Before that Friday, the farthest Brandt Ricca had run consecutively was 28 miles. In fact, prior to his training he’d run a maximum of 10 miles. But when he decided he wanted to do something to support LGBTQ+ small businesses and entrepreneurs, running 100 miles nonstop felt like a feat worth every painful stride.
As a business owner himself, Ricca knows firsthand the challenges small businesses continue to face during the pandemic and this was his chance to do something about it.
Ricca started his training on February 1, eight months ahead of his date with destiny on October 7. About four months later, and halfway into his training, he was forced to shift his strategy due to health issues.
Enter training coach Brandon Petelin, who has completed over 15 100-mile races, making him the ideal coach and mentor for Ricca. For the next four months Ricca, under Petelin’s close direction, trained with CrossFit endurance during D.C.’s blistering summer weather, before ramping down his efforts in the days leading up to the run, when he’d only run short distances of 3 to 4 miles.
Ricca was preparing to do something otherworldly: run 100 miles along a course he’d never stepped foot on. But he wasn’t worried.
His friends describe him as someone who brings people together; someone who connects friendships and follows through. So when he decided he was going to publish a children’s book and complete a 100-mile run in the span of 48 hours, they were not surprised. And as Ricca crossed the finish line of gold tinsel on that Friday afternoon — within 31 hours after he started running — those friends were there, cheering and celebrating his accomplishment. But physically and mentally, Ricca said he was in a different mindset.
“I just wasn’t prepared for the pain, mentally and physically,” he says. “My coach had told me that whatever I thought the 100 mile run was going to be, it was going to be 10 times worse than I thought. And he was right.”
On the morning of October 7, at 6 a.m., Ricca took off on mile one alongside a few supporters and his coach. Carrying some water and sustenance, fueled by the motivation of passion and pressure, the run started strong. But that wasn’t going to last.
“I would say the first 15 miles were manageable,” Ricca says. “But then right before I finished the 50 mile mark, I suffered mentally and physically. [I was] hurting. I actually tried to quit at [mile] 55.”
Ricca says at one point, he even began planning the social media post he would have to put out if he quit — the end was nowhere in sight for Ricca and neither coffee nor beer proved to be a long-term solution. But his coaches kept pushing. They allowed him a couple minutes of walking at a time as a compromise, and pushed Ricca through the mental hole he had dug. And eventually, 80 miles had passed.
“The last 20 miles and all y’all were waiting for me were the darkness of the run. That’s when I was in the most pain I’ve ever been in — I was in a dark place,” Ricca says. “I couldn’t even picture finishing.”
But 20 miles later, Ricca did finish, just under 31 hours after he began, while running toward a crowd of cheering friends and flanked by his coaches.
“By the time I got to you guys I was mentally gone,” Ricca says. “I was even emotional. My best friend [asked] ‘What do you want to do?’ And I was like, I just want to go home.”
“The second he left, my body just started sobbing,” Ricca recalls. “So then I got in the shower and started crying. And then I put on knee-high compression socks and [elevated] my legs. I literally slept for six hours, [and] woke up drenched in sweat.”
The days after the run was spent on recovery. He said he was surprised at how fast his body was able to return to OK-ness, but he still sometimes feels lingering leg pains.
Still, there’s the rewards for his efforts: $15,000 raised.
“We’re turning [the funds] into mini-grants,” Ricca says. “And [there’ll] be an application process that any entrepreneur [from the] LGBTQ+ community can apply for and receive funds.”
Preserving through hardship isn’t unfamiliar to Ricca. As a business owner during the pandemic, he understands the turmoil and darkness that come with success and achievement. And in the act of pushing yourself — or having others push for you — you find what you can do.
“I think the theme of Covid, in general, is that those of us who’ve been business owners and pushing through, we’re finding out what we are capable of,” Ricca says. “And I think it was the same with the run — I found out what my mind and body were capable of in really dark times, and before I even thought to do this run during the pandemic, there were times I was mentally in a dark space, owning a business and losing revenue. I think it was a theme [related to] finding out what we can all do.”
Sponsors and Partners of Brandt’s Run:
Sports Massage Guy
Brandon Petelin, Training Coach
Equality Chamber Foundation
Equality Chamber of Commerce
JD Ireland Design and Architecture
The Four Seasons Hotel-Georgetown
When not training for ultramarathons, Brandt Ricca is the owner of creative brand agency, Nora Lee. To learn more about Nora Lee, visit their website here or follow them on Instagram @noraleeus. Learn more about Ricca’s journey by following him on Instagram @brandtricca. To donate to Brandt Ricca’s run, please visit here.