Williams Lake’s Leo Rankin is running his way to becoming one of the top ultra marathon runners in the country.
The 65-year-old travelled to Santa Catalina Island in California for the Jan. 7 Avalon 50 Mile Run — a trail run that’s been held for 39 years and is a fundraiser for the Lions Club.
A fourth-place result in the 60-69 age group in a remarkable time of nine hours and 45 minutes accumulated him enough points to propel him into the 10th-place overall position in Canada for his age group.
“I was fairly happy [with my run],” Rankin said. “I got passed by two guys in the last three miles … there were three guys within a minute and a half of each other at the finish. That’s pretty competitive in a 50-mile race.”
Rankin, who has been training for ultra marathons for the past three or four years, has been running seriously for the past 20 years.
He explained there’s a lot of strategy involved in trail running and ultra marathons.
“With trail runs, especially ultra marathons, you don’t run everything,” he said. “Usually you walk up the hills and run on the flats.”
Utilizing the aid stations and staying hydrated and nourished, are also extremely important, he said.
“It really is a different kind of race,” he said. “It’s another challenge for me.”
For training, Rankin said he runs three to four times a week and enjoys running in the Williams Lake River Valley and up on Fox Mountain.
“In the River Valley I run down to the Fraser River and back, about 20 kilometres,” he said. “For ultra marathons it’s more about spending time on your feet. Sometimes I’ll run for a couple of hours, then go for a hike. Being on your feet is kind of the secret.”
The ultra marathon point race, meanwhile, runs until April. Rankin said he hopes to compete in some more ultra marathons before then in order to improve his national ranking.
“If I do well I could be top three in Canada,” he said.
As for how his body feels following a nine-hour marathon, Rankin said he normally feels quite good, however, noted the race in Santa Catalina Island took its toll.
“I felt pretty bad this time,” he said. “The last three miles were on pavement so it was really bad, but I usually feel pretty good.”
In August, Rankin plans to travel to Latvia with Big Lake’s Bryan Chubb to compete in a 24-hour orienteering race.
“We’ll be competing in the super veteran category,” Rankin said. “Bryan is very good. He designs the maps and everything. He’s amazing.”
In Williams Lake, Rankin also trains with the Williams Lake Running Club and invites anyone interested in running with the group to meet them at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex on Sundays at 9 a.m.