Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy photo Brad Compton recently ran from the Michigan border down to Evansville.

Saturday, September 02, 2017 12:10 am

Runner Profile: Brad Compton, full interview

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Brad Compton traveled on foot 420 miles from the Michigan border to the Ohio River in Evansville. 

Q: What's the inspiration behind the run?

A: "There's something inside us, some kind of stimuli or experience that's triggered the desire to do something. Why I have a desire to run across Indiana and someone else has a desire to buy a horse, who knows?

"The inspiration for (the state run) was back in 1984-86. Indiana had a license plate motto, 'Wander Indiana.' I was 32 years old and I thought, 'That's pretty cool. I like that.' At the time, I was thinking driving to see state parks, things like that. In 2013, I did Vol State, a run across Tennessee, 300+ miles. It's a race, about 80 people and that was really cool.

"I did that again the next year and the cost of everything involved, I thought, 'I can do this in Indiana. I'd rather do this in Indiana. I'd like to see my home state,' so I started using the technical things like what kind of road shoe? How far between towns, between the possibilities of a hotel room? I used those parameters from Vol State as best I could and planned my own route.

"I pretty much in mind that I was going to start in the northeast corner and end in the southwest corner, it was just a matter of which roads I'd take to get there. It fell together. I would make two changes now, in hindsight.

"I started in a little town northeast of Fremont called Ray on the Indiana-Michigan border went into Fremont, took Indiana 827 to Angola and old 27 to Auburn, across to Garrett and down through LaOtto, Churubusco, Columbia City and straight down 9 for a long, long way. Huntington, Marion, Anderson, Greenfield, Shelbyville and then headed east to Columbus then started going through Nashville, Bloomington up to Spencer and I picked up another set of roads that would angle me down to Evansville."

Q: How do you train for something like your run across Indiana?

A: "A lot of miles. For my first Vol State, I tried to do 30 miles a day for five days in a row. I didn't quite get there. I did 30, 30, 30. I broke it up, whatever the schedule dictated. I did 23 in the morning,7 later. Come the middle of the week, I was stagnant. I ended up averaging 25 a day.

"For this, I didn't really train per se. Any time on your feet is helpful. At a six-day race in Ohio, that is such a low-key and low-pressure event. I only did four days. I got really tough feet. I knew I had stuff coming up this summer. I did a 36-hour in Bristol, Tennessee a few weeks ago."

Q: How long did it take to put together the run?

"I talked about it for a few years. My friends in Florida were asking me. A couple of those people, I felt like I couldn't let down. They didn't join me but that's fine.

"I went down to Terre Haute in April for a 24-hour race on the spur of the moment. I'm that close to Evansville, to the end, and afterward, I stayed in a motel and I thought, 'OK, let's do it.' I drove what I thought would be the course backward and obviously over the course of the next few weeks I made minor adjustments. I took careful mileage numbers along the way, notes where there were motels and stores and stuff. I started putting it together and typing it up. I had plans of doing a Facebook page and a group and I got it done but it was late in the game. It hink part of that is not doing Facebook really well but part of it was, 'What if nobody cares? What if it doesn't matter?' A few people did follow along the way which is really cool."

Q: Did you stay in motels along the way?

"When you're packing, all you have his a hydration vest. Mine is a nice one. It carries a lot of stuff. The idea is to carry as light as possible. so I'm pulling my credit card out of my wallet. I took my health insurance card and then I looked at my driver's license and thought, 'I'm not driving, I don't need that.' I got all the way to Greenfield which is coming in the third night. Up until that point, I slept on a sidewalk next to a church for 30 minutes or so, I slept in a cemetery in the afternoon for 90 minutes, slept on a bench in front of a restaurant, waiting for them to open for an hour and a half. Fitful sleeps. A lot of waking up. Maybe the end of a driveway a few times for short naps. I was getting by on less than 2 1/2 hours of sleep per night.

