After 12 failed attempts, legend Canadian ultra-runner completes 100-mile race

By JOE O'CONNER / Posted on September 14, 2017

Jack Judge could hear wolves howling as he lay awake in his tent Friday night at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, a chunk of Ontario woodland not far from Algonquin Park. Judge had a book to keep him company, a fiction with a forgettable title he kept thumbing through in an attempt to quiet his thoughts. But in his mind, Judge was running, clambering over roots, scrambling up and down hills, trotting past lakes and sidestepping gaping mud puddles.

The Haliburton Forest 100 is a gruelling 100-mile (160-kilometre) cross-country race that has made Judge a legend, of sorts, in ultra-running circles, and not for his speed but for his bottomless capacity — after 12 failed attempts — to keep trying to finish. On the Saturday morning of his 13th attempt, Judge rolled out of his sleeping bag and into the chill September air. The 66-year-old slipped on two polyester T-shirts, a sweatshirt, nylon rain pants and a pair of Saucony “Hurricane” sneakers. He ate his customary bowl of oatmeal, with brown sugar and a splash of milk, drank two cups of tea and went to the start line at 6 a.m. with 47 other competitors.

Judge had been training hard since last September, when driving rain and muddy conditions forced his surrender two-thirds of the way into his 12th attempt to run 100 miles. He had gotten faster, he felt, by a shade, and incorporated sit-ups and push-ups into his workout routine.

“I felt absolutely tremendous at the start,” he says. “The worry was over. The race had begun.”

Over the next 29 hours 54 minutes and 13 seconds, Judge would battle doubt, a dead flashlight battery, woodland hallucinations (featuring four moose) and the physics of what a skinny old man — renowned for being doggedly determined, famously chatty and incredibly slow — is capable of.