My Journey to 100 Miles – What Vermont 100 Means to Me
Justin Hetherington didn’t grow up feeling athletic. In a lot of ways, he felt like an outsider. That was, until he found running and ultra running — and through both, confidence, passion, and profound gratitude.
The 2020 Vermont 100 will be Justin’s first 100 mile ultra race and in this post, he tells us what brought him to “our” sport, what he appreciates about this community, and what he hopes to learn (and earn!) in July.
Justin, thank you for sharing what the Vermont 100 means to you! We can’t wait to cheer you on.
My Journey to 100 Miles – What Vermont 100 Means to Me
“Hello! My name is Justin Hetherington. It was only a short number of years ago that I got into running. Back then, by any definition (nutrition, exercise, mindset, you name it), I was not only a non-athlete but very unhealthy. Loved the #1 / Big Mac combo and had a dangerous desire for buffalo chicken calzones. Fast forward to this July 2020, and I will be participating in my first 100 mile race, the Vermont1 100…. what?!
Wild to think about but truly believe anyone is capable of completing a 100 mile foot race.
Growing up I was Steve Urkel (link opens new window) from the show Family Matters. I loved ironing my clothes, tucking my pants in, wore huge eyeglasses, and was severely asthmatic. Remember when you had to run the 1 mile in school? That was me who didn’t have to run it and instead passed out the popsicle sticks to each student as they each completed a track lap (4 sticks = 1 mile). Needless to say, I never thought of myself as an athlete nor had a desire to be one.
Now, in 2020, after many years of self-doubt and overcoming being overly self-conscious about a variety of things, I came to understand the difference between being athletic and being an athlete. Certain individuals are undoubtedly born with traits that define them as athletic but being an athlete is all about mindset. In any physical activity, if you mindfully prepare, execute, and recover, then you are an athlete. You do not need to look a certain way or have this certain smooth slickness like the athletes I grew up seeing on Nike television commercials or the jocks in high school. My competitive nature loves the saying that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
I am admittedly not steeped in the ultra running community as I ran my first 50k less than two years ago in April of 2018 and I didn’t immediately fall in love afterwards. However I did enjoy the experience and fellow runners I met which made me want to pursue this crazy sport further. As I went down this path by running a few 50k and 50m races it was clear why I love this sport, why I am pursuing my first 100 miler, and why it will forever be a part of my life.
Here are just a few reasons!
- It is unconventional – I have always viewed my life trajectory as unconventional being raised by a single mom with three siblings and moving homes quite often. The endurance running community has many (maybe even a majority) of athletes coming from especially non-linear / unconventional backgrounds and that makes me feel at home. Not that I don’t like you elite runners with the cross country backgrounds… haha.
- Exposure to nature – I tell people trail running is like hiking on steroids. I have always loved nature and this sport is an opportunity to get outside in nature, explore new places, and wander like a child. What is better than that?!
- Forces focus – Unlike running on pavement for a marathon, trail running requires you to focus on your steps, especially on single track technical terrain. As an inherent scatterbrain, this is a weird form of therapy for me and my mind thanks me afterwards.
- It is stressful -Stress is without a doubt problematic in our world but is also a misnomer and in the right context necessary for growth. Ultra running stresses you physically, mentally, and emotionally and checks all the boxes for my personal growth and every other facet of my life.
So put me in a crowd of unconventional athletes, in nature, focused on the trail, while being self aware of the stress test my body, mind, and emotions are about to endure, and I’ll say how did I get so lucky to be in this rarified space and how can I spread more awareness of how amazing it is?!
I am beyond grateful that I have found this high vibe sport and I chose the Vermont 100 for my first 100 miler for it’s prestige and history in the United States. And although the cynical part of me thinks that is cliche and cheesy (like I should have chosen some fringe 100 mile race to be “cool”), I am genuinely excited for this race and have already spoken with and met wonderful people as a result!”
A bit more about Justin
An East Greenwich native, Justin Hetherington is a real estate investor and broker in the Greater Providence Rhode Island area. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in finance from The University of Rhode Island. Justin resides with his wife Nicole and their shetland sheepdog in their newly built West End Providence home that Nicole designed as an architect.
Share your story.
Do you have an experience related to racing, pacing, crewing or volunteering for the Vermont 100? Reach out and tell us. We’ll share as many as we can.
Learn more about preparing for the Vermont 100.
Head over to the Vermont 100 FAQs. This page is chock full of additional info about weekend schedule, lodging, the course, aid stations, drop bags, crews and pacers rules, and much more.
Learn more about how to get strong for the Vermont 100.
Check out Race Direct Amy Rusiecki’s post, The Importance of Strength Training.
Can’t run, crew, volunteer, or otherwise participate in the Vermont 100?
Consider a donation to our race beneficiary, Vermont Adaptive. Give now. Any gift of any amount helps. Every penny empowers people of all abilities through year-round inclusive sports and recreational programming, regardless of their ability to pay. To us, the Vermont 100 is more than a race. It’s an opportunity to give back. It’s a chance to make a difference.