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Why does Dunedin ultramarathoner run? Because he likes it

Tom Bassano, 38, runs along the Dunedin Causeway on Thursday, training for the Ragnar Relay from Clearwater to Daytona Beach.


Tom Bassano, 38, runs along the Dunedin Causeway on Thursday, training for the Ragnar Relay from Clearwater to Daytona Beach.

Tom Bassano doesn't wear fancy shorts, eat high-tech energy bars or sip specially formulated sports drinks.

He runs and runs, and runs and runs.

"People ask why," said the 38-year-old propane technician. "I don't know ... I guess because I like it."

Friday morning, Bassano, and dozens of other local ultramarathoners, left Clearwater on a 191-mile run across the state. But unlike the rest of the pack, composed of teams of six or 12, Bassano went alone.

If all went as planned, the Dunedin resident should have finished sometime late Saturday, after the deadline for this publication, but the Times caught up with Bassano and some of the other Ragnar Relay runners before they left.

Viking spirit

The national relay series gets its name from a legendary Norseman, Ragnar Lodbrok, immortalized by Italian-American actor Ernest Borgnine in the 1958 film, The Vikings.

According to the Ragnar Web site, participating relay runners embrace the wild nature of this Viking king and are not afraid "to paint their van plaid, to bring along their own hair band, to join together in yelling as they cross the finish line."

Bassano said he is no wild and crazy guy, despite that fact that he recently ran from San Diego to Daytona Beach to raise money for a local children's advocacy center.

I averaged 60 miles a day for 48 days," he said. "My longest run was only 129 miles, so this Ragnar Relay will be entirely new territory for me."

Bassano, who is married with three children, wore his customary cut off sweat pants and plain white T-shirt.

"I'm not fast and I don't look like anything special," said the 6-foot, 158-pound runner. "But I can go the distance."

Cold pizza for breakfast

Bassano planned on consuming 28,000 calories to power him across the state.

He left at 12:01 a.m. on Friday with five plain cheese pizzas from his favorite pizzeria, Leo's in Palm Harbor.

"I'll polish off five pies by daybreak," he said. "I keep away from the pepperoni. I'd hate to get heartburn when I am running."

Fajitas are another one of Bassano's favorite running meals. "Basically, I'll eat anything I can hold in my hands," he said. "I've got to eat while I run."

Bassano estimates that he'll probably eat the same amount of food in 36 hours that most people eat in nine or 10 days.

"It is important to have a good support crew," he said. "You have to stay well-fueled."

But the biggest challenge won't be food. His 2,961-mile run across the United States taught him that his biggest obstacle is always his own mind.

Attitude is everything

Bassano ran in high school but stopped after he got married and had kids.

"You have got to be careful," he said. "One day you are running and the next you are sitting in front of the television set watching a football game and drinking a beer. It is easy to get out of shape."

He got back into the sport a few years ago to improve his health. "I guess you could say this is my midlife crisis," he said.

He gets up every morning at 4 a.m. and runs. On weekends, he goes on longer jaunts with his kids, ages 8, 9 and 12.

"They call them adventures," he said. "They ride their bikes while I run. Sometimes we end up at the beach, sometimes the flea market. We just go."

Bassano admitted that there are times he feels like quitting.

"Running is like a microcosm of life," he said. "Sometimes you feel great. Sometimes you feel like heading straight to the emergency room. But in the end, you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going."

fast facts

How did he do?

For complete results from the Ragnar Relay, see Wednesday's Neighborhood Times.

Why does Dunedin ultramarathoner run? Because he likes it 11/15/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 3:30am]
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