James Akita didn’t look like a man who had just run 50 grueling miles as he sat in front of an industrial-size space-heater Saturday afternoon, warming up in the party tent for the post-Fall 50 festivities. In fact, the man who had just completed – and won – his first ultra-marathon looked like he could lace his shoes back up and head out for another run.
The Elmhurst, IL resident finished in 6 hours, 6 minutes, and 49 seconds, taking the title in the 5th running of the Door County Fall 50. Akita has completed nine marathons, and said he decided to take on the longer distance simply out of boredom with the marathon.
“I like the marathon, but I feel like I’ve hit my peak at that distance and wanted to try something new,” Akita said. He finished the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago in 2:34. He ran with two previous winners through the first 21 miles, then began pulling away. “I felt like I could pick it up a little and opened a little gap.” But at mile 35 he said he hit his first mental block. He slowed and then walked for a mile before righting his ship, running the next eight miles, then walking through mile 43.
“I might have overdone it when I got to 25 and picked it up,” he said. “I was tired, but not physically beat at the marathon distance [26.2 miles], so I thought I could push it. It’s a lot more mental than I thought it would be.”
The race, which included 240 relay team runners and a few dozen solo competitors, began at 7 am in Gills Rock and finished under a steady rain at Sturgeon Bay’s Sunset Park. Akita was impressed with the race and Door County on his first visit to both.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous up here,” he said. “It’s a fun, well-organized event. I’m really happy I found it.”