MARQUETTE – Scott Drum set out to tackle a rather unique feat and just missed his goal of accomplishing it in less than a day.
The Northern Michigan University health and human performance professor ran the length of two of the Upper Peninsula’s best known national parks, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Isle Royale National Park, over the weekend.
He not only had to battle 82.5 miles of tough terrain, but the transit between the two parks, and he did it all in just 12 minutes beyond his self-imposed goal of 24 hours. He was running for 19 hours, 22 minutes of that time.
Though he needed just barely more than a day, as the only known person to have completed this U.P. double, he is fairly confident he has established the fastest known time for the feat.
“It was fun, but also very tough, as I expected,” Drum said in an NMU news release. “There was more intermittent hiking with the running toward the end, especially the last five miles or so on Isle Royale. The trail was overgrown there and it took some bushwhacking to make it through.
“My legs are shot, but I feel good about accomplishing this goal. I’m not aware of anyone who’s attempted the two parks consecutively. Others have run both on different days.”
NMU and its School of Health and Human Performance honored Drum at a campus reception on Tuesday evening, but the guest of honor was unable to appear, according to the university, because he was delayed in his departure from Isle Royale as bad weather stopped ferry service back to Houghton.
Drum has provided further details of what he was trying to accomplish on the message board website appropriately called www.fastestknowntime.proboards.com.
His odyssey began in the dark at 2:28 a.m. Sunday at the Au Sable Visitor Center in Grand Marais, the easternmost point of his trek. He took the North Country Trail west through Pictured Rocks, a distance of 42.5 miles, before finishing that leg at Munising Falls about a mile before reaching Munising.
Then came an automobile ride of nearly 150 miles to Houghton, where he took a seaplane to the western end of Isle Royale at Windigo.
From there he ran the Greenstone Ridge Trail through the heart of the park to its eastern – technically northeastern – terminus at Rock Harbor, a distance of 40 miles.
He finished at 2:40 a.m. Monday, again in the dark and again wearing a headlamp.
“This was a personally inspired challenge,” Drum said. “I like to explore the boundaries of human physiology to figure out my own physical limits and test what I’m capable of doing in a day.
“I daydreamed about an adventure run with a twist, so I looked at the geography near where I live and came up with the off-kilter idea to link the two cool National Park Service units in the Upper Peninsula. There were some interesting logistics to figure out.
“But an experience like this reinforces what I teach at Northern. Confronting challenges related to carbohydrate-fat metabolism, muscle function, fatigue and the psychological aspects brings exercise science alive for me and hopefully for my students.”
Drum has been a runner since he was 10 years old, originally as a “speedster” doing five-kilometer races before progressing to more mileage and less structured workouts.
Despite the ambitious feat and its successful completion, Drum said he doesn’t race a lot, preferring trail ultra runs twice a year in scenic Western settings such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the Colorado Rockies.
In fact, his previous daily mileage record was 50 miles, though in preparation for Sunday, he ran about 80 miles per week on wooded and hilly trails near Marquette.
“That included a couple of long runs a week ranging from 20 to 31 miles while figuring out how to fuel myself along the way to maintain an even energy level,” Drum said. “The distances tapered off near the end of my training so I could conserve energy for the actual run.
“My concerns Sunday were keeping properly nourished and hydrated, not overextending or injuring myself and hoping everything else would come together as far as weather, the rugged terrain – especially in the dark – elevation gain and the unexpected surprises that always come up.”
Following protocols established by the fastest-known-time community, Drum declared his intentions in advance on the FKT website, paid his respects to those who came before him and listed details including when he would make his attempt so others could watch or participate.