50K Treadmill World Record Broken by Mario Mendoza on Woodway Treadmill
January 22nd, 2020
Article courtesy of Runners World
In three hours, just how far could you go on the ‘mill?
As his distance tracker hit exactly 31 miles on the treadmill stationed in the middle of a high school gym, ultrarunner Mario Mendoza Jr. stopped the machine and stepped on the side rails for his first break in just under 3 hours. As he did, hundreds of students from Madras High School in Madras, Oregon, cheered for the 33-year-old who had just made history with the world record for the fastest 50K on a treadmill.
Mendoza, who lives about 90 minutes away in Bend, Oregon, has worked with the diverse Madras community for about a year by running a youth club that has about 20 participants and hosts activities, games, and provides meals to students who need them. Mendoza also coaches at Madras High two days a week.
“What made me nervous was the gym didn’t have air conditioning, so I knew it would get hot,” Mendoza told Runner’s World. “I could do this in a room with cold air and make it comfortable, but the record itself is kind of silly. It was more about what we can do for the kids and show them what it takes to do something big.”
With the help of school administrators, Mendoza started preparing for the event last fall. To break the record, he would have to be comfortable at about a 5:45-mile pace, which is an average of over 10.4 mph over 31 miles.This wasn’t a terribly-tall task for a pro who’s made a name for himself in the trail running world the last seven years. Since 2013, he’s a five-time U.S. trail national champion in the 10K (2013), marathon (2015, 2017), 50K (2015), and 100K (2018), has represented Team USA on trails around the world, and has had a number of podium finishes at races like the Lake Sonoma 50 Miler and the Flagstaff Skyrace.
For training, he mixed outdoor runs with treadmill runs. When indoors, he tried different methods like covering the screen so he couldn’t see his distance and pace. He learned quickly that he found himself trying to guess his time more when it was covered, so he opted to have it visible for his attempt.
“I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong like the power circuit in the gym cutting out or needing to go to the bathroom,” he said. “With my fitness, though, I knew I at least had a chance.”
Mendoza waited until classes returned from winter break, so he and the school settled on January 14 for the run. During a 20-minute lunch break, the entire school watched as the pro started the belt on a treadmill in the center of the gym. Despite setting the pace to 11 mph, the belt took time to get there.
“I was laughing a little bit,” he said. “I was like, ‘C’mon, treadmill.’ It took a quarter-mile to get up to speed. I had to put it at 11.1 (mph) to make up for that before going down to 10.4, where I stayed for the next 22 miles.”
Students left after lunch, but some classes were allowed to alternate throughout the afternoon to cheer and support Mendoza.
His wife was his lone crew member for the day, though her duties were simpler than his usual races with him running in one spot. She had five bottles of Tailwind Nutrition and one Honey Stinger gel that he consumed throughout the event.
When the record was in sight, though not guaranteed over the final 6 miles, students were once again brought to the gym to watch the possible record unfold while ultrarunning-legend Max King showed up to MC and hype up the crowd.
Though he slowed a bit at times over the last 10 miles, Mendoza knew he had it in the bag with a mile to go. As the treadmill hit the 50K mark, he stopped at 2:59:03, put his legs on the side, and stayed there for a few minutes as the students around him went nuts.
“I don’t think the students realized how close it really was,” Mendoza said about beating Wardian’s record by 46 seconds. “I even tried to pick it up near the end to break 2:59, but my hamstrings started cramping and my legs couldn’t go anymore.”
With this in the books, Mendoza is resting and also recovering from a bad cold he got two days after the event. He has invites to big races later in the year and hopes to decide on which ones he’ll do in the coming weeks.
Mendoza also mentioned that he did the run without a carbon-fiber plate, choosing to wear a soon-to-be-released Brooks shoe.
“I was really proud because they don’t have a carbon plate,” he said. “All records are being broken with that, so these make me feel like I’m still having to work for it.”