Voorhees Resident, Miriam Gilbert, runs Montour 24 placing fourth among women

When Voorhees resident Miriam Gilbert, age 55, broke her arm back in the winter, she unfortunately couldn’t compete in the March NJ Ultra Trail, a 100-mile endurance run, but that didn’t stop her from completing her third 24-hour endurance run on July 26.
At the inaugural Montour 24-Hour Trail Endurance run in Danville, Pa., Gilbert placed 14th out of 31 runners overall and fourth out of 11 women, running 68.54 miles within the 24-hour period.
“I felt great and grateful that I was able to run considering I had broken my arm,” Gilbert said. “Running for me is a form of prayer. It’s a time to be alone with your thoughts. Some people go for walks and have conversations with God. I go for long runs and have conversations with God.”
For Gilbert, running is not only for her spiritual experience, but also for her health. Running has many medical benefits, and for Gilbert, it keeps her healthy and physically fit. It even helped her when she experienced a medical emergency.
“Running actually saved my life when I had a medical nightmare. A scheduled outpatient surgery (unrelated to running) unfortunately resulted in a life-threatening surgical error, four compromised organs and three more surgeries in a period of 10 weeks and landed me in the hospital 23 days. If I had not been physically fit, I would not be here today,” Gilbert said. “I survived the surgical nightmare because I was so physically fit. Running healed me and will continue to keep me physically fit and healthy.”
Gilbert started running because she loved the outdoors and just likes to run. She ran her first 5k in 1989 after her daughter was born. That lead to 10ks, then to half marathons and marathons, and finally to ultras, which are 100-mile runs.
Ultras then lead to 24-hour runs, which Gilbert had done previously in Wakefield, Mass. She placed third in the 2012 24-hour endurance run there, winning a medal, plaque and cash prize. However, Wakefield is a six-hour drive compared to the three hours to Danville.
Yet, Gilbert didn’t start off with the idea to go to the Montour 24. She originally was training for the NJ Ultra Trail when she broke her arm. Unable to compete in the run, though she did walk a 10-mile loop with her broken arm in a sling, Gilbert went searching for other races and found the Montour 24.
During the race, Gilbert said the hardest part was when she had to change her shoes. She likes to change her shoes mid-way, and after running for so long, her feet were feeling tired. Luckily, after five minutes of putting her toes in a basin of ice water, and putting on new socks and shoes, her feet were energized.
She did get a blister while running, which is the biggest hazard for a runner’s feet, but Gilbert had it quickly taken care of. Another hazard for runners is sleep deprivation. But for Gilbert, that is not a problem.
“I am used to it. I never sleep,” Gilbert said about long races. “I don’t do that. I continue because I’m afraid if I take a nap I won’t get back up.”
For Gilbert, after all of the ultra races she has experienced, she felt there wasn’t really anything hard about the race overall. Medical aid was there, food was provided, and the runners were encouraged by families, friends, volunteers and even fellow runners, making the experience more enjoyable.
“You never know what kind of day you’re going to have, good day or bad day. You could fall over a tree root and fall flat on your face, or you could have a great day and place,” Gilbert said. “Ultra runners are very kind people and cheer each other on and we keep each other company because it can get very lonely. We support each other.”
Gilbert doesn’t want to stop with just the Montour 24. She not only plans to race it again next year, but she plans to race in the New York Tesla Hertz Run in October and a run in the Maryland C&O 100 mile race in April.
Gilbert has advice for those who are regular runners and wish to partake in a 24-hour or Ultra 100 race.
“Train well for it. Prepare. Be very disciplined, stay focused and start off slow, because you have 24 hours. Put one foot in front of the other and stay hydrated and fill your body with calories,” Gilbert said. “You have to be very patient and stay focused. In these runs, there is no sense of time and space, you just do it.”