Humility: His mentor of seven years preaches it, no, requires it. And Richard Pelfrey gets it.
“It’s his number one lesson. Don’t tell anyone about the runs,” Richard explained of his mentor, Greg Martin of Columbia. “Humility equals anonymity. It keeps us from grandstanding.”
In all fairness, it was Greg Martin who called to crow about Richard’s completion of the Wild Trails Signal Mountain 50 Miler in December 2016. “A day that only 137 athletes completed and will live in their memories forever,” he emailed.
Starting and ending at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, the challenging course traverses Chattanooga Nature Center, Arbortum and the Lula Lake Land Trust and is “clearly one of the best ultra trail races in the southeast each year,” Martin continued.
“In addition to the 50 mile distance, the race now boasts over 6,000 feet in elevation gain. Climbing over a mile by itself is not for the average distance runner making Pelfrey’s accomplishment even more noteworthy,” Martin added.
Richard Pelfrey is a licensed substance abuse counselor at Buffalo Valley Inc. in Hohenwald. He and Martin have been running together, almost every Saturday for six years.
“It’s tough getting started with anything,” Richard explained during our recent interview. The key is focus and flow. Flow, he described, is “all that falls away when all you are doing is running.”
And flow can apply to whatever you may be passionate about. “When you get in the zone, that is flow,” Richard said.
And getting in flow, surrendering, or “welcoming the sacred,” as Richard puts it, is part of what saved his life seven years ago.
He was at the low bottom, an addict and living on the streets. In a former life, he held a good job in Florida but, suffering an emptiness, a spiritual disconnect, he began experimenting with drugs then lost it all.
It was Jesse K. with A Place of Hope in Columbia who picked him up. And he was willing. “I did not want sobriety help. I didn’t want to spend another winter under the bridge. And I wanted a shower and to not have to stand in line for hot food.”
Through a series of events, Richard said something happened.
“I began to want something. I became open to hope that I could change. I believed I had ruined everything and that I was who I was.”
Like many who begin to get clean, Richard started working out, then running, appreciating the high of a good workout. Running his first mile was a huge accomplishment and he called Greg. “That’s when our running friendship started,” he said.
Picking up more distance and working through injuries, the enthusiast in him pushed to the extreme. “One day a few years ago I thought, ‘I bet I can run 10 miles,’” he commented. And he did.
“Training moves me into a place of discipline.” Four months of extensive training for a 50 mile race is a huge time commitment, taking time away from family and friends. Specific daily goals prepare for the endurance run requiring huge sacrifices for the runner and “those willing to be a part of his carefully scripted training program,” Martin explained.
Weekend runs of 20-25 miles help reach weekly goals of 50 miles. But its not the distance that is the focus, Richard said, it’s running when tired and sore.
“I knew the training would trickle down to the rest of my life, giving me discipline, giving me center,” Richard shared.
Camaraderie on the trail was the final impetus for completion of the 50 mile race, keeping humility in his mind. “I would not have been able to do that by myself. When you are there, its not that big a deal. There are several who run it in half the time.”
Richard completed the Signal Mountain 50 miler in 12 hours, 35 minutes, barely finishing in the required 13 hours time frame.
Richard’s big goal for 2017 is to run from the front steps of the Lewis County Court House to the Maury County Court House, a distance he estimates, with Google help, at 33 miles.
In November, he hopes to participate in a 100 mile run in Illinois.
“Discipline. And that flow thing. That spiritual connection on the other side of the pain. I enjoy it. And I’m crazy,” Richard noted with a laugh.
As to the changes in his life that have brought him full circle, he added, “ I can’t take the credit. It’s God that brings it about. It’s the grace. I acknowledge it and I hold onto it.”
Want to train for a 50 mile run? Check out this resource.
Always consult a physician before beginning any new physical training exercise.