by Shiela Steinman Wallace
For many an experienced runner, a 5K run is a piece of cake; a half-marathon is a bit more challenging, but still not a stretch; and a marathon – 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers – is the longest distance they tackle.
But for Madelyn Blue, with more than 30 marathons to her credit, a marathon just isn’t much of a challenge, so on June 28 and 29, she set her sights on the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
The Louisville native grew up riding horses, “and when my horse got hurt,” she said, “I needed a sport that was equally challenging.” She began running and did marathons until she got bored with them.
Next she bought a bicycle and began competing in triathlons and Iron Man competitions until, once again, she got bored.
Trail running was her next choice. “It’s easier on the knees than running on pavement.” From there, she began upping her distances and entering ultra-distance competitions – “a 50 miler and a couple of 35 milers.”
Getting into the Western States race was a dream she wasn’t sure she’d be able to accomplish. Runners have to qualify first by completing longer races within specific times, then they are entered in a lottery which determines who will compete in the race.
Blue accomplished her first goal and qualified to enter the lottery. She was one of 1300 to do so, but only 400 were selected to compete. When her name was chosen, the hard work began.
Known as the toughest 100-mile race, Western States starts in Squaw Valley at 5 a.m. and snakes through the desert, with the trail climbing 10,000 feet before coming back down. Competitors who don’t complete the course in under 30 hours walk away empty-handed. Blue was determined to earn her belt buckle.
With Troy Shellhamer as her coach, Blue trained hard and planned every leg of her journey – what to carry, what to wear, what pace to keep in each segment, what challenges she would encounter, how her support team would track her progress, how to stay awake and energized enough to keep going and how to keep going when the next step seemed impossible.
During the last 50 miles, Shellhamer ran with her, coaching her, monitoring her physical condition and ensuring that she followed her plan and reached her goal. He documented the entire race on his blog.
She was successful, earning a coveted bronze belt buckle.
Blue is still running. “It’s like a second job,” she said. While the amount she trains varies, she runs at least two hours a day, and sometimes does it twice in one day. Just last week, she ran 82 miles.
“It’s hard to put in words why I run,” she said, “but it is a great feeling to be able to get up and run,” and she feels fortunate to be able to do so, knowing that there are many people who have disabilities that limit them. “I enjoy being in a race and being with other people who love to run.”
When she isn’t running, Blue is a second grade teacher at St. Francis of Goshen. She and her students often undertake volunteer projects that the school calls service learning. Last year her students did household chores to earn money to support 15 endangered animals from the World Wildlife Fund, read to children, picked up trash among other things.
She also enjoys going out with family and friends.
The youngest of seven children, her parents are Bruce Blue and Dianna Schmied. She is a member of Adath Jeshurun.