HURT 100: The Test-Your-Limits Ultra on Mud, Roots & Rocks

Thinking about running HURT 100 in Hawaii?
✈️When ultrarunner Kevin Williams got a last-minute lottery spot less than two months before the race, he didn't hesitate to book a flight to Hawaii, round up a crew and start packing.
πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈHURT 100 is a bucket-list race for a lot of runners, including Kevin. 
There's a kind of twisted curiosity to find out what it's like to take on the infamous HURT 100 course known for mud, rocks, roots, mega-elevation and often...suffering.😭
Here's what happened...

The HURT 100-Mile Ultramarathon takes place on a 20-mile loop trail in the mountains above Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Frank Page)

HURT 100: This is what you're getting into

The day before 132 runners stepped up to the starting line of the HURT 100 ultramarathon, runners, crew members and race volunteers wandered through the Ke'ehi Lagoon Memorial building in Honolulu to get the details on the 2024 race.

  • "The HURT 100 is a very difficult event designed for the adventurous and well prepared ultrarunner," the race director told the crowd.
  • "The course consists almost exclusively of technical, single-track trail on surfaces that include roots, rocks, and soil in a wide range of conditions, from sun-baked clay to mud of varying depth."
  • "Very few sections of the course can be run with a consistent stride for more than several hundred yards at a time."

HURT 100: Here's what to expect:

  • 100 miles over 5 laps (partial out and backs) in a semi-tropical rainforest
  • 24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain
  • 99% single-track trails, 1% asphalt
  • Moderately packed soil, generously interspersed with roots, rocks, puddles, and mud wallows
  • Narrow trails through forest, along exposed ridges, and past vertical embankments
  • 20 stream crossings (four per lap)
  • Possible wild-pig encounters
  • Three aid stations per lap
  • 36-hour time limit

Idaho resident Kevin McWilliams was in the pre-race meeting with his brothers (Pat McWilliams and Michael McWilliams) and the rest of the 132 runners picked to take on the HURT 100 this year.
"There was a kind of nervous energy in the room," says Kevin.
"It was cool to see all the other competitors there and take in all the information about the course, rules, and what to expect."
Kevin grabbed his race bib (#80), HURT 100 swag, and headed off to do some island sight-seeing.
"I went to bed later than I was hoping to the night before the race," says Kevin.
πŸ›ŒThe questions on his mind as he drifted off to dreamland...

  • Is HURT 100 really as hard as they say it is?
  • Was a few weeks of 40-50 miles of marathon training enough to take on HURT 100?
  • Would he be able to make the 36-hour cutoff?

He was about to find out...

Kevin McWilliams and HURT 100 runners start the race. (Photo by Frank Page)

HURT 100: On your mark, get set, go...

Just before 6 a.m. outside the Hawaiian Nature Center, darkness overshadowed the crowd of runners, crew and volunteers.
Everything went quiet.

  • "All you could hear was the stream going under the bridge," says Kevin.
  • "And then this koa warrior blew a conch shell for like a minute."
  • "It was this deep sound that broke the silence in the middle of the rain forest."

Just before go time, the koa warrior delivered a powerful haka to send the runners on their way.

  • "It felt like a kind of blessing or wish of good luck," says Kevin. 
  • "It's hard to describe the feeling. But it's one of the coolest things I'll remember about this race."

Kevin's mind started racing about marathon training and past races, like:

  • Running the Boston Marathon
  • Finishing IMTUF 100 in Idaho with encouragement from friend and ultrarunner Frank Page
  • Completing Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota crewed by his brother Pat McWilliams

"A lot was going through my mind," says Kevin.
"It reminded me of the Pikes Peak Marathon. Right before the start of the race, a singer performs 'America, the Beautiful' written by Katharine Lee Bates who was inspired by the view from the top of Pikes Peak to write the song."

Just before go-time, Kevin bounced back to reality...

And the voice of his friend and crew member Frank Page came into his mind...

  • 😲"You know what I'm going to say about running this race: Slow the eff down!"

Blinded by headlamps and surrounded by other runners ready to hit the HURT 100 trails, he thought about this as he headed off into the darkness...

"The faster you start out, the worse it's going to be for you later on," he told himself.

Kevin Williams headed to the HURT 100 Makiki Aid Station at the Hawaiian Nature Center. (Photo by Frank Page)

HURT 100: Conquering the first 20-mile loop

There's a lot of ultrarunning lore about HURT 100 out there.

