Photos courtesy of Eric O’Connor
After spending 24 hours on a treadmill last year, Eric O’Connor needed a new challenge for 2016. No stranger to ultrarunning—in addition to his treadmill run last year, O’Connor has completed multiple other ultras ranging from 50 to 120 miles—he decided this year to see if he could break a Guinness World Record in the sport.
Starting on Feb. 18, O’Connor will run a 50K on the Illinois Prairie Path from Wheaton approximately to Berkley and back every day for 25 consecutive days. The current Guinness World Record for consecutive ultramarathons stands at 21 days, set by JC Santa Teresa in December 2014.
“I’m pretty much a middle-of-the-pack ultrarunner and I’m not all that fast in marathons, so I’m not a gifted runner or anything,” O’Connor says. “This is definitely going to push my limits.”
O’Connor ran 297 miles in January as part of training for his world record attempt, but that distance barely holds a candle to the 775 miles he will cover by completing 25 consecutive 50Ks.
“Three hundred miles in training involves taking the day off, sleeping a bunch more, taking an extra rest day if I don’t feel great,” O’Connor says. “This is a whole other level of running for me.”
The enormity of his feat is half the point, however. O’Connor, who developed blood clots and pulmonary emboli, which occur when clots block arteries in the lungs, after knee surgery in 2011 likes to perform out-of-the-ordinary runs to grab people’s attention and raise awareness about blood clots and $50,000 for the National Blood Clot Alliance.
“This mission of the [NBCA] is prevention and awareness, so bringing signs and symptoms awareness to the general public about blood clots is so important to prevent blood clots,” O’Connor says. “Understanding what blood clots are, how you get them and knowing signs and symptoms can keep them from going into your chest and creating pulmonary emboli, which is what kills you.”
O’Connor will balance his running with his work as a professional wedding photographer and his family life, which means he will generally head out for his daily run at 4 a.m. While the timing and distance will keep him from consistent running buddies, he expect to have a few companions, including a few blood clot survivors who will complete their first 50Ks, others who will join him for parts of runs and his sons for the final few miles on weekends.
“Something that’s been important is I really try to keep the running out of family time, so I don’t disappear for four or five hours on Sundays,” O’Connor says. “I coach two baseball teams and have always coached my boys in soccer. I don’t miss their activities for mine.”
O’Connor has trained for three months for this, using the guidance of Andrew Lemoncello, a running coach with the McMillan Running Company, who has been his coach for years.
“At the beginning of the year, I give him four or five races I want to do, or say I want to run 100 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill, and he’ll right my plan accordingly throughout the year,” O’Connor says. “I said I want to do this run, and he started working on it. … It follows all of my other trainings and nothing’s really different, just that I built up to my highest mileage week of around 75 miles and then did that for multiple weeks instead of topping out at 75 and not doing another week of that mileage.”
To follow along with O’Connor’s run, or to make a donation to his fundraising, visit www.50kaday.run.