Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Salute to the Past: Why I Ran the Ghost Town 38.5 Ultramarathon

Not long ago Big Mike told me he was going to have an article posted about he and J-Wim in the local news paper and I told him that had happened to me once before when I ran an Ultramarathon. Back in January 2006 I ran my first, and only so far, ultra marathon and a few days before the race the RD asked participants to submit an essay, not mandatory so don’t worry you non-English writin’ types, about why we were running the Ghost Town 38.5. Like any good college grad, or at least anyone who can’t stop talking about themselves I suppose, I submitted my essay and it was selected and published in one of the local news papers in Truth or Consequences, NM. Anyhow, Big Mike suggested I post that essay and so now that I’m sitting here in San Francisco at the 115th annual convention of the American Psychological Association I thought I’d do a string of “historical postings.”

Why I’m running the Ghost Town 38.5
Brian M. Pilgrim
Age – 39

At exactly this time last year I weighed 270 lbs and could not run a mile without needing to walk. While I was athletic as a teen and young adult I have never been a runner or endurance athlete. I played football, threw shot-put and discus and played rugby while in the Marine Corps. After completing my enlistment in the Marine Corps, I entered college and began working toward my degree in Clinical Psychology. I spent the next eight years devoted only to my education, earning first a bachelor’s, then a master’s and then a Ph.D. During that time I neglected my health and spent all of my time in academic pursuits. While this paid off academically, being accepted into Phi Eta Sigma, Golden Key, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa national honor societies and graduating Suma Cum Laude, I reached a weight of just over 300 lbs and was so heavy it hurt my feet and knees to stand. I should note that even at a healthy weight I am a larger than average man standing 6’2” and weighing about 195 at 18% body fat but clearly, I was terribly overweight.

After earning my Ph.D. I considered getting back into sports as a way of loosing weight. I attended one Rugby practice with the New Mexico Brujos and spent the next three days in bed eating percocet. Apparently, I was not as young as I had been when I played rugby for the Marine Corps. I briefly thought about getting into triathlon but soon became involved with my new job at the Veterans Hospital and decided to go back to school part time to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration. Sine I was only attending school part-time, that endeavor consumed another 4 years of my life though I was able to loose a few pounds in the mean time. In December of 2004 I graduated with my second master’s degree and in January 2005, at 270 lbs, I became determined to finish a sprint distance triathlon by the year end. Things didn’t quite work out as planned.

I did not finish one sprint distance triathlon I finished 11 sprint distance triathlons, one 50-mile bike race, one 10K race, one half-marathon and one full marathon. Along the way, I lost 56 pounds but ended up gaining third place in the Southwest Challenge Series Clydesdale division. The Southwest Challenge Series is a series of triathlons and duathlons in the New Mexico and West Texas region and the Clydesdale division is the division covering men weighing over 200 pounds.

The Ghost Town 38.5 is my first ultra-distance event. I was drawn to the event because, since I live in Rio Rancho, it is close by and because it made me feel crazy to think I was going to pay $89 plus travel expenses to try and run 38.5 miles. The idea was so compelling I couldn’t stop thinking about it no matter how much I wanted to stop thinking about it. Ghost Towns, New Mexican history and 38.5 miles from start to t-shirt and finishers medal, how could I not sign on? Therefore, I signed on and the Ghost Town will kick off my “year of giants.” This next year will not only see me through another year competing in the Southwest Challenge Series, I will run my first half-Ironman triathlon at Buffalo Springs Lake near Lubbock, and I will run my first Iron distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) in Oklahoma City in a race they call the RedMan.

However, as great as all this seems for my own personal growth, I have recently received one more bit of motivation to run the Ghost Town and run it with gusto. Just recently, November 23rd 2005, my grandfather passed away just nine days short of his 101st birthday. His remains will be laid to rest on January 14th 2006 and on January 15th 2006 I will rise early and run with him across space and time. I will endure as he endured, I will smile as he smiled, I will overcome as he overcame and together we will journey together one last time.

Editor’s note: In my “year of giants” I did not quite do what I said. At some point around mid April I suffered a stress fracture in two places in my right hip and did 3 sprints and one Olympic triathlon in a fractured hip, that is before the fracture was diagnosed…prior to that I just knew it hurt like hell to run but before each race I would imagine it felt a little better…I was seriously in denial. Anyway, I did not do the Buffalo Springs 70.3 because my hip was fractured. Instead I did the Aquabike at the Buffalo Springs 70.3. I did, however, do the RedMan.


  1. You have certainly come a long way from the winded 300 pound guy who's knees and legs hurt from standing. You know the thing I can relate to the most is the fact that I too never thought I would ever want to do a triathlon. That feeling now when I look back it makes me smile. I wonder what other things I think I would never do are now in my future?
    Dude your educational resume is rockin. I think I gained a couple IQ points just reading your post.

  2. WOW, how could they have not picked your essay? Thank you very much for sharing.

  3. That was flat out awesome. You should be so proud of yourself.
    The part about your grandfather got me all choked up ... I'm still trying to suck it up and get the tears under control before Mikey looks over and calls me a baby.
    Thanks so much for posting that, I really enjoyed the little window into your past!

  4. Dang, thats was great. I want to run the Ghost town now!


  5. You are a really inspiring person! It's true that through endurance we conquer...and sometimes even through endurance, we endure...that's good, too.

    I look forward to meeting you in a few days!