Oak Parker more than just an 'ultra' runner

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Elizabeth Hermans is a mileage junkie.

Last year, Hermans, 30, a member of the Oak Park Runners Club, ran four marathons and five ultra-marathons, the races that exceed the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance. Her ultras included four 50Ks (31 miles) and an eight-hour race in which she ran over 35 miles. To finish the year with a flourish, she ran two marathons in September, a marathon and an ultra in October, only one marathon in November, and two 50K ultras in December, only two weeks apart — that's seven long races in four months! And she's still alive and happy to tell about it.

Liz is originally from Green Bay, Wis., and started running about five years ago during grad school at Purdue to "get more active." Her first race was a 10K, a pretty conventional start for road runners. She soon discovered that she had great endurance, and was able to comfortably lope along mile after mile. Back home in Green Bay during school vacations, she ran with the local running club which holds an annual six-hour race where runners do consecutive loops around a four-mile course, covering as many loops (and miles) as possible within six (or eight) hours.

She loved it, and has been doing ultras and marathons ever since.

Hermans incurred a fibula stress fracture in 2011, but attributes it to running in the wrong shoes. She is now wearing different shoes and her mega-mile string of races in late 2012 were all completed without a problem. But, she admits that she was sore for a couple of days after the last ultra over a hilly, snowy course in Indiana.

Liz has a PhD in English and Women's Studies, and is currently working on a master's degree in library science while working fulltime, teaching online college courses. She moved to Oak Park with her significant other, a faculty member at Dominican University, so they're a highly academic couple.

It would seem that long distance trail runs are a nice diversion from academia, and Hermans likes the smaller, less intense community of ultra runners. She says they are "laid back, friendly," and that they like to talk to other runners. She says that trails are easier on the joints than pavement, and her formula is: "Don't push myself, and take it easy, if that's what my body is telling me what to do." (But "taking it easy" over 31 miles seems a bit contradictory to me.)

Hermans has little interest in conventional 5K, 8K or 10K road race distances, instead aiming to run one or two marathons or ultras a month through 2013. Obviously that's well over a dozen long races for the year. But, interestingly, her total miles for 2012 were about 1900 — which is not a huge number. Even I've done that many, and I never much liked the longer races. Hermans' formula is for about three shorter runs during the week, with a long run on the weekend. And that long weekend run is often a marathon or an ultra.

It's not for everyone, but it works fine for her.


Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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