An ultramarathoner ran over 100 miles in her house after her races were cancelled due to the pandemic
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An ultramarathoner ran over 100 miles in her house after her races were cancelled due to the pandemic

Gabby Landsverk

• Preschool teacher Stephanie Northway has been running ultramarathons, or races of more than 26 miles, since 2015, logging as many as 24 events per year.
• When her events were cancelled this year due to the pandemic, Northway and her son designed 50- and 100-mile courses in her house and backyard.
• Since April, she's completed a total of 500 miles worth of races, and earned an award from a national trail running organization for "Most Creative Race."

As an ultramarathon runner, conditioned to endure distances of up to 100 miles, Stephanie Northway is used to being patient and staying strong in the face of adversity.

But when her slate of running events this spring was cancelled due to the pandemic, she decided to just keep moving, starting by recreating a 100 mile Tennessee ultramarathon. Rather than switching hobbies, Northway and her son, a math whiz, decided to reroute all 100 miles through their Michigan home.

"I thought, I'm trained for it, I'm ready to go, so my son and I got out the tape measure and figured out it was doable," she told Insider.

But she didn't stop there. Since April, Northway has run a total of 500 miles (four 100 mile routes, and two 50 milers) in her house and backyard.

One mile indoors equals about 106 laps around the living room, Northway calculated

First, Northway ran 100 miles by jogging through her house and around the backyard. But then she decided to seek even more of a challenge by designing the full route completely indoors.

For her follow-up home 100 miler, Northway decided to run half the race in her living room and half in a hallway and spare bedroom. She and her son got to work with a tape measure calculating the distance. They found that one mile was equal to about 50 laps from the hallway to the spare bedroom, and 106 laps around the living room.

That kind of a small loop presents some logistical challenges, Northway said. First, GPS doesn't accurately measure distance and speed on that scale, so she had to manually count her laps with tally marks and keep her own time.

Second, the tiny space makes it difficult for a runner to hit her stride, since it requires constant turning around.

"Inside my house could never get a good pace, If you go too fast, you get kind of dizzy," Northway said.

As a result, she kept about a 14 minute per mile pace throughout, which she said took a little patience and a lot of persistence.

"To stay motivated, you have to not worry about how fast you're going," she said. "It may seem like you're not getting anywhere but you are."

But the work paid off, too — Northway's home 100 miler earned her a "Most Creative Race" award from the national trail and endurance running organization Aravaipa Running.

Altogether, Northway has put together more than half a dozen events, ranging up to 131 miles each, all of which she's recorded in detail on her blog.

In addition to the long runs, Northway also took on challenges like climbing the height of Mount Everest on her stairs and running seven marathons in as many days.

At-home aid stations and naps fuel Northway's long hour runs

Despite the challenges, there are some perks to an at-home race, Northway said.

One of the highlights has been setting up in-home aid stations (stops where runners can snack and re-hydrate) so she can refuel on favorites like Gatorade, coffee, Coca Cola, Pop Tarts and bananas.

"Your fridge is always right there, the bathroom is always right there, you can turn the TV on and watch a show while you're running," she said.

Many ultra races typically have a cut-off point for time after which runners forfeit (around 30 hours for most 100 mile races). For the first two races, Northway stuck to that goal, finishing in just under 23 hours and right around 30 hours. But since then, Northway's eased up on her endeavors, stopping for meals and even to sleep if she needs to.

"I keep the clock running and consider it all part of the race," she said.

Another benefit of running at home is a constant cheering squad — Northway's husband and son will often hang out with her as she runs to cheer her on and keep her company, something that helps pass the long hours and miles during the race.

You don't have to do 100 miles, or even 50, to run at home

Although Northway is a fitness aficionado, she said one of her favorite parts of running is that it's very accessible, and that people can benefit from adding even a little to their daily routines.

"Right now is the perfect time to start doing more, people have more time. Just get out there and move," she said.

While running might be intimidating for some people, especially at long distances, Northway said it doesn't have to be. A good starting point is to jog half a mile, followed by a half-mile walk, and gradually increase the running time and overall distance as you get comfortable. She said it's easy that you probably think, and you may even be surprised by what you can already accomplish.

"People are probably much better than they think they are when it comes to things like this," she said.

And whether you're new to running, or tackling a marathon or more, Northway has the same mantra.

"Just keep moving forward one step at a time, that's kind of my motto," she said. "Any little bit that you can, just keep moving forward."