After the inception of the Western States 100 Endurance Run in 1974, 100-mile races began to emerge around the country. By 1991, after the formation of the Arkansas Traveller 100, there existed at least eight big-name 100 milers around the country: Old Dominion 100, Mohican 100, Vermont 100, Angeles Crest 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch Front 100, and the aforementioned Western States and Arkansas Traveller. These races take place across the U.S. between early June and early October. Complete all eight races in the roughly 120-day span and you’ve completed the Great Eight of UltraRunning.
If you’ve never heard of the Great Eight of UltraRunning, you’re not alone. Only four people have completed the epic feat in the past 28 years. rabbitELITE trail athlete Sean Nakamura became the challenge’s fourth and most recent finisher after completing the Arkansas Traveller 100 this past weekend in 26 hours, 39 minutes and 45 seconds. By completing the Great Eight, Nakamura also became a finisher of the historic four-race summer slam known as the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. Nakamura is the first runner to complete the Great Eight in the past 20 years but for him the task was long overdue.
Photo: Paul Nelson
Nakamura currently holds a run streak of over 3,200 days. That’s nearly 9 years of consecutive daily running. He’s finished nine races of 200 miles or longer, thirty-nine 100-mile races and over 150 marathons. With such an impressive long-distance running resume, the forty-year-old Nakamura might have completed the Great Eight when he first learned about it years ago. But first he had to gain entry into some of the eight races through lotteries.
Nakamura explains: “The Great Eight started with a dream of getting into Western States. Five years later, my name was finally drawn for Western as well as for the Leadville 100. At that point, I knew I had to try for the Grand Slam of UltraRunning and then try to get into The Last Great Race, running the six original races in one summer, which would require another three lotteries (Vermont 100, Angeles Crest 100 and Wasatch 100) plus entry into Old Dominion.”
With six 100 milers already on his schedule, Nakamura realized that he could add the Mohican 100 and Arkansas Traveller 100 without conflict to complete an eight-race summer. “I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go big for an epic summer,” he recalls.
Between the logistical maze of arriving at each start line, the unique challenges of completing each race, and the physical and mental demands of racing 800 miles in one summer, you’d think that Nakamura would seek out a bed between efforts. Instead, he added to more races to his summer schedule: the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 170-kilometer race and the Tahoe 200 Mile. Nakamura called these races the “cherry on top” of his quest for the Great Eight.
Now that the big summer is behind him, Nakamura has no intention of slowing down. He’ll next run the Chicago Marathon on October 13th with his wife, Jenny, who he credits with making possible his ambitious summer plans. He’ll then try his luck at Big’s Backyard Ultra, a run-until-you-drop style race, starting on October 19th.
It seems fair to assume that Nakamura’s 3,000-plus day run streak will continue into 2020, too.
Sean was just featured on The Ginger Runner. To learn more about his epic summer journey give it a watch here.