Steven Ireland’s first race was not exactly a predictor that he would become an amateur ultramarathoner.
He finished the 2005 Philadelphia Marathon in 4 hours 44 minutes 18 seconds — not a terrible time, but more than 20 minutes slower than the average men’s marathon finishing time in the United States for that year.
“It was absolutely horrible, and I thought I was going to collapse,” Ireland, a 30-year-old math teacher from Westville, N.J., said of the race. But on Saturday and Sunday, he will be competing in his sixth Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultra-Marathon in Philadelphia, where he will run lap after lap on an 8.4-mile course in the city’s Fairmount Park to accumulate as many miles as he can in 24 hours.
In 24-hour racing, the goal is not to shave seconds from one’s time while running toward a finite distance, but to push oneself a few miles more before the clock runs out.