A weekend date for some might be going to a concert or eating dinner with friends under the night sky. But Kelly and Joe Bails spent the weekend of August 12 participating in the 27th Annual Howl at the Moon Ultra Marathon in Danville.
The Bails are not strangers to the long distance running community in East Central Illinois. They help women and men train for 5K and marathon runs through their business, Coach Bails Running, and they both coach track and field at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High.
And while Kelly typically enjoys the challenge of the long run and Joe enjoys going to the track for a speed workout, this year’s Howl at the Moon run was the second ultra marathon the couple has participated in together.
The run had a special tribute for the couple, though. They ran in honor of Joe’s dad, Bill, who has terminal prostate cancer.
“Joe and Bill ran Howl in 2010 then Bill suffered a brain hemorrhage a few days after the race. It was a miracle he survived,” Kelly said.
Joe and Bill ran the race again in 2011. A few months after that race, Bill was diagnosed with cancer, and because he has not been able to participate in the race again, Joe and Kelly honored him by participating.
In his fourth ultra marathon with an injured back, Joe had to stop after completing 16.5 miles. Kelly, who ran with a friend, stopped after running 37 miles. She has participated in three ultras.
Ultra marathons are categorized as anything over a marathon at 26.2 miles. Some ultra marathons, like Howl at the Moon are timed ultras. Runners compete to run as far as they can within an 8-hour window. Other ultra marathons are for distance, such as 50K, 100K or 100 miles.
“Training for a marathon is much more rigorous than a timed ultra,” Kelly said. “A timed ultra is “almost” for fun because you can stop at any time or distance.”
“While we are both avid runners and run consistently every week, neither of us specifically trained for this race. A distance ultra (100K) would require a more thorough training approach. However, if we were to take this race seriously, it would require far more training.”
But for Kelly and Joe, participating in this year’s Howl at the Moon Ultra Marathon, running was more about camaraderie than outlasting their opponents.
“Everyone is so friendly and supportive,” Joe said. “Every person just wants you to run a personal best. It’s one of the best parts about running ultras.”
“We’re both passionate about the sport.,” Kelly said. “We love the way it makes us feel, we love the un-interrupted time together on long runs to talk, we love how it keeps us fit and healthy, and we love all the friends that have been brought into our lives through coaching runners.”
“Most of what we do together involves some kind of running – even our vacations. I feel like running brings us closer as a couple.”