Justin Lange summits the North Franklin Peak

PeaceHealth Prince of Wales’  Justin Lange, MD, summits the North Franklin Peak — 7,192 feet — in February’s Lone Star 100-mile ultra marathon near El Paso, Texas. Lange placed fifth out of the 19 runners who completed from a field of 36 starters. Photo courtesy of Justin Lange

When it comes to foot races, many people would think the shorter, the better. Not so with PeaceHealth Prince of Wales Clinic’s Justin Lange, MD, who finished fifth in his first-ever, 100-mile ultra-marathon in February.

Lange completed the Lone Star 100 ultra-marathon near El Paso, Texas, with a time of 30 hours, 30 minutes and 10 seconds. He was one of 19 finishers from a field of 36 starters. Lange also ran a 50-mile race in Scottsdale last December.

The Lone Star consists of three counter-clockwise loops around a single-wide 33.7-mile trail which starts at a 5,000-foot elevation and rises to 7,200 feet. Lange wore a hydro-pack and carried headlamps, spare shoes and socks.

He completed his first 100K race — 62 miles —at age 18, and won the Washington State University 100K a year later. He has run the Boston Marathon, plus marathons in Little Rock, Arkansas and Portland in addition to half-marathons.

He was in his best shape going in to medical school but the time required for his studies and residency made running difficult. He was “in and out of shape” during those years, although he did run a 50-mile race in 2017.

Lange began practicing medicine on Prince of Wales — his first job after residency — in August 2018. He started running again in January 2019. It hasn’t been easy, but he is out there six days a week, in all kinds of weather, daylight or with the aid of a headlamp.

He said he’d always wanted to do a 100-mile race. His training included going up and down the Sunnahae Mountain Trail, in addition to running island roads.

Since he couldn’t train at altitude here, the thing he could do was adjust his pace. And the pace of a 100-mile ultra-marathon is much different than that of a 26-mile marathon.

“It’s much harder to run six-and-a-half-minute miles for 26 miles than it is to run 18-minute miles for 100 miles,” he said.

“Ultra is the way to go, especially as you age; it’s just not as fast.” The ultra-marathon was more like a fast hike, and he averaged about 18 minutes per mile.

Runners don’t get to sleep, but they can stop and eat or grab and go. Being a physician with an undergrad degree in kinesiology — sports medicine — Lange mapped out a plan that meant eating something every 30 minutes — a sports bar or sports gel, or real food like a quesadilla or cheese burrito as some aid stations offered.

He was careful to balance the number of calories he took in, versus what he would burn off. The main reason many people drop out of ultra-marathons is due to gastrointestinal distress, Lange said. He estimates he ate about 10,000 calories during the run.

“Towards the end you are forcing yourself to eat,” he said.

Although he definitely felt tired and his feet were hurting and blistered from the rocky course.

Lange said he never felt like he couldn’t finish the race. He had psychologically prepared himself for the pain of being on his feet for a longer period of time.

Lange runs at the end of his work day and finds it’s great for relieving stress and anxiety. “People say, ‘Wow, you must be really motivated’ and I say ‘No, I’m just consistent.’”

His mother, Janice, is a runner as well. She ran cross country in college, and has recently returned to the sport. She went with him to Scottsdale and ran a 30-mile race.

Lange took fifth place in the 2019 Prince of Wales Island Marathon and is training for this year’s race in the hope it goes on as scheduled. He is planning on the Yeti 100-Mile Endurance Run in North Bend, Washington in August. He thinks he can do it in under 24 hours.

Lange tells all his patients they need to be exercising. He obviously practices what he preaches.