For several months, Timothy Furtado eyed the ultramarathon world with curiosity. He’d been a runner for several years, completing distances from 5K through the marathon on numerous occasions, but the idea of going farther intrigued him.
Last fall, as he began training for the 2020 Disney Marathon, Furtado learned about one of New England’s original ultramarathons, the Stone Cat 50. The event began in 2001 as a 50-miler and marathon, but in 2019 combined the two distances into a single 50K distance. Furtado took the plunge and signed up. What he discovered when he became an ultrarunner on Nov. 2, 2019, was that he could not only push his body farther than he’d previously gone, but he could share the experience with a community of seasoned veterans who welcome newcomers with open arms and take care of each other.
“I really got bit by the ultra bug,” Furtado said, reflecting on his Stone Cat experience. “I fell upon this ultra thing, and I fell a bunch of times during the race, but man that run was epic. It was just a beautiful day and a great support staff. The people that put on the Stone Cat 50, my hat’s off to them. They do a wicked good job! I’ll be back every year.”
As he sat in a chair a few minutes after finishing his first ultra in 5:28:26, Furtado looked at his wife with a smile on his face.
“I could literally do that again,” he recalled saying.
Indeed, Furtado was eager to explore this ultra thing further. He went home to Rehoboth and began browsing races in the area. Three days after finishing Stone Cat, he registered for the 100K distance at the Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug ultras in Connecticut. The event, which was to have its 46th running on April 26, 2020, was a loop course that was close to his in-laws’ house, making logistics easy.
He spent the winter training, cruised to a 3:46:47 at the Disney Marathon on March 11, and was on track to be ready for the 100K. In the meantime, with his motivation on overdrive, he also registered to run the Mohican 100-miler in June in Ohio. In a sense, that turned his 100K into a glorified training run, possibly easing the mental pressure a bit—at least temporarily.
Two weeks after his successful day at Disney, Furtado received an email notifying him that due to the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, the Connecticut governor issued an executive order limiting the size of group gatherings in the state. As a result, the race permit for the Jack Bristol ultras had been pulled so his race was canceled.
Furtado was disappointed, but the 37-year-old wasn’t deterred. Plan B was to run the distance solo and dedicate it to the first responders who were stepping up to the challenge of battling the pandemic.
“My initial pivot was to do it on the outdoor track,” he said. “I was going to call it the Great 248 (248 laps for 62 miles) and do it all on the track. Then I got notification that the track was closed due to COVID-19.”
Onward to Plan C. He would still dedicate the run, but he’d do it on his 12-mile training loop on the roads through Rehoboth and Seekonk. He knew the loop, could stash aid supplies just off the road in the woods, and loop it five times. He could tack on two extra miles during the first loop to make up the difference to reach 100K.
On Saturday morning, April 25—the day before the Jack Bristol 100K had been scheduled to take place—Furtado put his plan into action. He rolled out of bed at 1 a.m., ate breakfast and got dressed. He headed out to stash his aid station boxes at miles 4 and 8, as well as the start/finish line on the street in front of his house. He headed back home to stretch and then walked out the door at 3:20 a.m., played the national anthem on his phone and took off promptly at 3:30 a.m.
Furtado felt good during the first loop as the early miles clicked by.
“The easiest ones were the first two laps because that was basically a marathon at that point,” he said.
Furtado was joined by his neighbor who served as a pacer for the second and third loops. Furtado still felt good midway through Loop Three, though reality set in as he surpassed the 50K mark and entered new territory.
“The company I’m a partner with is a software company, so I’m a data guy,” he said. “I envisioned a 12-hour 100K and thought if I could go sub-12 that would be pretty good. At one point (during the run) I thought I could do sub-10, but then that went out the window.
“My 8:34-mile pace steadily trickled down when the reality of going north of 40 miles kicked in,” he added with a laugh.
Furtado’s cousin joined him for the final two loops. Some tough love was required, Furtado admitted, and his cousin came through for him.
“The hardest miles were on Loop Four,” Furtado said. “There was a point where I looked at my cousin and said, ‘The next thing I say to you, tell me to stop it.’ I told him that coming into 50 miles I was thinking of cashing it in, and he said ‘No, you’re not. You’ve already put in 50 and you can put in another 12.’
“Maybe 10 minutes later we came in off Loop Four and it was go time. I’d already changed my mind and there was no going back.”
Furtado hiked the inclines, ran the flats and downhills, and steadily made his way through the loop one last time. Finally, at 3:15 p.m.—11 hours, 45 minutes after he started—Furtado crossed the chalk-drawn finish line in front of his house with his arms stretched wide and a smile on his face.
He dreamed big and set an ambitious goal, didn’t let a race cancellation stop him, and now his dream was reality.
“In my mind it didn’t surprise me,” he said of finishing the 100K. “I set out to do this, and there was nothing that was going to stop me from doing it. It truly circles back to whether you think you can or think you can’t; I always tell my kids that. It’s about your mindset.”
Furtado’s mindset helped him prepare for and ultimately complete 100K. Now he’s turning that mindset toward the Mohican 100-miler in June. The race is still on as of now, and he’s optimistic that he’ll have an opportunity to toe the starting line and chase another dream.