Third Time Is Charm for East Hampton Grad Stedman in 100-Mile Race - 27 East

Third Time Is Charm for East Hampton Grad Stedman in 100-Mile Race

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Will Stedman surviving the darkness hours during the

Will Stedman surviving the darkness hours during the "Javelina Jundred" 100-mile race in Arizona on October 28 and 29.

East Hampton High School graduate Will Stedman, who now lives in Hawaii, completed the

East Hampton High School graduate Will Stedman, who now lives in Hawaii, completed the "Javelina Jundred," a 100-mile race, in Arizona on October 28 and 29, which earned him a spot in a lottery for entrance into the Western States 100, the Super Bowl of 100-mile endurance races.

authorCailin Riley on Nov 7, 2023

It takes a special kind of determination — and perhaps a sprinkle of madness — to enter a 100-mile race.

It takes an even more intense level of determination to enter that race three times.

That’s exactly what Will Stedman did.

The 47-year-old East Hampton graduate, who has lived in Hawaii for more than 20 years, is no stranger to endurance events. He’s finished more than 30 marathons, as well as three Kona Ironman triathlons over the course of 15 years.

Having conquered the Ironman and 30 marathons, Stedman wanted to up the ante when it comes to his endurance credentials, and for several years, he’s had his sights set on the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run, known as the “Super Bowl” of ultra running, he said. Entry into the Western States is by a lottery system, and runners must complete a different 100-mile race just to earn a spot in the lottery.

With that goal in mind, Stedman entered the Javelina 100, a 100-mile race in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in 2021. He was forced to drop out after 74 miles after getting caught in the dark without a flashlight. He entered again the following year, but a fellow runner who was supposed to pace him during the final lap dropped out the day before the race, and Stedman said that without a companion for the final 20 mile loop, he was unable to finish, making it 80 miles before having to drop out again.

This year, the third time proved to be the charm as Stedman completed the race on October 28-29, with his high school best bud, Kevin Reale, making the trek out west to run alongside him for the last 22.3-mile loop. (The earlier stages of the race consisted of four 19.45-miles loops).

Stedman started the race on Saturday, October 28, and finished on Sunday, with a time of 27 hours and 45 minutes. More than 1,000 people started the race, less than half of them finished, and Stedman was the 375th runner to cross the finish line, earning him that coveted lottery ticket for the Western States 100, which is set for June 29-30 in California.

“I’m always trying to see what I can accomplish,” Stedman said in a recent interview. He balances training for marathons and ultra-marathons with a sales job and duties as a husband and father of three, a 20-year-old son and two girls, ages 17 and 15.

Stedman, a 1994 graduate of East Hampton, moved to Hawaii in 2000, after a serious injury to his hand that he suffered while working as a commercial fisherman in Montauk. He followed his two brothers to the Aloha State, and said he didn’t initially plan on being there forever.

“I met the love of my life the week I got off the plane, and we’ve been married almost 20 years,” he said, referring to his wife, Maddie Stedman.

Stedman said his wife is a key supporter, and that he would not be able to compete at a high level in endurance events without that support.

“You have to have an understanding spouse and get up early,” he said with a laugh, reciting the two main keys to success as an ultra runner. “The super power of a runner is getting up at 4 a.m.”

Naturally, a very strong baseline of fitness is necessary for anyone who is even considering training for a 100-mile race. That kind of muscle memory is there for Stedman, who has done a marathon at least once a year for the past 15 years. He also surfs, and bikes long distances to stay in shape.

And he runs — a lot.

On average, Stedman spends 14 or 15 hours per week pounding the pavement or other surfaces, and puts in anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 miles per year.

Stedman said he felt more prepared than ever for this year’s race, but he admitted that the heat was on, too.

“I felt a little bit of pressure this year, like, this better happen,” he said of being able to finish the race. “I made sure I had not peaked in training coming into the race. I had enough miles, but still felt light and strong.”

Stedman said that finding that sweet spot takes a bit of trial and error. He said he realized, in hindsight, that he had gone a bit overboard with his training last year and came into the race burnt out. He said he relies on the help of his wife and also his mentor, Ray Charron, who moved to Hawaii from East Hampton in the 1980s and is a seasoned endurance athlete, having run more than 100 marathons.

“Ray is my buddy,” Stedman said. “He’s in his late 70s now, but he’s still very much involved in the sport. I bounce everything off him.”

Aside from mastering the training, after coming up short in 2021 and 2022, Stedman said he knew having someone reliable pacing him for that last lap would be key, which is why he called on Reale, who was a star athlete during his time as Stedman’s classmate at East Hampton High School.

“Kevin and I get along really well, and he knows me,” he said, joking that they were like “Spongebob and Patrick” from the popular cartoon Spongebob Squarepants. “He’s super positive. We crushed it coming in. We passed 25 people in the last 5 miles. We really hit the end in high gear and it was just like magic.”

What Stedman calls magic many would consider madness, and when asked to explain what he finds appealing about pushing his body to the absolute limit and beyond, over and over again, Stedman tried to explain.

“It’s that feeling you get when you accomplish something that you don’t think you can do,” he said. “The feeling of satisfaction is overwhelming, and that positivity radiates to the rest of your life. You start to think, oh, maybe I can improve here or maybe I can do this.

“I don’t think anyone should be told what their limitations are,” he continued. “I’m so stoked to do this. It really is fun. I love a good marathon, but this is way more special. Everyone in the race is super positive, and it’s amazing to be part of a group of people who are so empowered.”

Stedman will find out in December if his number is called for the Western States race. In the meantime, he will continue to keep up his training, putting in between 50 and 75 miles per week.

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