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The agony and ecstasy of Gordy Ainsleigh's 100 miles at 70

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Gordy Ainsleigh struggled but succeeded in his quest at 70 to complete a 100-mile endurance run.

And his feat – complete with a gut-wrenching strain to the finish line over the last 10 miles – is gaining national notice.

A Meadow Vista chiropractor, Ainsleigh pioneered Western States Trail endurance running in the Auburn area when he took off with the Tevis Cup horses in 1974 and finished the 100-mile route from high in the Sierra to Auburn. More than four decades later, the Western States 100 pioneer said interview requests from Trail Runner magazine and a popular East Coast podcast followed his epic and ultimately successful North Carolina quest for triple-digit mileage.

Ainsleigh hasn’t had much luck in attempts to run 100 miles in the last two years, suffering a concussion in one run and bowing out of others because of nagging back problems.

“Most chiropractors become chiropractors because they were so impressed with what chiropractic did to them, which means that almost all chiropractors have problem backs,” Ainsleigh said with a smile.

Temperatures dipped into the 30s and snow fell for part of the run as many in the field dropped out. By the end of the race, which takes place near Raleigh, North Carolina, 58 percent of the runners had left the run to the die-hards.

Ainsleigh slogged on, keeping up a sub-12-hour pace for the first 50 miles. But the time slowed considerably as the mileage moved higher. By the last 10 miles, he was running on fumes – clocking a 50-hour pace for 100 miles, or about 2 miles an hour.

A photo shows Ainsleigh hunched over and struggling forward near the finish line with two poles in his hands providing extra leverage – an agonizing picture of suffering that Ainsleigh readily acknowledges was taking place.

“I was too trashed to do anything but cripple across the finish,” Ainsleigh said.

Ainsleigh’s time was 29 hours and 5 minutes. Rested after his return from last Sunday’s dramatic finish, he described the run as No. 1 in a unique category.

“This run at Umstead ties with my seminal Western States 100 in 1974, when the temperature was 107 degrees, in terms of suffering required to get to the finish,” Ainsleigh said.