The Marathon Handbook puts the HURT 100 among the top 10 toughest ultras in the world with races like:

Kevin shuffled his way through the darkness in a bottleneck of runners that lasted a couple of hours.
And he kept thinking about the mantra: We GO!

  • A simple way to remember how to navigate the network of marked trails...White, Green, Orange.

"It started to get light, and that was a good morale boost," says Kevin.
"Eventually, we climbed out of the jungle high enough to see the tops of the rain forest and part of Honolulu."

But then some punishing miles followed...

  • Running up Concrete Hill
  • Working through a gnarly downhill section with rocks, roots and mud
  • Rock hopping to navigate a stream crossing
  • Circling back to complete the loop
  • Trying to ignore a twinge in his Achilles
Frank Page prepares to tape up Kevin's ankle for another lap around the HURT 100 course.

HURT 100: Every ultrarunner needs a Mary-Poppins bag like this

"Anytime you can see your crew during an ultra, it's a huge boost to your confidence," says Kevin.
When Kevin finished Lap 1 of the HURT 100 course, his crew (Frank Page, Evan Jensen, Pat McWilliams, Michael McWilliams) greeted him at the Makiki Aid Station to:

  • Refill his hydration pack
  • Help him change shoes, socks and shirt
  • Wipe down legs covered in mud
  • Get him food and drinks from the aid station
  • And address any issues...

And there was one: His ankle.
"At that point, my Achilles was already starting to hurt a little bit," say Kevin. 
"Enough I knew I had to address it, because there were four more laps to go. I came in to the aid station with this mental checklist in my head:

  • Change shoes, socks and shirt
  • Put more BodyGlide on the hot spots
  • Address my ankle

πŸŽ’Behold, the Mary-Poppins bag for ultrarunners
When Kevin disclosed the details about his ankle and Achilles, crew member, friend and ultrarunner Frank Page jumped into action.
He's ran three 100-mile ultras. And he's a retired Army vet, and command sergeant major with decades of experience navigating his way through a long list of impossible situations.
(He repeatedly said: 'The plan is no plan,' with 100% confidence he could find a way to solve any challenge.)
So he went to work on Kevin's ankle...

  • He moved Kevin's ankle around
  • He asked him a series of questions
  • He massaged the bottom of his foot

And then he reached into this well-worn seemingly-bottomless Mary-Poppins bag and began pulling out supplies that could stock a military hospital in the middle of the desert...

  • Icy Hot
  • Duct tape
  • Paracord
  • Bandaids
  • Double-sided adhesive wrap
  • A stuffed rooster, you know like "Hey-Hey" from the Disney movie Moana
  • And more...

"The way Frank taped up my ankle felt really good," says Kevin. 
"I thought that if I had something kind of elastic with a little support around the ankle it would help."
And it did. Kevin headed out to complete the second loop at HURT 100.

HURT 100: Taking on Laps 2 & 3

After completing the first 20-mile loop and leaving Makiki Aid Station just over 6.5 hours into the race, Kevin took off with his mindset on completing five more laps...
He left on a high with help from his crew, a break from running, and refueling from the aid station, but once he got back on the trail, things started to happen...
"After just three miles into the second lap, my ankle and Achilles really started hurting again," says Kevin. "And it kind of progressively got worse over the course of the second lap."
To finish HURT 100, he would need to find a way to fight through the pain, IF he could do it safely:

  • He took a cocktail of ibuprofen and Tylenol
  • He relied on his trekking poles more
  • He carefully picked his way through the rocks, roots and mud on the downhill sections
  • He put insoles in his trail running shoes to further minimize impact
  • And he started questioning his ability to complete HURT 100

"I've dealt with a sprained ankle before," says Kevin. "And I thought this was something I could manage."
When Kevin completed Lap 2, his crew went to work again to keep him in the race with:

  • A fresh and slightly tighter wrap to support his ankle and Achilles
  • Dry clothes and change of shoes
  • Refill on drinks and snacks
  • Plenty of encouragement and laughing (specifically the gnarly-long toenail Kevin opted not to clip before race day)

By now, reports were already trickling in about runners dropping out of the race.

  • HURT 100 Runner Jake Hinz (who's finished the race 7 times), dropped after 32 miles.
  • Another veteran HURT 100 runner, James Oliphant dropped as the race progressed
  • And by late Sunday afternoon, only 75 of the 132 runners to start HURT 100 would finish
  • Kevin was fighting to stay in the race for as long as possible

"My ankle started to getting really painful," says Kevin. "And for the first time in the race, things started to go bad mentally."

