Parkite Peter Marsted is one of the top ultra runners around
All his life, Parkite Peter Marsted has been underestimated based on his size.
Standing at 5-foot-2 or 5-foot-3, depending on whom you ask, Marsted has constantly battled the stigma against his height and perceived lack of expectations.
But none of that has stopped him from becoming one of the best ultra runners in the country — winning multiple races over the past year, and setting new course records in some of them.
“It’s funny because people have constantly looked at me, especially when before a competition, and just figured I wasn’t going to be much of a factor,” Marsted said. “But I try not to think about it much because it’s happened so often, that I think I’m used to it by now.”
The ultimate form of disrespect came to Marsted in January 2018, the day before he took part in the Big Bend 50K in Texas.
While running with his mom, Melissa, to prep for the race, they both encountered a man wearing a race shirt who was doing the same thing. After they asked the man which of the races he was taking part in, not only did he reply by saying the 50K, he then sarcastically commented on to Marsted about him taking part in the 5 or 10K. Once Marsted told him which race he was taking part in, the man gave a smirk and kept on running.
“After that, my only real goal was to show him up because originally I went into the race without any goals because I didn’t have any formal or rigid training,” Marsted said. “I ended up winning the race by an hour, even passing that guy within the first mile and didn’t see him the rest of the way. I started off super slow and then just began picking people off until I somehow ended up first. And from there, I was officially hooked.”
That race was just the beginning of Marsted’s journey into ultramarathons.
Going into his junior year at Harvard, four months before that race in Texas, Marsted became hooked on running and decided to choose his class schedule around running. He spent three days in class and four days off, allowing him to fly home to Park City and run in the mountains, his favorite place to run.
After traveling and doing fun runs that summer in New Zealand, he returned to the states for his senior year where he was part of an oceanography program with MIT that helped upon graduation that winter, would allow him to have his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
While at MIT, Marsted was running up to 100-110 miles per week, and during a chance encounter while out on a run, stumbled across the Cape Cod Marathon. He registered for the Sunday race on Thursday evening, after having run 70 miles that week, and finished in fourth.
But the race didn’t come without payment, as a weird pain began to develop in his knee a week later. While x-rays and an MRI showed nothing, Marsted spent six months not running, and according to him, it was miserable.
“I was getting cortisone shots to help relieve the pain, but after running just a mile, I wasn’t able to do anything more because it hurt so bad,” Marsted said. “Without running, I can’t function. … I get stressed and angry and am probably not a fun person to be around. I tried swimming and going to the gym, but none of it gave me the rush I got when running.”
Once healed, Marsted took off for a 10-week traveling and adventure that began in Nepal, before heading to the United Arab Emirates and finishing in Austria.
Upon returning home, Marsted had just enough time to compete in the Twisted Fork 64K on June 29 in Park City, a race he not only won, but set the course record for. He then followed that race up with a 50-miler in August, which he won by an hour, and a 45K race in Wyoming, where he won and set the course record.
“For me, I don’t go into any of these races with the competitive spirit that I have to win them,” Marsted said. “I just love running and want to run. I enjoy myself when out there doing it, and I’m going to keep doing it while I’m young and relatively new to it.”
All of this led to Marsted competing in the Trans-Pecos Ultra in November, a grueling six-day, 165-mile race in which the runner carries everything he needs except for a tent and water.
“At the start, my backpack was 16.5 pounds, because I was carrying 14,000 calories; 2,000 per day,” Marsted said. “I had a sleeping bag, a fleece and a medical kit. … I basically brought nothing but the required list because I knew the pack would get lighter as the race went along.”
The race was broken down into six stages; a 10k, four marathons and a 60-mile “sprint” to the finish, all of them happening on consecutive days.
Going into it with no expectations, just wanting to try something new, Marsted found himself in first place after winning both the second and third stages by more than an hour each time. With such a huge lead heading into the final portion, Marsted was given his own starting time at 10 a.m., an hour behind the other top racers, but two hours into that race and he was already in first place again.
Marsted ended up finishing the final stage five hours before the next runner crossed the finish line, while also setting the course record by over six hours.
In what was expected to be the toughest race he’s ever competed in, against some of the top ultra-runners in the country, the kid from Park City who’s been doubted his whole life because of his size, stood tallest.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.