Inspirational Runners Series on RunKino.com
I first interacted with the ultra legend known as Tony Portera back in 2010 while preparing for my very first 100 mile ultramarathon, the inaugural Beast of Burden Summer 100. My friends Marco Cheung, Rick Thiounn (opted for the 24 hour race), & I had signed up and had no idea the torment and indescribable journey we were about to embark on, a distance that is a mere jog for Tony. On the Marathon Maniacs calendar, I noticed that Tony had also registered and contacted him. We met up pre-race and he was supportive through out the race. Tony went on to finish the 100 in an impressive sub-24 time of 22:47:14 while none of us (Marco - DNF at Mile 62.5, Rick - 50 miles, & I - DNF at Mile 93) made it up to 100 miles.
Tony willingly took on an ultra running mentor role, keeping in touch and providing me with invaluable ultra running tips. Two months after my failed first attempt, we both ran the 2010 Javelina Jundred where I managed to finish, but with badly blistered feet (so bad that I needed to be in a wheelchair at the airport when returning home). Again, Tony was there to provide me with advice on how to cope with the pain and quickly recover, by using an epsom salt + hyrdrogen peroxide (substitutable with witch hazel) solution that acts as a magical potion to revive mangled feet.
I would continue to see Tony at successive 100's and during these races, he would offer up tidbits of his ultra running wisdom in helping me cope with various ailments that naturally arise from running ultras, from hamstring strains (2010 Umstead) to heat exhaustion (2011 Beast of Burden Summer 100). In the brief time I have known Tony, he has gone on to finish an impressive 7 more 100's, 2011 Brazil 135 (part of a record breaking 350 mile Caminho Da Fé pilgrimage journey), & 2011 Badwater 135.
Not only has Tony demonstrated a laudable ultra running track record (his first 100 was less than 4.5 years ago at the 2007 Grand Teton 100 on 2007/09/01, and he has finished all 19 of the 100 & 135 mile races he has attempted), he has been a noble ambassador of the sport, supporting the Challenged Athletes Foundation and raising over $100,000 for the charitable foundation through his various fundraisers. I look up to Tony greatly, am very thankful for his compassionate support, and aspire to be as kind and as helpful as he has been to our fellow ultra runners and to one day follow in his footsteps to be accepted into and complete his favorite all-time race: the Badwater Ultramarathon.
Two days ago, Tony learned the good news that he has been accepted into his 4th consecutive Badwater race, receiving one of 90 coveted spots. It is a testament to how well-respected and inspirational of a runner and human being he is.
And now, as the very first runner of RunKino.com monthly "Inspirational Runners" feature, I present to you Anthony "Badwater / Brazil 135" Portera:
Name: Anthony (Tony) Portera
Hometown: White Plains, NY
Current Location: White Plains, NY
Blog / Website: http://www.irunultras.com
Facebook Fan Page: IRunUltras.com
Videos: Tony Portera on Vimeo
1.) "A Long Run Across The Desert", The Journal News (Westchester, NY) (2009/07/12)
2.) "Portera Survives Badwater Ultramarathon", The Journal News (Westchester, NY) (2009/07/28)
3.) "Tony Portera to Run 350-mile Caminho Da Fé", iRunFar.com (National) (2011/01/17)
4.) "Brooks ID Member Portera Goes for Three-peat at Badwater", Brooks Sports (National) (2011/07/06)
Running Clubs: Marathon Maniacs #1060
Sponsors: Brooks, Phix Energy Drink, & Drymax Socks
First Marathon: 2004 Twin Cities Marathon (MN), age 33
Total Marathons: 22
Total Ultras: 46 (19 100+ milers)
Total Marathons+Ultras: 68
Marathon PR: 3:40:16, 2007 Long Island Marathon (NY)
100-Mile PR: 19:24:46, 2010 Umstead 100 (NC)
135-Mile PR: 39:59:14, 2011 Badwater Ultramarathon (CA)
24-Hr PR: I haven’t taken a stab at one yet, but I’d love to.
Training Miles / Week: It depends on several factors, including what type of training (base vs. core vs. recovery, etc...) and what race I’m preparing for. It can be anywhere from 40 to 100 miles per week.
Favorite Charities / Running Causes: Challenged Athletes Foundation
Favorite Running Books:
1.) Death Valley Ultras: The Complete Crewing Guide by Theresa Daus-Weber and Denise Jones
2.) Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell
3.) Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich
4.) The Death Valley 300 by Richard Benyo
Favorite Running Websites: Besides irunultras.com..... :) There are probably too many to list.
Favorite Quote: "The episodes in life that last so many years in memory are often measured in fleeting minutes as they happen. In minutes, this won’t last very long, but the memories sure will."
pre-race at the inaugural Beast of Burden Summer 100.
1.) Describe your life before running.
I started running in 2004 at the age of 33, but it wasn’t until 2008 when I became serious about it and, in particular, the 100-mile distance. I had a fairly normal childhood, traveled a bit as my family moved here and there due to Dad’s job, went to college, then law school where I met my best friend and wife, and had two amazing daughters.
2.) What prompted you to start running, and how old were you at the time?
