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Spinnler, Connor help athletes at world 24-hour run

September 20, 2012|By ANDREW MASON | andrewm@herald-mail.com

Athletes running nonstop for 24 straight hours are in dire need of both motivation and medical attention.

That’s what a couple of Hagerstown men contributed to Team USA at the ninth IAU World 24 Hour Run Championships earlier this month in Katowice, Poland.

Mike Spinnler was the assistant team leader, Dr. Mike Connor was the team doctor and the pair helped the Americans achieve some extraordinary results.

“It was a matter of keeping everyone going, to keep them moving,” Connor said. “They’re just amazing athletes the way they can do that for so long. We stayed busy the whole time.”

Mike Morton, of Florida, won the men’s gold medal and set an American record, covering 172.457 miles while leading the U.S. men to a third-place team finish.

Connie Gardner, of Ohio, won the women’s silver medal and also set an American record, going 149.368 miles while leading the U.S. women to the team title.

There were roughly 250 runners, representing 34 countries, in the competition.

The race started at noon on Sept. 8 and ended at noon on Sept. 9, as the runners continuously made their way around a paved loop that was just shy of a mile.

“My primary duty was to keep them abreast of what was going on in the competition,” Spinnler said. “There was never a moment when I wasn’t crunching numbers. Information is inspiration, and you need a lot of inspiration to keep going for 24 hours. You need some deep motivation to go beyond the point where most doctors would stop you.”

This was Spinnler’s seventh international competition as a staff member for a U.S. national team, while Connor, an emergency room doctor, was making his Team USA debut after being nominated for the position by Spinnler.

“By the job (Connor) did over there in Poland, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t nominated by these athletes again for future staffs,” Spinnler said. “He was just unbelievable. I was in awe of how he handled the situation his first time.

“In a 24-hour event, it’s not if someone is going to have a problem, it’s when. Intestinal distress, vomiting, severe dehydration, total depletion, exhaustion, athletes falling and getting cuts ... I’ve never been on a battlefield, but I’d guess there are some similarities.”

The event kept Spinnler and Connor awake for 39 straight hours.

“We got a little tired, but we never got bored,” Connor said. “All those different countries running like that, it was just amazing.”

Spinnler, 53, has been involved with the sport of running for most of his life. Currently, he’s the race director of the annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon and the head cross country coach at St. Maria Goretti High School.

He was left in awe by the performance of Morton, who won the world title by nearly 10 miles while adding nearly 7 miles to the previous American record.

“Morton averaged 8:21 per mile for 24 hours. It’s just unfathomable,” Spinnler said. “I’m trying to get high school girls to run that for 3 miles, and he ran that pace from here to Pittsburgh.”

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