If you read my column, you know that my absolute favorite podcast is located right here in Chicago and is called Ten Junk Miles. The hosts are a group of fun-loving ultra-runners that are not only hysterical, but are really great people. If you want to check out my experience getting to know the gang, you can read my recap here.
Last year I heard one of the funniest episodes that was recorded following the gang’s UNSUPPORTED 100 mile run from Milwaukee to Chicago on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, hosts were loopy, drifted off in their thoughts, and even fell asleep mid-sentence. I laughed my way through the 45-minutes podcast and also had my heart warmed as I found out why these crazies had tackled this huge feat.
Titled the “Alfredo Pedro Perro World’s Longest Turkey Trot,” this race is honor of podcast host, Scott Kummer’s friend and ultramarathoner, Alfredo Perro. “This is the 7th year we’ve done this,” explained Kummer. “6 years ago Alfredo wanted to do a 100 mile race before the end of the year and it didn’t work for him logistically to do any existing race. My idea was that we should create our own by running from the Bean to Milwaukee which looked to be approximately 100 miles. Most of our friends thought we were crazy, and didn’t think we could make it. Somehow, we did. By the time we finished there was a small group of people cheering us on. The following year Alfredo was diagnosed with ALS and couldn’t come, but a couple of friends decided to join me again, running from Milwaukee to Chicago instead. It was equally awful. Then Alfredo died from ALs and we decided to keep this thing going to remember him and to raise money to fight ALS through the Les Turner ALS Foundation – which was very helpful to him when he was diagnosed.”
Alfredo and Scott ran and trained together, sharing lots of suffering on the trails. “We did our first 100-mile race together and a number of equally dumb feats thereafter. He was the person in my world that I felt like I could do anything with. Just knowing he was on the trail with me gave me strength and hope. We both were recovering alcoholics and dog lovers as well. I don’t know anyone that didn’t love Alfredo. He was that kind of person that you couldn’t help but want to be around.”
On Friday and Saturday, Scott and fourteen of his running buddies will set out to tackle this enormous feat. “This year’s group is around 15 people (you never know until we start how many are actually coming),” stated Kummer. “We have Franziska Andonopoulos, Linda Lopez, Adam Benkers, Holly Lindroth, Tammy Hellings, Jim Arnold, Jen Birkner, Shaun Barnes, Richard Schick, Jimmy Jones, George Szferik, Mindy Duncan, Amanda Smith, Matt Matheney, Marhsa Ko and Julie Astairs. And of course Alfredo will be there in my heart.”
After Alfredo’s diagnosis, Scott would often push him in carts during races because he loved being at the events. A true runner, Alfredo gave back to the running community, even in his final days. “He loved being at the events and seeing the strength people got from seeing him,” Kummer reflected. “He was diagnosed with ALS in early December 2014 and was already having trouble running. Even walking was difficult. He kept falling and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. There were repeated visits to the doctor and hospital with no answers. Then in winter 2014 he called me and told me that they gave him an answer. We continued to try to involve him in the sport. Transporting him to races and finish lines and even pushing him in a cart at a few races.”
Alfredo fought a battle with the disease but lost his life to it in November, 2015. Hearing Scott reflect on his friend, Alfredo, always brings tears to my eyes. He was by Alfredo’s side through the diagnosis and ensured that his friend was able to be at as many races as he could. That love is embodied the spirit of the world’s longest turkey trot and the real reason that people show up each year to do this crazy thing.
This unsupported run is kind of planned, but mostly, they just wing it. “The event usually takes between 25-35 hours,” explained Kummer. “We have a general idea of most of the route but there is always some changed based on conditions, getting lost, wanting to stop at Taco Bell, etc. There is no crew and no aid stations. We are self-supported. We use gas stations and restaurants (sometimes much to their dismay) for warming up, food or just resting.”
To their credit, this is an experienced group of ultramarathoners. Their fitness levels are high, many of them running ultra’s on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. They are also used to extreme conditions from racing difficult ultra’s like Tuscobia. “It is very much a group event with the slowest person setting the pace. We may hike most of it. Or just a little. It really depends on the what the day and weather gives us (currently scheduled – pouring rain the whole time).”
As you can imagine, Scott has seen just about everything in the 600 miles of turkey trots he has organized over the last 6 years. “We’ve been pulled over by the police a few times, gotten lost, had a dance contest in a Taco Bell, fallen asleep in several different restaurants and gas stations. We’ve had fights, made and ended friendships, been followed by news cameras, you name it.”
Make sure to follow Ten Junk Miles Podcast on social media to keep up to date on their Midwest hike this weekend. And, if we’re lucky, maybe we will get another gem of a podcast when they finally make it back to Chicago.
“The whole idea behind this event now is to remember Alfredo and raise money for ALS. If everyone reading this article just donated $5 it could make a world of difference. Seriously, I don’t want anyone else to ever have to watch their best friend go from 100 mile run finisher to unable to move in one year. This disease is just awful.”