Too exhausted to be happy, so tired that he seemed not to notice his students' cheers, Jim Parry gained victory over crushing fatigue by running and walking 100 miles in slightly less than 24 hours last week.
Flanked by a support team and followed closely by a deputy's car, Parry, a sixth-grade teacher at Stewartville Middle School, completed his endurance challenge by jogging the last few hundred yards along Sixth Avenue Southwest last Friday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m. Students along both sides of the street hailed his finish, chanting, "Run Jim Run!.."Run Jim Run!"
A year ago, Parry completed his first endurance challenge, covering 96 miles in 24 hours. His eyes filled with tears when he saw hundreds of students waiting to greet him at the finish. This year, he was too weary to respond.
"I was shot," he said. "Oh my gosh. I was so tired."
Parry started his run/walk from the Stewartville Middle School gym on Thursday morning, April 29 at 8:30 a.m. He knew he was in for a grueling ordeal when he started getting tired only 1 1/2 hours later.
"By 10 o'clock in the morning, I was already tired, which I did not expect at all," he said. "Last year, I wasn't tired at all by the end of the school day."
Parry ran and walked most of his challenge around a four-mile loop. As he proceeded southbound along Berg Boulevard, he faced a powerful wind from the south.
"It blew me all over the road," he said. "With that wind, I was working harder than I needed to be. Then when I turned the other direction and was going with the wind, it was really hot, and I could feel my body temperature rising."
For many miles, he battled stomach problems.
"I got sick for the first time at mile 51, and it never completely went away," he said. "I had stomach issues, and I was dizzy for awhile. The last 15 hours were really difficult. I never felt like I got relaxed. I never really got into a groove."
Sometimes, during his long training runs, Parry becomes fatigued early and isn't able to get relaxed and comfortable. If that happens, he retires early and looks forward to a fresh start the next day.
"In this case, I couldn't do that," he said. "I just had to keep fighting through it. The last 12 hours, I was in so much pain, I tried to shut everything out and just kept plowing forward."
Many adults and dozens of students joined Parry along the route. Some jogged and walked with him. Others rode bicycles. Mike Russell, a distance running coach at Stewartville during the late 1980s, kept Parry company for about 40 miles.
"The only thing that got me through was that fact that everybody showed up," Parry said. "I can't remember all the people who were there...They pulled me through. Mike Russell took over right away. He did all the thinking for me."
Ally Reiland and Alice Chase, both sixth-graders, stayed with Parry for 12 miles.
"They were amazing," Parry said. "They were there until 1:30 in the morning. They said, 'We're here to test our limits.' They deserve a big thank you."
Dawn Miller, the head girls track coach at Stewartville High School, provided some special support on Friday at about 4:45 a.m.
"At that point, I wasn't able to hold anything down," Parry said. "Dawn got the idea that toast with a lot of butter on it would be good for me. She ran to Tarsilla's, then ran back with the toast. I got that down, and after that I felt better."
Parry and his supporters persevered through rain, thunder and lightning Thursday night into Friday morning.
"If it would have gotten too dangerous, we had a plan to go inside the high school to run laps in the hallways," Parry said.
Reporters from WCCO in the Twin Cities and newspapers and television stations in Rochester covered the event. Parry was humbled by the coverage.
"I think it was neat for the kids to see that there are other people in the world who think it's important to go out and get some exercise," Parry said. "It was nice to see that there was an interest in me."
As he finished his challenge on Friday morning, Parry wasn't thinking about completing any more 24-hour ultra-marathons. By two days later, he was already pondering another challenge next year.
"Today I'm feeling pretty good," he said. "I still have some bad blisters on my feet, but my legs feel great."
"Mr. Parry's Endurance Challenge" is designed to motivate and inspire others to exercise, Parry said.
"For me it has always been running, but that doesn't mean it has to be running for everyone else," he said. "Another lesson of the challenge is the importance of relying on others. I relied on others to push and pull me through this...Without their support, I couldn't have done it."