(Posted March 25, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
On April 2, long distance runner Sunshine Sung will run 51 miles non-stop from Columbus to Xenia on the Ohio To Erie Trail. She’s hoping to see friends and strangers alike cheer her on along the route, including the section that runs through London.
Sung, a Columbus resident, is training for a chance to run next year’s Spartathlon in Greece, a 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta. The route retraces the steps of Pheidippides, a foot messenger sent to Sparta in 490 B.C. to seek help against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.
“I’d love the opportunity for my feet to touch that ground and relive that route,” she said.
To qualify, Sung must complete a minimum of 105 miles in a sanctioned 24-hour race. Her sights are set on this year’s Outrun 24 event slated for April 30-May 1 near Cleveland.
“This year, my goal at that race is to take the course record. I will need to run more than 127 miles in 24 hours,” she said.
Sung ran Outrun 24 last year for the first time, completing 85 miles before severely blistered toes and detached toenails forced her to stop. She has a new strategy this year that involves changing shoes and addressing injury issues every 26 miles.
“When I saw that my coach scheduled a 51-mile training run close to the event, I was immediately excited,” Sung said. “I could not think of a better way to celebrate than to run a gorgeous stretch of the Ohio To Erie Trail.”
On April 2, Sung will start her 51-mile training run at 7 a.m. at West Sullivant Avenue on the westside of Columbus. She will follow the Ohio To Erie Trail, a multi-use hiking and biking path, west into Madison County. She estimates she will arrive at the Battelle Darby Creek Metropark parking lot near West Jefferson at 8:17 a.m. and reach London by 10:37 a.m.
Inside the London city limits, she will follow the marked business route that connects the Prairie Grass Trail and Roberts Pass Trail sections of the Ohio To Erie Trail. Spectators are welcome to line the route, which runs from Maple Street to East First Street to South Main Street to West High Street to Midway Street before rejoining the trail.
After leaving London, Sung will make her way to South Charleston (12:27 p.m.), Cedarville (2:13 p.m.), and finally Xenia (3:55 p.m.)
She welcomes not only cheers but also anyone who wants to run with her. She notes that she sticks faithfully to a pace of 10 minutes, 30 seconds per mile.
“The more cheers I can get, the better. It brings a lot of energy,” she said. “And anybody can join me. The more the merrier. I love company and meeting new people.”
Sung said she also appreciates help with staying on course. With ultra-long distance running, mental fatigue can make the simplest tasks, like following directions, difficult. The Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails plan to have trail sentinels along the route to keep her headed in the right direction. She’ll also have her own bicycle support crew on hand.
Sung, 39, started running in February 2011 as a means to lose weight. She started with a 5K and was immediately hooked.
“I found that I was no longer running to lose weight; I was actually working on weight loss so that I could run better, faster, longer, just more,” she said. “It seemed like no matter how many miles I logged or hard of an effort I put into the sport, my appetite for more miles was insatiable.”
Since her first 5K, she has run seven marathons, one 50-kilometer race, one 50-mile race, and one 24-hour race.