Randy Angel

24 hour endurance run to benefit local schools

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Christian Burke

Christian Burke, center, during his record-breaking performance at the inaugural Hermosa 24 in 2010.

Known as an athlete who takes on over-the-top physical tests, Christian Burke has never been one to turn down a challenge. Last September, Burke broke a long standing world record for running distance on sand during a 24 hour period and now is challenging amateur and elite runners to come to Hermosa Beach and attempt to break his Guinness World Record.

During Labor Day weekend 2010, Burke ran from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach pier and back over 22 times to etch his name as the Guinness World Records© holder for Greatest Distance Run On Sand in 24 Hours. The previous world record was 62.14 miles and Burke smashed that record by logging 83.04 miles in just less than 24 hours.

The Hermosa Beach resident named the event The Hermosa 24 which raised nearly $20,000 for local schools. Burke, 44, will not be competing in this year’s race as he will have his hands full directing the second edition of the race beginning at 12 p.m. Saturday, June 18. Participants start and finish the race at the Tim Kelly Memorial statue at the entrance of the Hermosa Beach Pier with the 3.46-mile soft-sand course going from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier and back.

Patrick Sweeney

Manhattan Beach native Patrick Sweeney, shown en route to winning the Grandview Gator 5K last Saturday, will attempt to set a Guinness World Record at The Hermosa 24 ultramarathon race. Photo by Ray Vidal

Although the event will showcase elite runners attempting to set a new world record, Burke insists The Hermosa 24 is a special community event and even if a participant runs only one lap, “They will get a T-shirt and be a part of something special while running on pristine sand on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.”

Runners can register for the solo category or teams of up to 10 runners can compete in the relay category. Individual fee is $120 and team prices vary. Registration is available through June 17 at www.hermosa24.com. All donations, entry fees, and pledges are tax deductible through the 100 Mile Club 501(c)3, a non-profit vehicle.

While all entry fees go to Hermosa Beach schools, through the solo and new addition of relay categories, The Hermosa 24 is creating opportunities to those individuals or teams to raise funds for any school or cause that a team wishes to represent. A pledge drive system has been created to allow relay groups to gather donations for miles or laps completed, or a one-time donation that upon completion of the event will be directed at their school or cause.

“The relay category is particularly desirable because it gives all types of runners an opportunity to participate in something that is groundbreaking and serves a great cause,” Burke said. “I am really proud of what I accomplished last year and I’m excited to have others join me and share in this sense of accomplishment, knowing it’s all for the kids.”

The course will designated by red balls and glow sticks, but Burke encourages runners to wear headlamps to aid them through the sand during nighttime hours. He expects 10-15 teams and the same number of individuals to compete in the event.

“I’m really looking forward to next year,” Burke said. “I’m hoping to increase the event where we can raise funds in six figures.”

Burke has travelled the world to compete in multiday endurance events that cover hundreds of miles over difficult terrain. In January, the Hermosa Beach homeowner was the top South Bay finisher at the Avalon 50 Benefit Run, placing 10th after completing the Catalina Island course in 7 hours, 44 minutes, 29 seconds.

Burke is no stranger to fundraising runs. He won the Operation Jack Marathon on December 26, completing the course, which started and finished at Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey, in 3:06:21.

The event marked the final marathon for Operation Jack, an endeavor where Sam Felsenfeld ran 61 marathons in 2010 in honor of his 7-year-old son, Jack, who is severely autistic. Operation Jack raised money and awareness for Train 4 Autism, a non-profit that helps people raise money for the local autism-related charity of their choice.

But the Hermosa 24 event is one that Burke holds dear to his heart. His 11 year-old daughter, Halle, is a 6th grade student at Hermosa Valley School and last year, the announced budget shortfall for the Hermosa Beach schools was $670,000 in funds needed to maintain existing programs and teacher resources. Layoffs and program cuts were imminent and, not having the ability to write a check for nearly enough to make a difference, Burke wondered how he could make a real difference.

“Back in September, with such a successful event, we made a significant dent in the deficit,” Burke said. “The June 18th event has been created to further inspire people to reach into their pockets and preserve the educational resources that our children need to thrive. The event allows people not to just watch history but participate where children and adults, weekend warriors and ultra-runners can compete and challenge themselves on this unique stage of pain in paradise all the while knowing their effort is going to the most worth of causes.”

Setting out to beat Burke’s record will be his friend Patrick Sweeney of Manhattan Beach. Sweeney is coming off a first-place finish at the Grandview Gator 5K where – running in his trademark Luna sandals – he posted the fastest time of 923 runners, crossing the finish line at 17:18.7.

Sweeney feels his training methods give him an edge in The Hermosa 24.

“I probably have more sand training than any of the other competitors,” Sweeney said. “I feel I’m capable of breaking the record and with perfect conditions, someone could possibly run 100 miles in the 24-hour span. However, lots can go wrong but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

In between workout sessions on Tuesday, Sweeney was pondering the idea of dedicating one day this week to staying on his feet for 24 hours.

“It might help me get accustomed to the endurance factor,” Sweeney said. “I’m on a vegan diet and, along with hydration, I plan to take in about 200 calories every 45 minutes throughout the race.”

Burke said he wouldn’t mind seeing his record broken.

“I totally applaud his (Sweeney’s) effort,” Burke said. “There are a couple of other runners who could do it, but Patrick has the best chance.”

Burke and Sweeney agree that it will take ideal conditions, a great nutrition plan, lack of an injury such as a sprained ankle or blisters, along with mental toughness to set a new world record.

“The mental aspect is a key factor. The race is really won in the last four hours,” Burke said. “It’s as if someone pointed a gun at your forehead. You don’t know if you’d slap it away or piss your pants until you’re actually in that situation.”

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