Last Saturday, while most of the island was still asleep, 20 runners participated in the 50-kilometer Ultramarathon Podium Guam, which brought them on a 32-mile run around the island to destinations that included the gates at Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

James Sardea used the virtual event as part of his initiative to give the people of Guam a way of staying healthy and in shape during the pandemic.

Marathons usually consist of 26.2-mile runs but Sardea, who was a driving force behind the organization of the race, thought this would be a great time for marathon runners to try their hand at an ultra marathon. Safe to say, he is happy with the results.

“With all the help from the runners' family/friends and support crew, this event was a great success," Sardea said. "No one was left behind and everyone was motivated to finish strong.” 

Sardea’s goal for the event was to challenge some of the best marathon runners on island to complete the 32-mile course in under eight hours. As Guam’s sports ambassador, he wanted to use the event help turn marathoners into ultra runners on Guam.

“My role was to start a new trend on Guam to make the marathoners to become ultra runners," he said. "I joined the event also to motivate everyone that the 50K is possible to finish.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented protocols to large gatherings such as in-person marathons, so many events are going virtual to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Sardea said he wanted to help the community by providing a safe way for runners to continue challenging themselves through these difficult times.

“Since this was not a race but a personal goal, the event didn’t have a lot of spectators. We were following the guidelines to not have a big gathering so we had two groups running one hour apart. Everyone separated when we took off so social distancing was possible.”

The fastest male runner in the Ultramarathon, Nathan Brown, completed the race in what should be a record time of 4 hours and 12 minutes. Although this was Brown’s first competitive 50K run, he has had experience running marathons and utilized that training throughout this longer distance.

“It feels really good to be the fastest runner," he said. "I was just planning on cruising along with my friend Arthur (Toves) since it was his first 50K, but around mile 20 I had a lot left in the gas tank so I took off,” added Brown, who runs between 30 and 40 miles a week and trains at Steel Athletics five days a week.

“We ran around 42 miles in four days a week before the Ultra to get our legs used to the pain that you usually feel around 26-30 miles in,” said Brown, who trained for the event with Toves, who placed second. 

Sardea talked about the relative ease it required to organize the event with the help he received from other organizations on island and he hopes similar races will be held in the future.

“2020 was a hard year for sports," he said. "I hope 2021 will be better. Many have been doing virtual runs so I hope ultra runs will be the new norm for the races next year.”

“Thank you to Podium Guam and the family and friends who came out to support this event," he added. "Congratulations to all the participants who beat all the odds to become an ultra runner.

"There will be more to come.”