While so many others around him limped, listed and moved gingerly Sunday morning as the clock trickled down on 144 consecutive hours of circling the track, Joe Fejes’ gait looked much like it did at the start of the Six Days at the Dome.
As Fejes alternated running and walking, he didn’t show any of the obvious signs of distress that wracked most of his colleagues.
“I think a lot of it is muscle memory,’’ Fejes said after the clock stopped and he did likewise.
He had just covered 580.56 miles in six days, just shy of a dream goal, but still a personal record, more than his previous best of 555 miles and more than the 575.75 miles Stu Mittleman covered 30 years ago inside a fieldhouse in Colorado.
“It wasn’t 600 – I was shooting for 600,’’ Fejes said. “Goal No. 1 was to PR. Goal No. 2 was to hit 578. So I’m satisfied. I got those two goals.’’
Fejes, a 48 year-old lawyer from Georgia who organized the event, topped Japan’s Kenji Okiyama, 49, who covered 474.16 miles.
Liz Bauer, 55, of Georgia, led the women at 425.33 miles, followed by Canadian Marylou Corino, 36, who totaled 410.17 miles.
Through four-plus days, Fejes’ closest competition was David Johnston, 44, of Willow. After 96 hours – four and a half days – Johnston trailed Fejes by about 20 miles, 447.95 to 427.13.
That was roughly when Johnston pulled out of the event late Friday night. He said he believed Fejes was being paced by other runners. A note on the race’s website said pacing was prohibited, but that note did not define what constitutes pacing.
Fejes said he sometimes ran in a “train’’ of runners. A “train’’ is a group of racers running close together, single-file. Video-streaming of the race showed Fejes running second in a train Saturday afternoon that featured between three and eight runners over the course of an hour. Fejes said “trains’’ are common in ultramarathons and he does not consider that being paced.
“I think of pacing as bringing in a runner specifically to pace you,’’ he said. “I was disappointed Dave dropped out.’’
Johnson said he definitely considered a “train’’ to be pacing.
“I run for fun,’’ Johnston said. “It was very bizarre. In my opinion, it’s dirty pool. I’ll quit if I can’t go on or I’m injured, but this was not the case.’’
Johnston returned to the Alaska Dome on Sunday morning to cheer runners as they wrapped the race. He shook hands with Fejes when Fejes approached him.
Fejes said his only physical concern in the race was that he had blood in his urine for the last five days. He changed his sleep pattern from two hours daily early in the race to one later in the race where he took half-hour naps after every 10 miles run.
Bauer said she felt like a zombie in the late stages of the race, and that likely stemmed from running too hard early, when she noticed Corino’s speed.
“I did the classic mistake, I didn’t run my own race,’’ Bauer said.
Still, Bauer held off Corino, even as she felt herself occasionally nodding off when she slowed to a walk.
“I could feel myself losing consciousness,’’ she said, grinning. “It was a cool, out-of-body experience.’’
Yolanda Holder, 56, of California, put the power in power-walker – she covered 400.15 miles in her six-day debut, averaging about one hour of sleep per day.
“Let’s see,’’ Holder said. “In one word, it was ‘different.’ ‘’