When Mellisa Warden was growing up, she never considered herself a runner. She even had to be convinced to run cross country during her senior year in high school.
Now, Warden finds herself competing in back-to-back 50K runs this weekend, one in Columbia on Saturday and one in Lithia Springs, Ga. on Sunday.
After competing in her first marathon, the thought of long-distance running didn’t take on any extra appeal for Warden.
“It was a horrible experience,” said Warden, who trained for two months as an 18 year old.
However, the marathon did anything but deter the athlete. The athlete, who participated in throwing events while competing in track during high school, continued to run in half-marathons over the next decade. She had thoughts about competing in an ultra race when she developed Iliotibial Band Syndrome. IT Syndrome, as it is commonly known, is a superficial thickening of the tissue on the outside of the knee.
But the injury didn’t preclude the Warden from competing.
It was through the influence of a fellow ultra runner that Warden made the transition from half-marathons to participating in triathlons. Warden would go onto compete in the Augusta Half-Iron Man 70.3 in 2011, and eventually participated in her first 50K, or 31-mile race. Warden, a mother and wife with a job, is a horseman. She’s both rider and trainer, and is relegated to training by running on the tread mill because of her busy schedule.
“I set my sights on the North Phase Challenge in Atlanta in Pine Mountain, Ga. in October 2012,” said Warden. “It was a pretty emotional race because of all the years and time building up to the event, and then to finally run in the race and finish it.”
Warden, who participates in three-day event horse trials, ran with another eventer, Sarah Hansel, who has provided Warden with the impetus to take her training to the next level. It was through Hansel’s insistence that Warden followed up her first 50K effort by accepting the challenge of competing in a 40-mile race on Dec. 2, which she completed in 9 hours, shaving nearly an hour-and-a-half off of her time at the 50K mark from her previous effort.
“Sarah has been fantastic,” said Warden. “She’s like the little devil on my shoulder, telling me to run faster, when I need to hold back. She’s my motivator and challenger. While I’m out there, I’m pretty content racing my race. Sarah goes out and races the race.”
Several questions will be answered this weekend as this will be the first time Warden has competed in 50K races on consecutive days.
“The goal is not to win the race, although my times are consistent with those of the top female times,” said Warden.
Warden said Sarah will run in the Lithia Springs 50K, “so she will be the little devil sticking me with the pitchfork, making me do it. The whole family is going to be out there. It’s great to have people out there cheering because even when you’re in your darkest hour, and there are people who still believe in you.”