Ask the Goat: Six days at Silverton Part 1/3

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on the Silverton six-day race. Part two will be published on Oct. 2 and part three will be published on Oct. 9.

Back in early 2013, I threw out a little history detailing the ‘Go as You Please’ races.

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

“These six-day events became an American (and English) staple in the latter 19th century. Alongside of the timed 24, 48 and 72-hour races, and the distance 25, 50 and 100-mile races, the six-day events boomed in the period between the 1870s and 1880s. Most of the international matches, usually pitting English and American professionals for the distinction of the term ‘Champion,’ were staged at the illustrious Madison Square Garden. This is not to discount the copious smaller events, though, that popped up along the Eastern Seaboard. Virtually every major city in the Northeast staged events of this type, often in conjunction with roller-skating competitions.”

“The historical six-day ‘Go as You Please’ event followed this pattern: A challenge was made to the reigning champion by a contender. A time and place would be selected and terms of payment would be hashed out. Financial backers would be sought by the contestants to ensure proper compensation for the match. Attendance proceeds would be divided up on a designated percentage scale and then the event would be marketed heavily so as to generate the largest amount of betting, wagering and media hype. Last, the contestants would begin the race at a designated track, often with 42 laps to the mile (and located beside a host ‘pub’). Six days later, the man with the most miles in those 144 hours would win the contest.”

Today’s ultra-marathoners follow in their ancestors’ footsteps. There are more six-day races being staged each year in America, from Alaska’s six-days in the Dome & the Across the Years in Arizona, to the upcoming inaugural Icarus Florida Ultrafest event & Silverton Colorado’s 6-day Challenge race. Virtually all follow a traditional small loop format, although the course material, altitude, climate and elevation profiles can radically differentiate finishing distances.

Chris Knodel photo Lake on the one-mile course loop

Chris Knodel photo
Lake on the one-mile course loop

Silverton is an amazing event. Mark and Sharill Hellenthal are the co-owners of Solemates’ Ultra Running Events (SURE). They host several events each year, but assumed the role of race directors for the Silverton 1000M Challenge last year. They are a top-notch organization that combines precise logistics with a Mom and Pop love for their athletes. Very few races have this kind of individual care. Probably the closest is the Hinson Lake 24-hour Classic in Rockingham.

The Silverton 6-day, 3-day, 48-hor, and 24-hour races all follow the same format. The registrants follow a 1-mile loop up the side of Mount Kendal as many times as possible. Every six hours, the direction of the single-track course reverses. The chip timing records the number of completed loops. The ‘base camp’ offers a place for tents, a lounge tent with heat, food, cots, blankets, chairs, a massage station, first aid, a full kitchen (with chef) and a charging station. After three days, there is also a shower option at the neighboring Silverton Lakes campground.

Chris Knodel photo Night one campfire with the Luna Sandals crew.

Chris Knodel photo
Night one campfire with the Luna Sandals crew.

I prepared for Silverton by reviewing the past and present six-day records. Granted, the highest miles were always done on the flattest courses (6 Days at the Dome & Across the Years). The two highest mileage records for North America are held by the same man, Joe Fejes of Atlanta, Ga., at 555.36 miles (January 2014) & 580.30 (July 2014) miles. That meant I had a lot of running to do.

Historical facts from “Runners & Walkers,” authored by John Cumming in 1981. Quotes from paragraph #1 & #2 previously published in Sanford Herald and “More, Better, Quicker: The Irish Goat –A Fat Boy’s Path to Ultra-Distance.”

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

Chris Knodel photo My 6-day home.

Chris Knodel photo
My 6-day home.

Filed in: Outdoors, Sports

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