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Friday, November 27, 2020

Sports > General

Stamina beyond the pale

SW alum Morgan Hawkins finishes 100-mile race in Arizona

Nov 12, 2020

By Richard Ross - reporter/photographer

Morgan Hawkins holds up the medal attesting to her finishing the 100-mile Javelina Jundred race.
FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ- “The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible,” posited science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke.
When it comes to physical exertion, in particular running, those who are serious about the endeavor aspire to push themselves beyond their prior limits either in times, distances or both. That has certainly been the case for 2010 Sullivan West grad and track standout Morgan Hawkins who dates the genesis of her passion for running to her days on the Bulldogs' track and cross-country teams.
Over the years as she has marshaled increasingly long distance challenges, she has pushed herself beyond her prior high-water marks into the realm of what she never imagined she could do. She recently marshaled her greatest physical and mental challenge ever in completing the 100-mile trail race known as the Javelina Jundred which began on Halloween in McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Hawkins ran for 27 hours and 13 minutes to complete the course comprised of a 20-mile loop over incredibly scenic trails that the runners traversed five times. Her longest running stint prior to this was eight hours. To be recorded as a finisher, an entrant had to cover the course in under 30 hours. Though her time was short of her goal to finish under 24 hours, the sheer grit she evinced to keep going despite excruciatingly painful blisters speaks volumes about Hawkins' stamina and toughness.
Hawkins, age 28, evinces a level of fitness born of an intense love or running and relentlessly vigorous training. She signed up for the Javelina Jundred in February before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic at the suggestion of her fiancé Grady Jackson who was planning to run the 100K race, another facet of the 18th annual costumed event.
The two trained together as they always do but the spread of the virus soon resulted in cancellation of many iconic races including the Boston, NYC and Chicago Marathons. It was uncertain if the Javelina Jundred would be held. Still, the duo did altitude training at Lake Tahoe while integrating strength training.
But Hawkins' longest training run was only 28 miles leading up to the 100-mile trail race. Just prior to race day, Jackson fell ill and had to withdraw from his 100K (62-miler), but he ran along with Hawkins at key points in her race as moral support. “He was there at my lowest point,” she avers.
She maintains she probably would not have finished without him. The blisters that were becoming more and more painful may have resulted from the friction of the sandy course despite her changing between her state of the art Altra and Hokas trail shoes. Hawkins carried two bottles of water which she consumed between each five-mile station on the course. At those oases, water, Gatorade, snacks, chicken noodle soup and other things were on hand to replenish the runners as they navigated the dips and rises of the course. Gatorade is essential to replace lost salts without which the body cannot absorb water.
Fortunately it was somewhat cloudy which prevented the temperature from rising above the century mark. In the dips along the course at night, a sudden onset of much cooler temperatures were in evidence that required a windbreaker. Running on rocks at certain points on the trail made for unbearable pain but somehow she kept going.
In addition to Jackson, her Dad Greg and his wife Christina, her mom Colleen and her aunt Donna Flynn-Brown were present at two different locales along the course which they drove back and forth between. Thus she passed them twice each loop which was a Godsend.
Hawkins averaged 17-minute miles, a far cry from 6:20 pace in her 5K races. She aspired to run 13-14-minute miles. Over a long-distance run, competitors will have their good and difficult stretches. The trick is to take advantage of the former to minimize the effects of the latter.
“I went out doing 10-minute miles and had a comfortable first lap,” she recalls. In the second lap she slowed down. By the time she was running the fourth lap it was dark. As the race wound towards the final seven miles she had to walk often on her bruised and blistered feet. Runners were competing in waves. There were ten runners in Hawkins' wave.
Over four days, the annual fun Halloween event included 540 runners. “It was an experience that was really hard to put into words. You go through so many ups and downs. It's phenomenal knowing how much pain I was in and thinking I couldn't go on that I kept going. You never know how far your body can take you,” avers the ultrarunner.

The long arc
of a running career
Hawkins started out playing soccer but joined Sullivan West's track team in seventh grade and competed primarily as a sprinter, hurdler and also did pole vaulting. In her last two years she also ran cross-country. She went on to SUNY Fredonia and ran in college for a year doing the 400 and pole vaulting before transferring to Jamestown College which did not have a track program. She changed her major to exercise science and began looking into her own training through that lens. It was at this juncture that Hawkins began to run on her own.
She ran 5K races but was dissatisfied that they were not long enough. After running a half marathon she entered her first marathon in Buffalo, a race she denotes as “a disaster,” finishing in 4:20:00. Her next marathon was in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. She was inspired by former SW teammate Rianne Erlwein's entry in the 2013 Boston Marathon, a race marred by a bombing. “I needed to qualify for Boston with a time of 3:35:00 for my gender and age group,” she said.
Hawkins moved to San Francisco in 2017 after visiting another former SW teammate Kendra Barker who had moved to the bay area. “I found so many running clubs. Unlike Jamestown there was such easy access. She recorded her best marathon time, a 3:11:00 posted in the Beach Marathon in Ventura, California. She ran the Boston Marathon in 2019.
Her initiation into trail racing was in company trail runs in Mill Valley. Trail running was a new venture. Hawkins has run 50K races (31 miles) in the Northface Endurance Challenge, another in Woodridge, Colorado and also one in British Columbia. Asked if she would run the Javelina Jundred again or another 100-mile trail race, Hawkins was quick to reply in the affirmative. Needless to say she will need time to recover before engaging in any long distance races in the near future.
Hawkins works as a certified run coach for the Run Experience in San Francisco providing her knowledge and expertise in running to runners who wish to train including beginners and seasoned runners looking to gain an edge.
For Hawkins and her fiancé, life is an ongoing, enervating race, often challenging, but greatly rewarding. For the Sullivan West community, Hawkins accomplishments are something to be extremely proud of. Hawkins has found her niche in the west but as far as the Sullivan West community is concerned, it all began here.

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