Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa ultrarunner's goal: four 100-mile trails

Andy Mathews used to compete in triathlons, but he stopped for his own safety. "Biking around here is too dangerous," said the 46-year-old from Tampa, who has had his share of crashes. "And when it came to swimming, I just tried not to drown." Bored and looking for something do to with his free time, Mathews ran a few marathons — 88, to be exact. But that, too, lost its allure. "That is when I set my sights on the Grand Slam of ultrarunning," Mathews said. "I wanted to do four of the toughest 100-mile mountain trail running races in just one summer." Follow that dream

Mathews, a history teacher and cross-country coach at Tampa Catholic, has always believed in following his bliss.

When he was a senior at Auburn, his recently widowed mother decided to pursue a lifelong calling and become a nun.

"I started calling her Sister Mother," he said. "My uncle called her Sister Sister."

At first, Mathews thought his mother's decision was weird.

"But then I decided that while it was unconventional, it was also very cool," he said. "I knew anything was possible."

The long haul

An ultramarathon is loosely defined as a race of at least 31 miles. The longest certified ultramarathon is the Sri Chinmoy, a 1,300-miler held each year in New York.

The Grand Slam is made up of four of the country's toughest endurance runs: the Western States 100 Mile, the Vermont 100 Mile, the Leadville Trail 100 and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile.

Mathews flew to California on Wednesday to run the Western States, which starts on the floor of Squaw Valley (elevation 6,200 feet), then climbs to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet) in the first 41/2 miles.

But when he got there, he learned that the race had been canceled because of wildfires. This is the race's first cancellation in its 35 years.

"It is not going to end my plans for the Grand Slam," Mathews said in a telephone message. "It is disappointing because of all the money I spent to get here, but I will just make it up with another race."

Run, run, run

Mathews typically runs about 20 hours a week.

"Sometimes we start at 3:30 in the morning," he said. "I always think it is funny that I am leaving my apartment when my neighbors are just coming in from a night on the town."

During a normal week, Mathews might log 85 to 100 miles.

"It is hard on relationships," he said. "I am sure there is a way to do it, but I haven't found the right formula."

Mathews' next Grand Slam race is the Vermont 100-miler next month.

The Leadville race is in Colorado in August, and the Wasatch in Utah in September.

For his kids

With 10 100-mile races to his credit, Mathews said he has nothing left to prove.

When asked why he runs, the high school coach did not have to search for an answer.

"It is for the kids," he said.

"If my runners see me run a 100-mile race, then maybe they won't feel so bad pushing it a little in a 3-miler."

He hopes his story will be an inspiration to all.

"You have to keep going, keep pushing it," he said. "You can never, ever quit."

Tampa ultrarunner's goal: four 100-mile trails 06/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 1:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL Week 7: What we learned


    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  2. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  3. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17


    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.

  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]