"I get into Greenfield and there's the Greenfield Inn. Only $45.99 per night. It's getting dark. They won't let me stay because I don't have my driver's license. My wife texted me a photo and that wasn't good enough. I ended up walking all night to Shelbyville and got there in the wee hours of the morning and the Super 8 allowed me stay. I emailed them the photo. I was shot. I slept all day. Missed the eclipse, everything. From 7 a.m. until almost 4 p.m., I slept. I did that and stayed a day and a half maybe later in Washington, Indiana. The guy there was (hesitant) but he called somebody and so I stayed there for 7 hours. Other than that, it was naps and short breaks. Seven days, 9 hours plus change. 420 miles. It was a good jaunt."

Q: How much of the run do you remember?

"I remember quite a bit. I lost a lot of the notes that I put in my phone. I sat down (Monday) and spent a good chunk of the day just going through Day 1, retracing my steps. I'm still coming up with other things that I didn't remember while I was doing it. I think I have a decent memory and driving back home, we drove back through parts of the course which was nice, too.

"Seeing shooting stars while walking at night was kind of cool. Encounters and interactions with people along the way. Young people wanting to know. These skateboard kids in Churubusco, 'What's your story, man?' You just tell them that I'm walking the length and width of Indiana. A couple of young ladies at an Italian restaurant, they saw my pack and wanted to know all about it. Young people asked far more questions. People in the middle years and my age, they didn't ask questions unless they were law enforcement."

Q: Were you stopped by law enforcement?

"Several times. Young man in Fairmount was the first. He pulled up with his brights and I just stood there and he didn't even get out of the car. I just remember voicing, "What do you want me to do?" I didn't have a license so he ran my name, my proper name, my name mom calls me when I'm in trouble, then my DOB. Then some bar called The Palace was having a fight or something so he had to, 'OK, you're fine. Be careful.'

"I had two more further down. They were really nice. They just asked, 'Are you OK? Can we do anything for you?' A couple more later were, this was west of Spencer, they pulled up together beside me and they chatted for a while. I told them what I was doing and they thought it was pretty cool.

"The highlight of the trip: I was probably 15 miles away from Evansville, maybe less. State road 57 got cut off by I-69 down there. They didn't give you a way to walk. They turned 57 into 69 so there was no way I could walk on it legally. I had to work around it. I had just come back on old 57 and I sat down and had this bag of Chex Mix in a grocery bag tied to the back of my bungy cords. I ate a few and put them back in and tried to get it back securely. Through that, a pair of running shorts and a long sleeve shirt weren't as secure as they should have been. I started to feel the shorts so I stopped after 3 or 4 miles of walking and started to put them back in and sinch it tighter and the shirt wasn't there.

"This was a race shirt. I don't get rid of those. There's only one shirt from all of my races that I don't have and that's because some motel staff took it when I was laying it out to dry. I was devastaed. What do I do? Go back 3-4 miles at a rate of 2 mph. I put my pack down in someone's driveway and I ran . I ran maybe a mile thinking maybe it would be ont he road. I thit me, all my money, my phone, everything's back there with my vest. This is stupid. I have to make a choice. Either I'm going to take 5-6 hours to go back and really look or just let it go. I ran back to my vest and decided to let it go.

"An hour or hour and a half later, I got off 57 and on to US-41. Two sheriffs came around the corner as I was taking an intersection. I saw them, I thought they were tailing. I go a few hundred yards and they said, 'You scared the daylights out of us.' We got to talking and one of them was just an awesome guy. He was just intrigued as to what I was doing because he has a best friend from the Marine Corps. doing the Pacific Crest Trail. I told him how far I'd come and the worst thing that happened had just happened. I knew about where it was at and I described everything. I said, 'Maybe i'tll be there tomorrow when my wife comes to pick me up. I'm just going to head up to Denny's, eat breakfast and head on my way.'

"I finally got to Denny's, eating my breakfast and in comes the sheriff and he's got my shirt. Out of the goodness of his heart, he went and got my shirt. That was one of the neatest moments of the trip."

Q: By the end, how much were you able to run, if at all?

