Runner to attempt to break treadmill record

Serge Arbona to race to nowhere for charity

January 22, 2004|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

Ultra marathon runner Serge Arbona is calm, confident and drinking a lot of water today as he prepares to try to break the 24-hour world mileage record on a treadmill.

Arbona, a lean, hard, 6-foot, 166-pound jack of all trades, plans to start his run to nowhere at noon Saturday on a brand-new treadmill at the Towson YMCA. He has to beat the record of 149.1 miles in 24 hours now held by a German named Karl Graf.

"I'm confident now," he says. "I wasn't so sure about three or four weeks ago, [I was like] `my gosh, what am I putting myself into?' I'm getting more and more confident as we get closer. I'm rested very well. I'm not sick or injured."

Arbona, a native of France who moved to Baltimore about 15 years ago, routinely wins ultra marathons at 50 and 100 miles. He's won four of the five 100-mile races he's been in. His best time for 100 miles is 14 hours and 38 minutes, which is about seven miles an hour (a mile in about 8 1/2 minutes). He figures he has to average 6.3 miles an hour to break the treadmill record.

He's been training exclusively on the treadmill for the last six months.

"It's different training and different muscles," he says. "I never felt my hamstring like that before, except when I did speed work. On the treadmill, it really pulled on my hamstring after six hours. In the woods, I don't feel that bad after 12 hours."

He hasn't run 24 hours on the treadmill yet.

"I did 10 hours and 20 minutes about three weeks ago, my last long run, and I reached 75 miles. I was pretty happy with that. Nobody was there to help me, and I wasn't eating properly. I didn't have enough food.

"That's half of what I want to do," he says. "And I believe I can do it now."

That was at the Towson Y. People would come and go, playing basketball for a couple of hours. He'd be there when they came and when they left.

"They ask "How long you been on there now?,'" he says. "They ask `How many miles are you doing today?' When I tell them they don't believe me."

The Cybex treadmills he'll run on have to be certified as accurate to qualify for the Guinness record. One's a backup. A 24-hour run is hard on the treadmill, too. He was going to try them out yesterday afternoon.

Two witnesses have to be on hand all the time to verify that he's there. He's lined up about two dozen volunteer witnesses. Several video cameras will record his effort. The run for the record has to be in a place open to the public, so the Y will stay open overnight Saturday, and spectators are welcome. And Arbona, a dog and cat owner, hopes to raise money, through donations, for Animal Rescue Inc. in Maryland Line.

Arbona can stop and start as much as he wants. But he doesn't figure he'll interrupt his run, except to use the restroom, which is conveniently only about 20 feet from his treadmill. He doesn't plan to rest.

"It's easy to stop," he says. "It's very, very hard to start up again. So much suffering for two or three minutes to get your legs going again."

Starting today, he'll be drinking a lot of water.

"Drink about an ounce a minute during the day," he says. "That's a lot of water. Just push water through my body to clean it up completely. Hydrate my body as much as possible. Makes you feel strong."

He'll stop tomorrow when he goes to bed.

"The day of the race, I'm just going to drink normally."

That is until he starts running.

"I'm going to drink about two bottles an hour," he says. "Two 20-ounce bottles. Definitely, I can drink that much. I'm going to try to eat as much as I can. Every half-hour, take a half banana, maybe, a piece of sandwich, a few candies."

He thinks that after 12 hours his weight will drop to 160, but at the end he'll be back up to 165, close to his starting weight.

He's got a couple of strategies. He may start at eight miles an hour, that's a pace of a mile in seven minutes, 30 seconds. If he gets tired or sweats too much, he may drop half a mile an hour.

He hopes to reach 70 to 75 miles in 10 hours and 65 to 70 on the next 10, which will leave him four hours to break the record or catch up if he's late.

He doesn't think he'll get bored on the treadmill. His head will be full of his tactical numbers. But he might watch a video - of the Boston marathon.

Serge Arbona's treadmill run will begin at noon Saturday at Towson YMCA, 600 Chesapeake Ave. Telephone: 410-823-8870.

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