UWL alums find joy in ultramarathons
It’s about an hour before sunrise when Jacob Hegge, ’13, crosses the finish line in Superior. He’s the first person to break the tape in the 100-mile ultramarathon run, after 19 hours and 30 minutes of constant running.
Not far behind is Michael Borst, ’15. He earns second in the grueling-sounding run. “There’s no way to truly get in shape for a 100-miler,” says Hegge. “It’s all in your head.”
The duo, picking up the name ‘the La Crosse boys’ in the ultramarathon-scene, have been earning top finishes in races that go distances farther than a 26.2 mile marathon across the area.
They have been using the vast trail system in La Crosse together to train since Borst’s freshman year at UWL. Both had previously run track and cross country, but Hegge says they “found the trail system, got lost in it and have been going in the ultra scene ever since.”
They can often be found running with the sunrise in the bluffs. “Mostly we’re out there shooting the breeze and having fun,” says Hegge.
The (not-so) distant future
Hegge and Borst are both in the physical therapy graduate program at UWL. Both plan to incorporate their running experience into their patient care.
“A lot of runners feel a disconnect from their providers because they haven’t experienced the ‘I have to finish this race’ mindset,” says Borst. “To bring our experience into patient care would be very valuable.
Hegge suggested opening a running specialty clinic in conjunction with Grand Bluff Running in downtown La Crosse. Tyler Heinz, ‘14, owns that store.
Heinz, who served as the support crew for Hegge and Borst in Superior, opened the running specialty store about a year and a half ago. “It started as a small business plan in a class project. A few years later, it’s a store.”
The business has also expanded with race management and timing. It also sponsors runners like Hegge and Borst.
“It’s nice to offer something for post-collegiate athletes to pursue what they love,” says Heinz.
Putting La Crosse on the running map
Together, the three runners have organized an ultra-marathon through the trails of La Crosse. The Hixon 50 is set for Nov. 1. The 25k and 50k races will take runners through those same trails that have helped Hegge and Borst make a name in the ultramarathon-scene.
“It’s exciting,” says Heinz. “We will probably have over 200 people running.”
They believe trail runs and ultramarathons will become more prominent, especially in our community – and they have big plans to help it keep growing.
“We all share a similar goal of putting La Crosse on the running map,” says Hegge.