The Oil Creek 100 Miler in Pennsylvania began on Oct. 12 and went on throughout the night. Sergeant Mike Jarratt (right) and Sergeant Greg Watts ran this ultramarathon. (Submitted photo)
450 THS Sergeants take on Oil Creek 100 Miler
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday November 7, 2019
Completing a marathon is difficult enough, but tack on an additional 74 miles and you have the daunting Oil Creek 100 Miler, an ultramarathon in Pennsylvania.
Sergeant (Sgt) Mike Jarratt completed this gruelling challenge in 31:12:15.40. Alongside him for most of the race was fellow Sergeant (Sgt) Greg Watts. Both flight engineers at 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (450 THS) trained at home and while they were deployed in Mali.
Though Watts was unable to complete the race, he did run about 50 miles on a fractured foot, which is an incredible feat that few would imagine doing. “We were running together until the moment he had to call it,” said Sgt. Jarratt. “He motivated me to keep going when I was a few low spots at the beginning of the race, and then later in the race, I think I motivated him to keep going as far as he could.”
This year, it was held on Oct. 12 and runners had 32 hours to complete the ultramarthon, forcing them to continue on without pause or rest. This sort of race isn’t done on a whim. It requires intense training. Last time the pair tried such a long race, they ended up at the 95 mile marker before having to stop. So for Sgt. Jarratt, completing the race was a chance to finish what they started. “I wasn’t going out to win it,” he admitted. “I’m a back of the packer. I don’t run fast. I just run long.
“With races like that, it is all about pacing and what you can maintain rather than a quicker pace,” he added.
To train for such a long endurance run, he does the 80/20 running method, where he does 80 per cent of his runs at a low intensity and then cranks it up for the other 20 per cent.
It can be hard to avoid injury, but the safest way to get to the ultramarathon level is to condition your body at a slower speed until you can do the distance and then work on your speed. Comfort is hard to find when running for so long.
After being on his feet without rest, Sgt. Jarratt admitted that sleep deprivation became a challenge. On the dark wooded trail, he began to hallucinate houses and beachballs in the trees. This did not cause him to pause, however. “You just keep moving,” said Sgt. Jarratt.
Running the distance had an almost meditative effect. He went into flow, a state of consciousness where people are completely absorbed in an activity. “It was amazing at times,” he said.
It wasn’t until he hit the last leg of the race that he truly began to suffer. He had to keep himself motivated, running almost scared as he had to ensure he hit the checkmarks on time to avoid disqualification. He did find solace in a few familiar faces.
His wife Lee Jarratt and Sgt. Watts’ wife Melissa Watts were at several of the checkmarks along the way, offering support and provisions and doing all they could to keep spirits up. “They were Greg and I’s support crew,” said Sgt. Jarratt. “They were at the aid stations and fed us and made sure we were on track.
“Even at three o’clock in the morning when I was running through, they were there,” he added.
Sgt. Jarratt has always been supported by his family and friends. This has allowed him to achieve his goals while balancing a heavy workload, life at home and his twin four-year-old daughters, Lilly and Elizabeth. They were all there to embrace him when he crossed the finished line.
“That external motivation certainly helps,” said Sgt. Jarratt.