  • Every gnarly, downhill section wrecked his ankle with every foot strike
  • Sometimes moving forward required painfully hopping down and over rocks, roots and logs
  • He thought about the cutoff times, and wondered if finishing was still within reach

"The next section up to the summit was just brutal," says Kevin. "That's when I really started thinking it may not be a good idea to keep going."

Photo by Brent Wong Photograpy

Go as far as you 'think' you can...then a little further

When Kevin completed 60 miles and finished Lap 3 at HURT 100, he was hurting.
But there was still ample time before the cutoff, so the possibility of finishing was still there.

  • Could he complete two more laps?
  • Was it smart to keep going, even though his ankle hurt so much?
  • Could his ankle & Achilles pain lead to a long-term injury?
  • Did he feel like he left everything on the course, or could he go a little longer?

These are hard questions Frank talked with Kevin about in the early-morning hours before sunrise.
And Kevin pointed out two things...

  1. He wasn't going to feel good about quitting after Lap 3
  2. He didn't think he'd be able to finish HURT 100

Run enough ultras, and a DNF will find you. But before giving, up here's how to handle it:

  • Go as far as you think you can. 
  • Then push your limits and go a little more. 
  • This is the spirit of ultrarunning.

Ultimately, Frank patched up Kevin's ankle one more time, and sent him out to take on Loop 4.

  • "You've got so much heart into this race, I know you don't want to stop," Frank told him.
  • "I think you need to go out on Loop 4, even it's just one more step, knowing you'll probably come back and DNF.

So that's what he did.
Kevin left the aid station and started hiking uphill in the darkness. He left everything on the course when he did that.
One mile later, he made the call to return.

Photo by Brent Wong Photography

DNF lessons from HURT 100

About a day later, Kevin was already on the mend.

  • He ran across town in Honolulu to catch a boat for a whale-watching tour
  • He hiked through airport terminals on his way back to Boise, Idaho
  • Within a few days, his legs were feeling better and his Achilles/ankle pain was gone
  • And he felt good about pushing his limits to go 62 miles at HURT 100

"Your perspective about your performance always changes after a race after two days, two months, or two years," says Kevin.
"I don't have any regrets about dropping at HURT 100. It was the right decision."
A week after HURT 100, Kevin crushed a workout on the elliptical machine. And not long after that he went for a run.
"I love the challenge of 100-milers for a lot of reasons," says Kevin. "You have to learn how to train your mind to keep going, even when your body wants to stop, but you have to be smart about it."

Fun facts about Kevin McWilliams:

HURT 100 runner #80

🌴HURT 100 results (2024)

  • 62 miles, 16,500+ feet of elevation gain in 24+ hours
  • 56% drop rate. 132 runners started HURT 100, 75 finished.

πŸ’―100-milers I've completed:

  • IMTUF 100 in Idaho
  • Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota

πŸ‘ŸTrail running shoes I wore at HURT 100

  • Hoka Speedgoat (wide)
  • Brooks Cascadia

πŸ’§Hydration drink of choice for HURT 100

  • Skratch Labs. "This is the drink they had on the course, but I haven't trained with it before. It was fantastic. I filled my bladder every lap, tolerated it well, and didn't have any electrolyte issues."

⌚Favorite running watch

  • Garmin Fenix 6

🦺Favorite running vest

  • Salomon Active Skin Hydration vest. Fun fact, Kevin wore a borrowed vest at HURT 100. A friend let him try it out just before the race. He liked it so much, he used it for HURT 100. "I'm definitely going to buy one for myself," Kevin said. "It conformed to my body really well and didn't push as much weight on my shoulders as other vests."

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈFavorite trekking poles

  • Black Diamond trekking poles. "I used these pretty much the whole time I was out on the HURT 100 course," Kevin said. "As my ankle stability got worse, these were a lifesaver."

🎧Favorite songs on my playlist

  • "Wake Me Up" by Avicii
  • "Till I Collapse" by Eminem
  • "The Race is On" by Sawyer Brown
  • "Blaze of Glory" by Bon Jovi

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈSigned up for another 100

  • IMTUF 100 in September.

πŸ‘ŠTaking on HURT 100 Lap 4

  • Friend and crew member Frank Page said: "It was really impressive that Kevin went back out there. He knew he probably wasn't going to finish. But he went back out there because his heart and mind needed to. He definitely gave everything he had, and one more. And that's incredible. He left everything on the course and went further than he probably should have gone."
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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
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I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


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