When Chihping Fu collapsed at the Whistler Alpine Meadows’ (WAM) 100 mile race just three seconds before the cutoff in 47:59:57, there wasn’t a dry eye. The 53-year-old from the Silicon Valley was not only mentally and physically exhausted, he had been running as hard as he could for the last 8K (with 163K already in his legs). Despite the euphoria, it’s not about finishing. Fu explains that, “my goal is not to finish. Finishing is just part of the experience.”
Since 2006, Fu has toed the line of over 80 100-mile races throughout the world. Coast Mountain Trail Series’ inaugural WAM 100 mile race was Fu’s 43rd finish. Fu loves looped and point-to-point courses, which drew him to WAM. A few weeks ago he traveled to Europe for the first time to run around Mount Blanc at UTMB. In a few days, he will run from Logan, Utah to Fish Haven, Idaho at The Bear 100 mile race.
Fu runs solo and without drop bags for his 100-mile adventures. “I’m a solo runner. I don’t use crew of pacers. I see a race is not just a race. It’s not about how I finish, it’s about the challenge. I do it all by myself. I just rely on aid stations.” He keeps it fun, meeting new people along the way. Without pacers, he believes he is more likely to make friends.
Fu made friends with the sweepers during WAM 100 mile. Three hours into the race, he knew he was the last runner. “There were sweeps behind me the whole time. I worked with six groups of sweepers, and told them to not worry about me, and just enjoy your run. Unless I’m attacked by a bear, just do your own thing. I focus on my running and my race, and I don’t care about being last place.”
Over 12 hours into the race on Friday night, Fu hit a low point during the climb up Whistler Mountain. He decided to implement his cat nap strategy. “I took a nap every two hours, setting an alarm on my phone. I told the sweepers to wait and give me space while I napped. I felt much better when I work up. I believe in power naps. I’m just a typical person.”
Finishing under the 48-hour cutoff is one thing. But for Fu, it’s not the most important. He accomplished the goal of doing his best, while pushing through the pain and discomfort. When he fell down at the finish line, he immediately joked through his tears saying to race director Gary Robbins, “Where’s Howie [Stern]?” referencing the photographer’s capture of Robbins at the 2017 Barkley Marathons.
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@garyrobbins moments after tapping the yellow gate on loop five while trying to explain that he had found all 13 books but got lost on final approach, and that he was ok if it didn't count since he returned via a different trail. #bm100 ##barkleymarathons #barkley #run #running #runner #trailrunner #trailrunning #ultrarunner #ultrarunning
Fu’s eyes still aren’t dry. Back at work this week, he finds himself crying every time he thinks about WAM last weekend. Robbins announced at the finish that there will be a “Chihping Fu DFL” award at the WAM 100 mile race for upcoming years.