St. Clair ShoresJuly 13, 2012
Local man puts himself to test with Inca marathon
By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
Centuries ago, native Incas traversed the path on their way to the citadel of Machu Picchu.
High in the mountains of Peru, the path winds 26.2 miles from Cusco to Machu Picchu and reaches almost 14,000 feet above sea level. It typically take three days for hikers to traverse it.
But on July 5, St. Clair Shores resident Michael Charow became one of just a few dozen to attempt to run the path all in one day as part of the Inca Trail Marathon.
The race began at 8,500 feet above sea level, stayed at 10,000 feet for eight or nine miles, then increased to about 13,800 feet.
“There’s really no way to train for that type of elevation,” Charow said. “The air is thin. I covered the first 10 miles in about two hours and the next four miles, because it was all incline, took almost five hours.”
But once he began, Charow said, there was no turning back.
“Once you make the first climb, that major ascent, you have no choice, you have to finish because there’s no way to get you off the mountain,” he said.
He fought through rain and hail during the course and said, “At that point, you just keep moving.”
Charow said runners had to make it to the 22nd mile in nine hours to be able to finish in one day; only 12 of the 43 racers did that.
“The remainder of us spent the night in tents on the mountain and then finished the race on the second day,” he said. “The second day, we were allowed to complete the race.”
This was the first marathon ever held on the Inca Trail, and Charow said runners came from all over the world. Their number also included veterans of the Iron Man Triathlon, who said this was a tougher feat to tackle.
“Even after five months of training, it was totally intimidating when you actually got out there and saw what you were up against,” Charow said. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done and seen; it was just incredible.
“There’s a point where you’re running through a tropical jungle and you come out of the jungle, and you just see these mountains that go up thousands and thousands of feet — and then you realize you have to climb those.”
Marisa Hubinger, of Clinton Township, trained a few times with Charow on the trails at Bald Mountain in Lake Orion, where he ran to try to prepare for the altitude of the Inca Trail. She said she was impressed that he even attempted the trail marathon, a feat she said was motivational for her — she only began running two years ago.
“Whenever I wanted to complain or anything on any of our runs … (I thought) I have no cause to complain; I’m just going to keep going because look what he’s doing,” she said. “I am super proud of my friend, and I’m glad he got to accomplish it and be part of the 42 finishers.
“How many people can say that they did that?”
Charow, who has been running for four years, said he decided to do the marathon because he had always wanted to see Machu Picchu.
“That was like a bucket list thing, and when I saw they had a race up there and it was the first time I just said, ‘Let’s go for it. Go big or go home,’” he said. “I am extremely happy, this was probably the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done in my life and the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done.”
Charow started running four years ago when he realized he was overweight, unhappy and wanted to make a change. His first race was the Sailing Thru the Shores 5K race held each Memorial Day, and he has since shed 75 pounds. After that, he joined with St. Clair Shores resident Eleonore Groth, who was working to start a running camp for those who want to accomplish a 5k.
“He offered to help with 5k camps a few years ago (and) … they have evolved to where they are now because of his dedication and enthusiasm,” Groth said. “He, himself, is an inspiration.”
Charow, a business analyst, said he’s now in the best shape of his life and plans to do another marathon in Grand Rapids in October and white water raft the Colorado River in 2013.
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