Bradenton ultra-marathoner runs 92 miles for Florida Elks fund

vmannix@bradenton.comJanuary 29, 2013 

BRADENTON -- What a way to bring in the new year.

While 80 friends and supporters ushered in 2013 with a mini-celebration at the 400-acre Florida Elks Youth Camp, Jim Larsen kept running and running and running on the 1.5-mile course in small-town Umatilla in central Florida.

He ran all night and into the morning, too, all for a good cause.

"I was glad to see 9 a.m.," said the 44-year-old Manatee County EMS paramedic. "It was an accomplishment."

After starting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 31, Larsen completed a solo 24-hour ultramarathon, covering 92 miles to raise $4,000 for the Florida Elks Harry-Anna Fund.

It supports both the Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services, which treats 350 children weekly, and the Florida Elks Youth Camp, which entertains 3,000 children every summer.

Donations are being accepted through Thursday to add to Larsen's total. Visit www.floridaelks.org.

"What Jim did was noble and unbelievable, too," said Patrick Gallagher, district vice-president for the Florida State Elks and fellow member of Manasota Elks Lodge 2734. "I ran with him for a quarter-mile and that was it. I had to take a nap."

There was no sleep for Larsen, but that's not unusual.

"Working on an ambulance for 25 years and being up a lot days without getting any sleep got me accustomed to being up around the clock," said the lodge's past exalted ruler. "It keeps you on the go, motivated to stay awake. When a call comes in, you've got 60-90 seconds to get moving."

Larsen kept moving during the solo ultramarathon -- 50-miles or more -- a first for a guy who's run them the past few years.

"I enjoy longer ultramarathons, because you're not running at a highly intense pace," said. "It's less than a 5K because you're running as hard as you can. In 50-milers, you get into a nice pace and there are less people. It's just different not having others to compete against."

Larsen's only stops were brief -- bathroom stops, changing shoes, etc. -- and he snacked and hydrated on the run.

The night time hours were toughest for the runner who is also general manager for On A Shoestring Inc., which caters to walkers and runners.

"What's hard is by the time

it's dark you're already 8-10 hours in," he said. "When the sun goes down you feel it -- the night settling in. So I try to pile in as many miles as I can in the first 12 hours and do more walking the last 12. There's going to be times you feel great, times you feel awful, but it will pass.

"I'm not at a point where I can run the entire 24."

Larsen's supporters were duly impressed.

Among them was Kathy Peel, another paramedic and shift captain, who followed his lead into running.

"Jim is one determined person," she said. "He goes all out until he finishes to get in as many miles as he can to raise as much money as he can.

"I would never be able to do the mileage he does. I just ran my first marathon and I thought that was a long way. I could not imagine myself running 92 miles, but I'd give it a try."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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