Couple Races Ultra Marathons

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

April 19, 2005

Running 100 miles in one day, it sounds crazy, even inhuman, but to Russell Gill, it was a challenge.

"I'd never been to the point of total exhaustion," said Gill. "What would I do? Would I stop, quit and roll into a ball on the side of the trail and cry? Or would I finish?"

Finish, he did; in fact, very well. Now Gill competes in endurance races all over the world, but he wasn't always a big runner.

"I wasn't Forrest Gump when I was seven," he said. "I wasn't trying to run across the state or something like that."

Gill's endurance running interest was peaked when he moved to Charlottesville. He entered many trail races and continued to do well and continued to look for more challenges. Luckily, he found a girl running on a trail, who not only understood this time-consuming sport, but also did it too.

"It's easier, in a sense for us, because when we have to spend a whole Saturday in the woods, we do it together, so there is no sense of guilt," said Gill's girlfriend, Francesca Conte.

Training can take all day. When they come home, they are beat. Running that far for that long can take its toll on their bodies; therefore, it is very important to eat and drink during training to stay strong.

Gill eats as much as 7,000 calories a day. If they do not stay energized and hydrated, some funny things can happen.

"About three years ago, I was running a race in California and I got dehydrated, and I was running on the trail and there were guys in robes floating along the trail, just hanging with me," Gill recalled of his hallucination.

In addition to these physical and mental challenges of ultra running, Gill does it because it gives him time to think, relax and see some beautiful sites.

"We may be in the San Juan mountains or Rocky mountains, and you're up at 10 or 12,000 miles sometimes, and you are seeing mountain lakes and vistas that no one else has seen in a long time," said Gill.

Gill and Conte organize many races in the area, including the Charlottesville Marathon. They are also opening the Charlottesville Running Store in the Millmont shopping center this July.

They say they do all this because they really want Charlottesville to get active.

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