ROCKSPRINGS, Texas — Local runner Jason Bryant finished third in the USA 50-Mile Trail Championships this past weekend.
Bryant has been running these ultra races for years. Also, he is the cross country and track coach for Surry Central, having taken over for the retired Rex Mitchell a year and a half ago.
As for this 50-mile endurance event, Bryant said, “I am pleased and irked at the same time.”
“This made my 10th podium finish at a trail or ultra National Championship,” he said. “That accomplished a goal that I set a few years ago.”
While placing in the top three 10 times is quite an accomplishment, Bryant has felt a sense of frustration that all 10 finishes have been third place. Always a bridesmaid and never the bride.
In Texas, he said, “two-thirds of the way through Saturday’s race I thought that I was going to win and finally grasp a national title. God and my body had other plans.”
When the race began, the temperature was chilly. Then as the day warmed up, Bryant’s body didn’t properly adjust.
With the mercury rising to the upper 60s, he said, “My body would not sweat … so I just ended up swelling to the point that I couldn’t straighten my fingers, plus I could feel the swelling in my legs.”
He continued running, but after passing the point where a regular marathon would be long over, he felt worse.
“The last 10-12 miles were really rough,” he said. “Hard to keep my feet moving, hard on the mind to push the body to keep going.”
This race consists of three laps around a course that is 16.67 miles long, said Bryant. Through the first two loops, he had set a fast, but steady pace that was ahead of the course record.
He had the leader in sight and was steadily gaining ground every mile, but then he fell off his pace and let the third-place runner pass him.
Bryant pushed his body so hard that he was left “quite sore” for days and only got back to walking normally on Wednesday.
“I don’t apologize for being competitive and driven,” said Bryant. However, finishing third again had him so emotional that for a few seconds afterward he felt like giving up racing altogether.
“I recognize how blessed I am to be able to run such distances as quickly as I do,” he admitted. “I’m also blessed with the opportunity to travel and see great places.”
Still, as a competitor, he really wants to get over the hump and win.
“I won’t even pretend that I do not want to win one of these races for myself,” he said, “but there has been an ever-growing part of me that wants to win for all the encouragement I get from others.
“I seem to have so many friends locally and spread all over the country. Ones who run or just follow my running. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere I travel that someone isn’t cheering for me by name now.”
If his body allows it, Bryant could be back to running as soon as March 17. He has been invited to take part in a mountain race in Spain.
Maybe that will be the race where he finally breaks through.