Congratulations to Neeraj Egbert, PT, who was selected as the October Frazier Rehab Athlete of the Month. Neeraj is an ultra-marathoner who just recently completed a 100-mile run.
How long have you been participating in this sport/activity?I have been running on trails for a little over 3 years. I ran my first ultra-marathon in September 2016. Since then I have run and completed 14 ultra-marathons in 14 different states. All these races have been in the range of 50 kilometers to a 100 miles.
Why did you select this sport/activity and how did you get your start?
A runner friend of mine invited me to a group trail run at Seneca Park in June 2016. At 44 y/o, I was the youngest in the group. Now, these runners were fast! I had not been a fan of running - it basically just hurt. As I talked to these runners, I learned that they had been running for years on trails and had no significant running ending injuries. The trails were beautiful, and I could hike or run when I wanted to. The following week I also ran at Cherokee Park and Jefferson Memorial Forest. I then started buying lots of trail running shoes and that was the start of it. The tough part was selling my new found sport to my family.
What is your skill level? Any special credentials/certifications?
I have fine-tuned my trail running skills to an advanced level. Ultra-marathons are generally ranked by technicality of trails, distance and elevation. I have completed a couple of ultra-marathons known for being extremely tough – The Bear 100 mile run in Utah and The Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile run.
What kind of training is required to be successful?
There is a significant amount of logistical planning and preparation involved. This includes recruiting crew members and pacers. Sometimes they have no idea what they signed up for. Running for 35 hours without stopping is more than a singular effort and I have been very fortunate to have the support of my family and friends as crew and pacers. My crew makes sure that, while running, I have all I need to succeed, and they pretty much kick me out of an aid station to keep me moving before I get too comfortable. My pacers remind me to stay hydrated, to eat, to stay on course, especially when running at night in complete wilderness.
What do you like best about this sport?
I love to travel and feel very privileged to be able to see amazing places that can only be accessed by foot. There is great diversity in the people I meet when I travel. I have met people from all over the country and the world. At aid stations I can also eat whatever I want – pizzas, burritos, tater tots, bacon, chips, cookies and ice cream to name a few junk food options!
How do you work this activity into your weekly exercise routine? How much time do you commit to the sport?
As I get closer to a race, I complete training runs about 3 times a week. I do not run as much as some ultra-marathoners do as I rely on overall fitness, cross training and mental preparation. Prior to a races I study course maps in great detail to identify challenging areas such as big climbs, big drops, river crossing or long areas without support.
What is the most physically challenging aspect of the sport?
Physical and mental fatigue, lack of sleep, blisters, sprains and strains, contusions, bee stings, dehydration, and hypothermia. There is also always the thought of being bitten by a snake or attacked by a bear or mountain lion, and of course getting lost. There are times when it feels impossible that the body can move any more. When I was in Utah, I remember leaving an aid station with my pacer thinking that there was no way I could move another 25 miles. As I was walking, he told me that running was going to hurt as much as walking, so I might as well try running. I thought I would fall over, but I somehow got myself running again.
Have you experienced/overcome related injuries?
Absolutely. I am very fortunate to have co-workers who have helped me out with advice when I have been injured. I have severely sprained my ankle during training which made me run with a lace up ankle brace in Tahoe and have also had episodes of hip and back pain. Getting rest, eating well, and managing stress have been huge factors for me in preventing injuries.
Was there a person who encouraged or influence you to begin, continue or take the sport to a higher level?
There are a few very accomplished trail runners that I follow, however my inspiration comes from a feeling of gratitude towards my abilities. I have had patients in the past who have worked so much harder that I can imagine, and that inspires me to push myself and to test out the limits of endurance and ability.
Has your sport impacted the way you work with, or given you tactics to motivate your patients?
I believe it is my patients that motivate me. Ultimately no matter what our backgrounds are we are all trying to move ahead toward our goals even when they seem unreasonable and out of reach.
Any sport-related personal goals?
Yes, I would love to run the Western States 100 (in my opinion the equivalent of the Boston Marathon for trail runners), the Hardrock 100 in San Juan Mountains in Colorado and the Utra Trail Mont Blanc. Each year, I run qualifying races so I can put my name in the hat for these races. Hopefully one of these days I will get picked. I would also like to run an ultra-marathon in all 50 states.
Anything else about this sport or your passion to compete that you’d like to share?
I recently heard a poem by Mary Oliver a Pulitzer prize winner, who passed away earlier this year. In her poem The Summer Day she writes “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It reminds me how fragile and resilient we are as humans. How we need to respect all around us and to just get along. This poem summarizes my desire to run and explore.