Corky Hebard

Corky has competed in 40 Equinox marathons, more marathons than any other participant.

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

To go back to the very beginning, I went to work at the DOT and George Bloom was my boss.  At that time, he had done the Equinox twice, and would go on to do 18 of them.   I made the mistake of asking him about it and his ears perked up and we became fast friends.  I hiked it the first year with George and his daughter, took 8 hours 45 minutes, then the next couple of years, did a little bit of training and hiked it faster.  By about the fourth year, we decided to try running, so we did a little training, and pretty much have been running it ever since.  The last two years, I worked myself back to being a hiker again.

My worst Equinox was my first one in 8 hours 45 minutes, and my best was 3:08.  I managed to get in the top five this one time.  Probably, the most disappointing experience was the year before that, I was trying to get in the top five, and I got 6th.

My family’s been involved in it over the years.  My wife has been on the pit crew just about every year. We have three sons, all have done it at least twice each.  And the last two years, my granddaughter did it with me, so we have three generations involved in the Equinox now.  My wife, Donna even when she hasn’t been feeling well has been out there.  Even in 1992 (the snow year), she was out there helping with Tom Wickwire and me.

I have run it or hiked it 40 times, and that’s including 1992, the snow year.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I guess my training now is certainly different than what it was back when I was a serious runner.  Then, I would run year round, still do, but now I run a lot shorter runs.  I used to start serious training in June.  We went by the George Sheehan 13 week plan.  Now I still run year round, and August I do a few longer runs, but the training is not as serious as it once was.  I get every bit as much satisfaction hiking and jogging it as I would running it.  Proudest patches are the early days, hiking it and it takes 8 hours, or 7 hours or whatever it takes to go that far.  It’s easier to be in really good shape and running it, than it is to be in moderate shape and try to hike it and survive it.  I’ve done it so many times, it’s sort of a routine.  I take it in sections, and finish a section and put another one in my mind and do it, and pretty soon, it’s over with.

I run the first part of it, which used to be called the six mile trail because I like to run the University trails.  We used to run Ester Dome a lot. One year, Tom Wickwire and I ran it 16 times.  Now I manage to get up there once or twice, and hike part of the hill.  In the serious days, we spent a lot of time running up the Dome and St. Patrick’s.  It’s a great place to train.  I used to  get so much hill training in, I’d usually get a sore achilles tendon and I’d have to cut back.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Anymore, my key workouts are just to up my distance.  I run four or five miles a few times a week, and when it gets closer, I up them to get in a 10 or 12 miler.  I don’t do anymore 20 mile training runs.  I used to do lots of those.  So basically, a few longer ones so it doesn’t hurt so much on race day.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The time of year with the leaves changing – it’s always pretty out.  All the people; the excitement.  Being out there is my favorite thing.  Having my family there being the pit crew; for the last two years, running it with my granddaughter.  Last year, she beat me by an hour. Allison’s a great runner. 

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

Favorite part of the course?  That’s easy – at the bottom of the chute at about 17.5 mile down to Henderson Road where it’s pretty through the trees and you can still run – gravity is helping you out.  That’s always been my favorite area.  I don’t know that I have a least favorite.  Coming up some of the steep hills on the turnaround are not my least favorite, but they are the most difficult.  Starting the Equinox, going up the ski hill. Actually, for three years, they did away with that and moved it up behind the dorms, but it didn’t seem right.  The Equinox is supposed to go up the hill.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Best moments – there are so many of them.  Just doing it and having my pit crew there – my wife and kids. It has always been great seeing them out there on the course and helping.  Best moments are just doing it, the whole thing.

Least favorite, I suppose I can blame some of  those on bad weather days, but even those are part of the Equinox.  The snow years – they can be a challenge staying on your feet, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really complained about them, or called them my least favorite.  They’re just part of the challenge.  Going down the chute with snow on the ground is not easy.  It’s hard to even say there’s a least favorite.  I just enjoy doing it, and have to have a positive outlook no matter how much it hurts.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

I don’t consider myself a competitive runner any longer.  I did for years.  I would set goals early in the summer and try to achieve them, and try to do well in my age group.  Finishing high up used to be important.  Now my goals are just to stay in shape so I can continue jogging it and hiking, and collecting patches.  Staying ahead of Bob Baker and Tom Wickwire.  Continue running.  Running keeps you in enough shape to do a lot of other things — ride your bike, go on a long hike, or put on your cross-country skis and go ski for awhile.  Running has always been my base fitness program.  I’ve been really fortunate having very few injuries over the years.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Best advice is if you’re going to do the Equinox, do some hill training. It will really make the last half of your day more fun if you’ve done some hill training and your legs are used to going up and down.  Buy some good shoes.  Train the miles for the goal you have.  If you’re a hiker, you should go out and hike the hill (Ester Dome) some and do some hiking.  There’s a few people who show up who aren’t from around here and they do hill runs and do really well.  Hill training is critical.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

No, not really.  I guess I can say not running enough miles.  But when I was serious about it, I used to run 65 – 70 miles a week, and now I run 25 miles.  Race day flubs?  Not really.  I’ve taken a few falls here and there, but they haven’t stopped me and I’ve never had an injury that prevented me from finishing.  There have been times, I was wondering along the last few miles, if I was going to make it, but I just put one foot in front of the other.  It would be too hard to explain why I didn’t finish so I force my way through it.  Even though being tired or sore, I have never had anything affect my enjoyment.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I definitely plan on doing it. My motivation is just enjoying the Equinox.  Sometime the string will have to end, but as long as I can, I’ll keep collecting patches and trying to stay ahead of Baker and Wickwire. It’s a fun thing to do, and it’s a good time of year to be out there.  If I’m around here, I’ll keep doing it.  I started out as a hiker, and I’m working my way back to being a hiker.  It’s just as much fun,  just as satisfying doing it as a hiker as it is a runner.  I’ll keep on doing it as long as I can put one foot in front of the other.


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