"I was walking. I could pick up little spots. It wasn't the blisters on my feet. Sometimes running was actually helpful. I do kind of a cadence, 1-2-3-4-5, just a basic cadence. I would pick a geographic thing, a mailbox, tree, spot on the road, and try to run and if I did that two, three or four times, that would help. Most of the time I was walking. I was averaging 16-17 minute miles. Those last few hours, I tried. I've only got 10K to go, come on. I could not run. Not until I physically saw the finish, then I could run a few hundred steps."

Q: What did you carry with you?

A: "One extra pair of running shorts, a long sleeve shirt, five pairs of running socks though I only wore two, clothes pin to hang them should they get wet. I had my 2Toms which wasn't up to the task. I had a little baggy with things like a toothbrush and toothpaste, zinc oxide. That was the best thing I packed. Because of the hydration vest and humidity, my sweat was just coagulating. It was too much for the 2Toms to handle. I could have been out early with chafing issues but the zinc oxide saved it. I had my cell phone, my nano that I never used and cords to charge things. My handheld (flashlight) is USB rechargable so I had a powerbrick which worked sometimes.

"I started out with five or six bottles of 5-hour energy. I sued thsoe and didn't buy anymore. I used those mostly for attitude. I'm a big caffeine drinker and by late afternoon, I hadn't had caffeine. My head starts getting negative. A little caffeine, a little boost helps get my attitude back to where it needed to be. I didn't take any S-caps. I took Clif bars. I took a knife. It was a lot of weight. Me trying to use a knife would have been a joke. Even on a dog, I don't think I would have been coordinated enough. Pepper spray.

"I had two fears: One was the loneliness, loss of purpose type attitude. The other was dogs. Neither were an issue. i didn't need the pepper spray but I did pull it out a couple times. Blister foot repair kit, stuff I would need to fix my feet and I used those.

"There's a debate out there about whether or not you should carry extra clothes. I know one guy who says, adamantly, no. I almost lost my shirt. My first Vol State, I lost a pair of shorts and shirt. It fell out of my bag."

Q: How was the weather?

A: "The weather was awesome. I was incredibly blessed. First day, from Fremont down to Pleasant Lake, it was like autumn. Clouds in the sky, temperature was beautiful. I did get warm. It got close to 90 on one occasion. I missed the storms because I was in the motel. I only got sprinkled on two or three times. It got down to the 50s at night toward the end and I was concered about being chilled. For August, in Idnaian, I could not have had better journey weather."

Q: Now that you've been back for a few days, what has it been like scrolling through photos and reflecting back on the trip?

A: "Wonderfully satisfying. I'm glad I did it. I'm not going to say it was fun. One officer asked me, 'Are you doing this for a cause, or just for fun?' Well, I'm not sure. I'm not raising money for anything so it's not a cause but this really isn't fun but there is something positive to it. It's fulfilling. I'm looking back with a lot of fondness. I've been writing it up and trying to figure out how to put it into a race report. It's been great. I'm so glad I did it.

"Would I do it again? Maybe not alone, not that course. I'm wondering if I want to do a different Wander Indiana course next year. There are so many other counties to visit. I could do a southern tier. I don't know if I want to do 420 miles."

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about the state?

A: "No. I don't think so. I felt very much at home the whole time. It was different than my runs in Tennessee. Tennessee was west to east, the big one. People down there were more interested, more curious and not afraid to ask. If it weren't for the young people, I don't think anybody would have ever asked. Not that I minded that, but people were friendly and when my wife and i were driving home, we stopped at a few of the places. We spent a night at the motel in Washington where the guy had taken a chance on me and he had joked at the time, 'Stealing his pen.' When I came back I said, 'I'm going to steal your pen again,' and he said, 'You're the guy without the driver's license,' and my wife pulls it out and says, 'Nope, it's right here.' He was so much fun and enjoyed having us back.

"Little pizza place where I didn't buy anything but the lady filled my bladder with ice. I said I'd buy something but she said no. We had a meal there on the way back and got to chat with her. People are friendly but the circumstances have to be right or else they don't feel the freedom to initiate."

Q: Do you feel limited by your age?

