He's chasing the record in patriotic fashion
Billy Richards began running frequently while serving in the United States Army. In 2014, he started running with a 45-pound pack slung over his shoulder. On Independence Day in 2015, he ran his first race while holding the American flag to raise awareness for mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide.
Since then, Richards has run in organized weekly races wielding the American flag. As a veteran, he went across the country going from one police precinct to the next in honor of their duties. He hit 39 total precincts on that tour.
“I gave them each a folded American flag to let the police know that the community supports them,” Richards said.
Last January, Richards decided that he would attempt to break the world record for the most 100-mile race finishes in one calendar year. One important detail: each race must be finished in less than 24 hours. His first race was the Frozen H3 in South Carolina, which he won.
“My original goal was to do one 100-mile race every month,” Richards said, but that goal began to blossom into a much larger feat when he participated in a skydiving race the following week, then flew to Texas the next week for the Rocky Raccoon race, and then the Lone Star race in El Paso the next. He finished a 100-mile race in four consecutive weekends, and it was only February.
Then it became six weeks in a row.
“Then I decided to fundraise, got a few sponsors, depleted my credit cards…” he said. “This is like a one-shot deal. Now or never.”
Working full-time as a physical trainer at Fit Life in East Islip, Richards has been traveling to events by car or air, depending on if the car trip was more than 12 hours. He said that travel has been the most difficult aspect of reaching his goal.
“I try to get a full night’s sleep at a hotel whether I am driving or flying, but it doesn’t always turn out that way,” he said. “Right after the race, I get rid of the rental car so nothing happens, and fly home. I book the flights 60 days out so I can afford them.”
Richards has faced injury setbacks in the meantime, including a current hip flexor issue and a tear in his shin, which kept him from finishing a race for multiple weeks. Richards said he has two physical therapy sessions scheduled each week at Performax in Deer Park.
Considering his setbacks, Richards has currently ran 31 100-mile races in 2019, including the Tesla Hertz Run in Rocky Point this past weekend. To beat the current record of 41 completions of such races in one year, Richards will have to run one race each week for the remainder of 2019.
Richards said that finishing a 100-mile race sub-24 hours is no easy task, even for a seasoned long-distance runner.
“The standard time limit for a 100-mile race is 30 hours,” he said. “Sometimes they give you a few more hours if the race is up in the hills. Some races they have you stop when you hit the 100-mile mark regardless of the time, even if it is under 30 hours.”
Richards has participated in many charity events as well, especially around Thanksgiving, Veterans Day and the holiday season.
When asked about his progress bar for his goal hovering around 75 percent, Richards said that he is amazed he has gotten this far.
“Sometimes I go blank and just stumble across the finish line. You just keep going and going and going, and then you see the finish line and you say, ‘Oh my god I made it,’” Richards said.
“This is not easy,” he added. ”I’m not doing this because I enjoy it. I found a task that I felt I could accomplish. Then I just went out and went after it. It can be straight-up torture, especially when you are running in the middle of the night, your body is trying to shut itself off and you are going to sleep on your feet. Every so often you run into a tree or run off of the course.”
To close, Richards expressed that his goal has become publicized across social media and is now larger than just him.
“It is almost as if I don’t succeed... It is not so much about me anymore,” he said. “I would be letting all of these other people down who have believed in me. I can’t stop. Whatever I am going through, I have to put it behind me, suck it up, get to the starting line and push through.” n