On the Run

John Cash, shown here running an ultra marathon,  recently won first place in the Mark Twain 100-Mile Endurance Run, held Sept. 15-16, in Mark Twain National Forest. Cash ran the race in 19 hours and 41 minutes, which also is a personal record.    Submitted Photo.

To John Cash of Washington, running ultra marathons isn’t about winning the race. In fact, Cash doesn’t even see running 100 miles in just 19 hours and 41 minutes as “that great or exciting.”

“It’s just something I’m passionate about,” he said. “I think anyone can do it.”

Cash, who won the Mark Twain 100-Mile Endurance Run, held Sept. 15-16, in Mark Twain National Forest, Rolla, has been running ultra marathons for about three years. Prior to that, he had competed in triathlons and Ironman competitions.

“To me, personally, it was the challenge,” he said. “I wanted to see how far I could take myself, how far I could go.”

His first ultra marathon was 44 miles long. So far, the longest has been 105 miles, though there are much longer ultra marathons, he said.

“(Ultra marathons) opened a whole new world of running for me,” Cash said, adding that he’s done about 10 to 12 so far.

To prepare for the marathons, Cash usually runs about 60 to 100 miles per week. He also cross-trains by riding a bicycle, walking, core training or hiking.

The hobby, Cash said, has brought him all over the country.

One particularly difficult marathon was in Wyoming this past June.

Cash found himself with altitude sickness and symptoms of hypothermia. He was pulled from the race.

“That’s why I wanted to have a good race — kind of a redemption,” he said, of the Mark Twain race. And the race went smoothly, he said. His 19-hour and 41-minute time was his best yet.

At the races to root him on are Cash’s wife, Renee, and two daughters, Megan and Melissa, ages 14 and 12, respectively.

Not Always a Runner

Cash said he wasn’t always interested in running, but has been active his whole life. He quit track in high school.

“It’s interesting that now that I’m older I enjoy it,” he said. “I love to run. I love being in the woods. It makes me feel like a kid again.”

Cash is a part of SLUG, St. Louis Ultra Runners. The runners, he said, are a supportive group of like-minded, inspirational people.

Anyone Can Do It

Cash is insistent that anyone can run 100 miles.

His biggest piece of advice is to learn good biomechanics of running to avoid injuries.

To learn biomechanics, proper running form and how to pick the right shoes, Cash recommends the book “Chi Running.”

“When you’re hurt, it derails your training or makes you think you can’t do it,” he said. “If you can (avoid getting) hurt, you can progress quickly.”

Cash also practices barefoot running and minimalist running as training tools to enforce good running habits, he said.

“You could run 100 miles and it’s no joke. If you think you can do it, then you can do it,” he said. “It becomes more than a hobby. It becomes a part of your life. I don’t think it’s that unbelievable once you change your perception.”

Cash said steady running and consistent training are the basis of ultra marathons.

Though, maintaining energy is the most important aspect, he said. During the marathons, he eats about every half hour while running.

Cash has run five 100-mile ultra marathons.

After a marathon, it usually takes about six to seven weeks to recover.

Cash said he doesn’t have a problem staying engaged, even while running 100 miles. He sometimes runs with pacers, and sometimes runs solo.

“I have time goals that I’d like to achieve at certain points in the race. I try to stay locked into that,” he said. “I look forward to seeing my wife at each of the aid stations she can be at.

“I’m in the moment. I live in the moment that I’m running,” he said.