"Obviously I do, somewhat, but I don't feel like my age is holding me back. When I'm running at Chain O' Lakes, I'm not running with the front crowd. I actually did win first place overall at a race earlier this summer, a 48-hour run in Alabama or Georgia. I got fourth in a 36-hour run in Tennessee a while back, too. I could have been higher if I hadn't faded so bad the last 12 hours. My age, I'm affected by it but I don't let it dictate what I think I can do."

Q: Do you like the time-based races better than distance-based?

"Yes. I've done enough 100-milers. I don't feel like I need to do those anymore. I do some once in a while, not for the event itself but for the people I think will be there. The timed events are cool. I like short loops more than I like long loops. I'm doing a 6-day race in November with 1-kilometer loops. Some people think that's boring and I would have, too, but I love it. You're guaranteed aid, you're going to see somebody even if it's the race director by himself at the table at 3 a.m. sound asleep. You're going to see somebody. You're not out in the woods hallucinating thinking a tree stump is a dog or whatever and you don't know how far it is to the next aid station. I remember those moments, that made a fun experience.

"The 6-day, my first one down in Fort Lauderdale was 404 miles and I'm shooting for that this year, I'd like to exceed that quite a bit. That was another motivator to get this run in this year. More time on my feet. It doesn't have to be fast but just time on my feet.

"State road 57 was by far the most pleasant. Part of that was a negative because the traffic was light. The towns are in decline, as much of rural American has been. It was really a shame to see how light the traffic was. It was to my benefit, I didn't have to worry about cars. It was relaxing and peaceful but sad because anyone who owns a business in that corridor is struggling. You can look over and see I-69 bypassing them now."

Q: What's your background in running?

A: "PE in high school. I never ran track or cross country but if you didn't dress one day, you had to run on Fridays around the track at the top of the gym. Everyone else got to go play dodgeball. Inevitably, I'd skip a day and have to run on Friday and I liked it. It was a moment of zen. That was my senior year, I think."

"I never really did much with it. Somehow along the way, I read an article about an Olympic marathon, I believe, with Frank Shorter and someone else, maybe Bill Rodgers. That planted the seed of someday maybe doing a marathon but I never did it until I was in my 40s. I was kind of a late-comer. One thing led to another.


Q: You participated in Barkley Marathons in the mountains of Tennessee. What was that like?

"In 2016, I did a loop at Barkley, unofficially because I didn't make the time cut-off. It was wonderful. It was rigorous. Finding your way. (Race director) Laz's directions aren't bad and I thought I kind of knew how to use a compass but when you try and describe something out in the woods, someone else can come along and find three or four other things exactly like what you were trying to describe. It took me a long time to find out where I was supposed to go. I had two other people with me and we all struggled together. The real thrill was not just completing the loop but knowing we didn't quit. We saw other people bail and go back to camp. A lot of people. The three of us stuck it out. We joined hands at the end and crossed together 30 hours later

"Even if you are with someone who knows where they're going, the physical rigor is something else. That's why you have a guy who loses it with less than a half of a lap to go and ends up going the wrong way or you have people who fall asleep on the course and don't wake up until 10 hours later. It is 60 hours of physical intensity and if you're going up the hills fast enough to make the cutoffs, you're working yourself really hard. Even at my meandering pace, the climbs were something else.

"I've run quite a few of Laz's races: Race for the Ages, you get one hour for every year of age, I did two Vol States, Bitter End 100. I've done the Bloody 11W. The Bloody 11W and Bitter End 100 are a lot like what I did for my trip across Indiana. They're just a lot of roads.

Q: Rumor has it that you want to do the 3,100-mile race in New York next summer. Is that true?

"I don't know why but I have a desire to. I don't know if they'd let me in. You have to have a resume of sorts to get in and it helps if they know you. I haven't done any of their races. They have a 10-day in April next year that I might sign up for so they know me. If I have a successful 6-day... There's a man from Scotland who's in my age group who holds the world record for a six-day race. I hold the American record, with my 404. I haven't been able to reach that since but right now, I'm feeling much better.

"He has done the 3,100-mile run and been successful. They let him in, there's another man my age who did not do so well. He tried to gut through some health issues. I haven't verified that with him. We'll see. If I can do well at Icaraus (upcoming race in Florida) and do the 10-day, maybe they'll consider me."