2004. I was 33 and 205 pounds (today I’m typically between 160-165 pounds). My oldest daughter had just turned 3 and my youngest was going to be 2 later in the year. I drank a lot of beer, especially on Saturday’s and Sundays during the football season. I just wanted to get in shape and be active as my kids grew up, but I had no idea it would balloon into what it has become today. There were two guys in my neighborhood that were into running – Ira Zaroff and Peter Hirsh. We started meeting every morning before work for training runs. Peter was a seasoned marathoner. Ira and I were just starting out. So, we picked a marathon and decided to go for it. Ultimately, Ira and I began reading about ultrarunning...Dean Karnazes book, Ultramarathon Man. And I heard about this race called the Badwater Ultramarathon. Then the fun began.
3.) Why do you love running and what keeps you motivated to continue running?
There are so many things that I love about running. It is so serene, providing hours and hours of time for reflection. It is challenging, and tests the limits of human endurance, pushing the human mind and body in unique ways. It can be so defeating at times, but yet so rewarding and educational. Running brings out a hodgepodge of emotions – anxiety, elation, despair, disappointment, hope – but, ultimately, it is a great facilitator of the triumph of the human spirit.
What keeps me motivated to continue running? For one, the desire to continue to have the great learning experiences that running has already provided. And then, there are the people (many have become friends) that I have met through running. Their accomplishments, their drive, their unwillingness to accept defeat and to always move forward.....they are all heroes to me, and they keep me motivated to always strive to be better – better in running and better in life.
4.) What running gear and nutritional products do you prefer?
On the gear side, I’ll try just about anything. Brooks and Saucony have been my shoes of choice for the last several years. Drymax Socks. Nathan handhelds. The new UltrAspire packs looks great, but I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet. On the nutrition side, primarily Hammer Nutrition products – Hammer Gels, Heed and Perpetuem. For a recovery drink, I really like Ultragen.
5.) Describe your first marathon experience and did you envision running any more marathons after that?
It was the 2004 Twin Cities Marathon. I was 33. I loved it and hated it at the same time, but was ecstatic when I crossed the finish line (4:07:33). At the time, it was the most difficult thing I had done in my life from an endurance perspective. When I finished, I’m certain I said “no mas”....but I would do 4 more in 2005 before getting into ultrarunning.
6.) What are your Top 5 favorite races, marathon-distance or longer, and why?
For me, there really is only one - the Badwater Ultramarathon. It is grueling, deflating, and full of despair, yet it is so unexplainably life-affirming, rewarding, reflective, and full of triumph. It is a race and a place where the ordinary can become extraordinary. A place where you can drift off into a state where you are one with your surroundings. The event is so well organized.....the race staff and volunteers are amazing and provide an experience like no other I have seen.
2009 Badwater Video from Tony Portera on Vimeo
3 more.....I’d probably go with Umstead 100, Javelina 100 and the Walt Disney World Marathon. Umstead and Javelina simply because they are such well put-on events with great people (and I’ve done quite well at each). Disney because my family is a Disney family. We went 7 years in a row (missing for the first time in 2012) and just love it there.
7.) What is your proudest running accomplishment?
You would probably think I would say finishing the Badwater Ultramarathon – I’ve done so 3 times (2009, 2010 and 2011). Well, actually, it is not finishing it but the honor of being accepted 3 times that I consider my proudest accomplishment, followed of course by completing the race. Also, in January of 2011 I, along with friends Chris Roman and Jarom Thurston, ran the entire length of Brazil’s Caminho Da Fe (about 340 miles, including running the Brazil 135 in 55 hours straight in the middle) to raise funds and awareness for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. That was an amazing experience for an amazing cause.
8.) Describe your biggest setback in running and how did you bounce back from that experience?
I’ll go with obstacles, the biggest of which for me is finding the time to “fit it all in” while being a good husband and father. It is often tough to try to find time in the day for everything. Wake-up is around 4 AM on week days...training done by 6:30 AM...then off to work an hour later.
9.) Who have been influential in your running career?
The people that I have met on this incredible running journey are the most influential. Each and every person has their own story, their own demons, and their own triumphs. It is really amazing to see so many folks out there giving it all they have, and each one of them has had a unique impact on my own running career. On the mentor side, it is amazing how many runners have offered their help and advice. Over the course of time I’ve received guidance from superstars such as Lisa Smith-Batchen, Bryon Powell, Jamie Donaldson, Dan Rose, Rick Gaston, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Matt Hart, Jill Perry, David James, Phil McCarthy, Ray Zahab, Chris Roman, Charlie Engle, and many more. Many times that guidance/advice comes right in the middle of a 100-miler! It is simply amazing how this community helps other runners out. Just amazing.
10.) Do you use running to give back in any sort of way and are there any particular runners that you mentor?
Absolutely. As always, we raise funds and awareness for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and our 2012 fundraising effort will kickoff soon. I’m always happy to give my advice and share my experiences through “coaching”, and have worked with a few folks over the last year or so. My email box is always open. Pacing and crewing....love it. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone strive to reach their goals.
Feel free to add anything else, give thanks, or shout outs.
Shout-outs and thank-yous would take pages and pages to write, but I will say this – never stop striving to be a better person, whether it be a better runner, friend, parent, son/daughter, etc.... Always have faith, even in times that may seem hopeless. Always move forward, one step at a time, and live each second of life as if it was the last.