record for the most six day races run in one year, K-G Nystrom, a 76 year old ultra-runner from Sweden who has run over 1200 races, and Rimantas a talented 56 year old ultra-runner originally from Lithuania.
And the result? Like the event website says, it was truly epic.
While the six day race began with a duel between Michele and Jovica, Jesper Kenn Olsen, the more experienced runner hung back. However on day three, when Jovica slowed, Jesper seized the opportunity and pushed on, and took the lead. For the next two days it was a very close race between Jesper and Jovica, while all the miles racked up for Brad Compton who inched closer and closer to his age group American record for the six day race. At the same time, Jim Schroeder, an accomplished American ultra runner, Tim O’Malie, also an accomplished ultra runner and epileptic proved that at 67, and 56, respectively, age is no impediment. Charlotte Vasarhelyi, while troubled by injuries, and unable to break the 48 hour women’s record that she had hoped for also pushed through multiple setbacks to provide a truly remarkable demonstration of grit.
The race remained very close until the evening of the fifth day when Jesper pulled ahead, despite Jovica’s string of 5.5 min one kilometer loops. By the morning, the lead was formidable with Jesper ahead by 10 miles. But on the last day, several shorter races began with two very tough women, Alyson Venti and Lara Zoeller both pursuing a spot on the US National Women’s 24 hour Team. This race was also close and with the speed and energy brought by the two women “flying by” along with the 16 other runners competing in the 12, 6, and 3 hour races, everyone — even the tired six day runners — seemed to pick up.
Midway into the last day, however, Jesper was well ahead of Jovica, and Alyson Venti began pulling away from Lara Zoeller, as she seemed to sprint by, racking up an incredible amount of miles, while Lara dealt with some medical issues.
The evening didn’t disappoint either as at approximately around 11 pm, Brad Compton passed his 384 mile mark, breaking the record, and shortly thereafter, at around 4 am, Jovica broke the Serbian National record at 676 Kilometer. From that point on, it was a one woman event and the pressure was on Alyson Venti to make 140 miles in 24 hours which would secure her a spot on the US National Women’s 24 hour team. Brad Compton continued to gain miles, finishing with a total of 406.55 and Jovica Spajic finished the race with a total of 682.37 kilometers.
With just seconds left, and race directors Andrei and Claire, along with several other supporters, crew and friends, cheering her on, Venti sprinted across the line just in time to see the clock hit 24 hours, and the mileage read 140.90.
|8||Timothy O’Malie||M/56||226.869||Oakland Park||FL||USA|
|9||K-G Nystrom||M/76||203.600||Saint Augustine||FL||Sweden|
|10||Bill Heldenbrand||M/68||78.855||Box Elder||SD||USA|
|3||Ramon Ferrer Jr||M/34||152||98.2452||New York||NY||Philippines|
|4||Judd McGee||M/39||135||87.25725||Boca Raton||FL||USA|
|9||Jodi Weiss||F/44||122||78.8547||Highland Beach||FL||USA|
|11||Daniel Jones||M/45||108||69.8058||Miami Beach||FL||USA|
|12||Lee Anne Cohen||F/61||98||63.3423||Creemore||ON||Canada|
|15||Alexandra Olayo||F/29||91||58.81785||North Palm Beach||FL||Colombia|
|2||Darryl Morrison||M/47||54||34.884||South Miami||FL||USA|
|1||William Corley||M/53||54||34.903||Lake Worth||FL||USA|
|2||Sean Kreller||M/40||49||31.671||Delray Beach||FL||USA|
|3||Tammy Jones||F/41||48||31.025||Miami Beach||FL||USA|
|5||Jessi McGee||F/38||41||26.500||Boca Raton||FL||USA|
|2||Trey Smith||M/32||29||18.744||Winter Park||FL||USA|
|3||Tim Nast||M/53||28||18.098||Fort Lauderdale||FL||USA|
|5||Brendan Barry||M/46||27||17.451||Sea Ranch||FL||USA|
|6||Brendan Barry||M/46||23||14.866||Sea Ranch||FL||USA|
|9||Sung Ho Choi||M/38||18||11.634||Jacksonville||FL||USA|