The 51-year-old has finished every edition of the 15-year-old race.
Patrick Bowler was about 50 miles into a 100-mile ultramarathon when his digestive system began swirling and bucking like a wild boar tossed into an industrial-sized dryer.
“I was throwing up all over this trail,” said Patrick, 51, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va.
That’s when he was approached by a man wearing a pink tutu, and no, Bowler was not experiencing the ultra-marathoner’s hallucinogenic high.
Like a deity descending from the heavens, the man in the tutu said, “It will be all right.”
“At that point,” said Bowler, “I was emotionally embarrassed. Later, I found out he was one of the top ultra-runners in the country. Then, I didn’t feel quite so bad.”
The anecdote is recited to illustrate Bowler’s commitment to running.
That commitment will be on display come Sept. 6 when Bowler runs in the 15th Rock-n-Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. Owing in part to his civic pride, Bowler has not missed a Virginia Beach Half. Come Labor Day weekend, he’ll be batting 15-for-15.
Bowler’s pride in his hometown race and keeping his streak intact is reflected in another tale. He was injured one year and decided to walk the race. His physical therapist introduced Bowler to a gentleman in his 70s. Bowler and the septuagenarian decided to walk the 13.1 miles side-by-side.
But at 10 miles, with his eye on the clock, the man in his 70s turned to Bowler and said, “We’re not going finish in three hours.”
His ego not measuring XXL, Bowler didn’t give a rip about the clock and let the man take off.
“That,” said Bowler, “was the first time I’ve ever been dropped by somebody in their 70s.”
It has been theorized the reason runners pursue ultramarathons is because they’re not fast marathoners, so they stretch the endorphin high to another extreme. Bowler doesn’t fit the description. He can both run fast and far.
His half marathon PR: 1 hour, 22 minutes. Marathon PR: 2:56. He ran a 3:10 marathon last year. The man has put thousands of miles on his legs. Bowler guesses he’s done about 40 marathons, around 50 half marathons, and about 30 ultramarathons.
He has started four 100-mile races, finishing two.
There’s a fascinating dichotomy between road races and ultras. Ultra-marathoners run to escape the masses, to be at one with nature. Solitude and serenity over sensory overload.
“A lot of time during whole (ultra) races, I may not see another person for hours,” said Bowler.
The road racing scene is 180 degrees opposite. Runners are herded into corrals. There’s initial silence in the nervous darkness before the dawn. Tension builds. The runners and walkers talk, telling their tales. The announcer serves as conductor. Music plays, the gun sounds and the traveling road show winds 13.1 or 26.2 miles, fueled by bands, cheerleaders, electrolytes, carbs and man’s compassion, spectators and fellow runners encouraging those with doubt that yes, like the man in the pink tutu told Bowler, “It will be all right.”
Regarding the inclusionary atmosphere at road race events, Bowler said, “Running a half marathon is a major milestone. Being a part of that fun is cool.”
Bowler is currently training for a 70-mile race in June. His minimum training is 50 miles a week. Last weekend he jogged a 20-miler on Saturday, 10 more on Sunday. In his heaviest training he’ll run 35 to 40 miles on a Saturday, capped by a 20-miler a day later.
His favorite training site is the mountains. That requires rising at 3 a.m., driving 3½ hours to the mountains, logging the workout, then returning home.
As it is for most professionals, running serves as a release for Bowler, who works in mortgage banking.
“I’m in an industry that’s built with stress,” he said. “Phones are ringing 24/7. When I’m back in the hills running, it’s just peaceful, quiet, relaxing.”
Bowler is a wise man. When asked to name his favorite road marathon, he said, “You know, you might help me score some points. I’d say the Chicago Marathon. It’s the one and only race my wife ran with me. Watching her come down the finish, that’ll bring tears to your eyes.”
It was Cathy’s only marathon.
“One and done,” said Bowler.
Not Patrick. He keeps on running.