From the looks of Darin Schneidewind, he’d had an extensive, rough Saturday night.
The 43-year-old Lyndon man sat at a Clinton Lake Park table shortly after sunrise Sunday, spent and disheveled. When he moved, he did so with the limberness of a man twice his age.
Too many beers the night before? No, that would have been the old Darin, who drank and ate whatever he pleased and couldn’t run to cross the street.
The new Darin, achy and bleary-eyed, was a few hours and a far-too-brief nap removed from winning the Hawk Hundred — a 100-mile trail race — in 20 hours, 20 minutes and 30 seconds.
Schneidewind hasn’t always spent his weekends racing from 6 a.m. one day to 2 a.m. the next. His path to ultra running began with what he called a midlife crisis at 38. Schneidewind weighed 235 pounds and began running to lessen the load he carried with him everywhere he went.
After deeming himself fit enough to run a marathon, he decided, “That wasn’t hard.”
A month later he signed up for his first 50-kilometer race, in which he finished third. About a year-and-a-half after making a health-conscious lifestyle change that included a drastically more healthy diet, Schneidewind had fallen in love with trail running and competed in his first 100-miler.
Now more than three years into a steady schedule of ultra races, the 155-pound Schneidewind’s Hawk Hundred victory marked his second 100-mile title.
“I just kind of got addicted,” he said. “It’s basically what I do for a hobby now.”
He also has won a 40-miler and a 100K race at Clinton Lake, which he considers his home course.
That’s where he trains with Sherrie Klover, 45, Bonner Springs. It’s no coincidence that she won the female championship and finished second overall in 21:58:28.
For Schneidewind, getting mentally and physically prepared for a brutally long 100-miler involves training “like an animal.” He works 55 hours a week as a structural steel detailer, yet somehow finds time to run 70 to 100 miles a week. He can’t help feeling selfish when he loses six or seven hours of a Saturday to training out on the trails when he and his wife, Darcie, could be spending time with their family. He credits her support as a big part of his success.
But the camaraderie of ultra runners has as much to do with Schneidewind’s love for the sport as anything. Every race brings more friends, and he found out Saturday even strangers can be kind on the rocky, unforgiving Clinton Lake trails that cover the course’s 25-mile loop.
“One time I was literally on the ground for 40 minutes with both my calves cramping, and another runner came back and helped me for 20 minutes,” Schneidewind said. “He was in a race, too.”
His fellow runner helped him work out the cramps, but the cramps came back 20 miles later — “I ran on the verge of cramping for almost 40 miles,” Schneidewind said. Stubbornness might have been the only thing that got him through the pain.
“Most people would’ve crawled under a rock and wanted to die,” he said.
Once it became dark Saturday night, Schneidewind strapped on a headlamp and ran with another light in his hand to avoid tripping. His pace slowed, but he still finished his last lap almost two hours ahead of the second-closest male, John Pollihan, 31, St. Charles, Mo., third overall at 22:10:44.
Though 26 entered the Hawk Hundred, race organizer Danny Miller said half the field didn’t finish due to fatigue, torn up feet or some other state of pain. As Schneidewind put it, it takes a certain kind of person to endure 100 miles of running for a belt buckle, awarded to each finisher.
“You don’t win any money. Normally we don’t get our name in the paper,” he said. “It’s what we do for fun.”
As draining as it is, Schneidewind said ultra runners find a way to thrive on their 100-mile journeys.
“We’re just ordinary people,” he said, “doing extraordinary things.”