Fowler completes grueling 48-hour run to aid fire victims
Spencer Fowler took on a challenge, completed it and came away with one overriding notion.
The former South Medford High football and track athlete is in no particular hurry to try it again.
Fowler created a fundraising campaign to aid victims of the region’s September wildfires.
The 19-year-old college student started a GoFundMe page with a goal of bringing in $48,000. The monetary total reflects the extreme physical challenge he pledged to complete in exchange for donations: run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.
Last weekend, Fowler fulfilled his end of the bargain, starting at 8 p.m. Friday at the South Medford track and finishing the 48 miles a little before 5 p.m. Sunday.
He charted his schedule beforehand. The last entry, born of hope and whimsy, reads: 8 p.m., Party Time.
“It wasn’t party time,” Fowler said Wednesday, “it was ER time.”
Which is why he won’t likely attempt it again. Ultra runs, without stopping, sure. Stop-and-start intervals of such distance and duration, no thanks.
Immediately after completing the run — which was inspired by the endurance exploits of David Goggins and his book, “Can’t Hurt Me” — a dehydrated Fowler went to the hospital to have his fluids replenished and get checked out.
The freshman at Central Oregon Community College in Bend then rested Monday and woke up early Tuesday to complete schoolwork due that afternoon.
“Surprisingly enough, my body feels great,” said Fowler, who left the emergency room at 3 a.m. Monday after being treated for rhabdomyolysis and elevated levels of creatine kinase, the result of muscle damage.
More than $21,000 had been donated to his GoFundMe page, titled Southern Oregon Wildfires Fundraiser, as of Wednesday. Immediately after the run, about $3,000 was pumped into the account, said Fowler, surmising that some preferred to see action before contributing.
A number of big businesses around the state have called him and his parents since Sunday, he added, indicating they’re prepared to donate.
“I’m really hoping to hit my goal, which I do think I can,” said Fowler, adding the page will remain up for the foreseeable future. “I was hoping to hit it right at the event.”
He understands if there were skeptics.
“People aren’t used to seeing a 19-year-old kid set up a fundraiser like this and also run an ultra at the same time,” he said. “That’s why I was kind of going against the grain in some ways. But, yeah, we made it happen and it was really cool.”
Fowler turned control of the funds over to Jacksonville First Presbyterian Church for oversight and distribution.
Fowler, the subject of an earlier Mail Tribune story outlining his plans, was to do a trial of running 6 miles every 6 hours for 48 hours a couple weeks before the actual fundraiser. But a conflict arose and it didn’t happen.
“I’ve never done anything like this, so it was trial and error during the event,” he said.
It was taxing for him and his crew: mother, father and brother.
“Just getting meals down and stretching were things I wasn’t prepared for,” said Fowler. “But throughout the race, we adapted. It was good.”
Inclement weather greeted them for the first few legs.
“It started to rain, then snow and ice, a little bit of everything,” said Fowler. “Man, that really shook me up in the beginning because just trying to warm up was difficult.”
The family RV was parked at the track, allowing for shelter, warmth and a place to eat and sleep.
He covered the first 4 miles in 31 minutes, 5 seconds, or about a 7:46 pace per mile, much faster than he wanted. He dialed it back to 10-minute miles, meaning he had nearly 3 1/2 hours of recovery time between the end of one leg and the beginning of another.
After 8 miles, Fowler developed “really bad heartburn and it was pretty hard to breathe, but I pushed through it.”
After 36 miles, his right hamstring bothered him, so he walked the next leg, taking 55 minutes. He then ran the final two legs.
There were about 60 family members and friends on hand to see him finish.
“I’m really happy at the outcome, and I’m happy I got this under my belt,” said Fowler. “I’m excited, too, if I face some adversity in the future, I can look back on this and say, oh, I did this, and I can get through it.
“I just want to convey that message to the public. It’s important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations because you can look back on it and know that you’re OK.”
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.