Imagine running the equivalent of about two-and-a-half marathons. Now imagine doing it in one day and running those 62 miles at a pace of six minutes per mile. Flagstaff's Jim Walmsley did that, as he tried to run down a world record.
"When it hits you, it just hits you like a ton of bricks, and what was easy for hours and hours and hours all of a sudden becomes impossible to hold on to," Walmsley said. "And that's really when the race begins."
Impossible would have hit 99.9% of us far sooner, but for Walmsley, that wall came around mile-marker 52.
"Alright, it's here. Everything sucks. This is what we've been waiting for.' There was still some good strength to help fight back."
This past weekend in Chandler, the Phoenix native turned the final corner at the Hoka One Project Carbon X 2 race, staring down the world record in the 100k.
"This is one of the harder bunks I think I've ever fought through, and the fact that I couldn't read the clock on the car in front of me, things were too blurry at that point," Walmsley said. "I hadn't had my vision kind of go from me like that before. My arms were just completely tingling coming down the homestretch."
After running for 6 hours 9 minutes and 26 seconds, Walmsley came up 12 seconds shy of the world record set by Japan's Nao Kazami in 2018.
"I can live with the situation because I feel like in reflection and my own inner thoughts, I felt like I gave everything regardless of the time. And at the end of the day, if I can sit comfortably on that, then I'm really not too worried if I got it or didn't. I got what I could have out of myself that day."
What he got out of himself was blowing the American record out of the water by 18 minutes, and his own personal record by 45 minutes.
"The body doesn't feel good," Walmsley said several days after the race. "I've had ultras where I'm in a ball just lying in the ground of a shower just going 'I'm so miserable right now'. And I've also just gone for a run the next day, like you barely did anything."
Running a marathon is impressive in its own right, but for ultra-marathoners that feel the need to push it even further, the question is --- why?
"I would say I have an addictive personality. Most people have little weird quirks about them. Sometimes it takes people with a very systematic approach that need something to focus on. Whether it's a vice or yeah, it's definitely a vice for me, I guess. I mean, I love it."
Walmsley won every single race during his senior year at Horizon High School, including the 5A-II state championship in 2007. He competed collegiately at the Air Force Academy before his work began as a missileer in Montana, working underground with nuclear weapons during 24-hour shifts.
"I realized with lots of stress going on in my life, that running made me happy and running was a great outlet for me. Combining it with all these places I wanted to go see in Montana, it all started to come together. And I started learning about like ultras and going further."
Now Walmsley travels the world, running unfathomable distances at a blistering pace. He'll chase that 100K world record again at some point, but for now, he's got another 62.2 mile run to tackle on the Black Canyon trail in two weeks.
"It's an interesting sport that I think a lot of people are just baffled about 'why'. I guess the snowball effect of it just keeps getting further and further and why not? [It's] still fun."