Shahid Ali: Super-Athlete

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If you are a student at Ashland High School, there is a good chance you have seen Shahid Ali, the AHS tech guru, hard at work in the computer lab or the library. However, most people don’t realize that on a daily basis, Ali runs ten to twenty miles. For fun. Why does he subject himself to hours of what most people consider torture? Because Ashland High School’s network technician also happens to be a rising ultra-marathoner.
Shahid Ali Concentrates on finishing one of his ultra-marathons

For much of the world, the concept of an ulta-marathon is completely alien. The term has broad implications: it refers to any race longer than a marathon. The sport has been slowly growing in recognition and popularity over the past several decades, especially after the 2009 publication of Born to Run.  That same year, when the ultra-marathon spiked in popularity, Ali ran his first ultra. His race of choice was Ashland’s 50 km (31 mile) Siskiyou Outback Ultra-Marathon Trail Run. “It was hard. Really hard.” Ali reflects on the experience. No matter how tough the race was, somehow Ali was hooked. However, the passion really began one year earlier, with a comparatively short 6-mile race.

On July 3, 2008, Ali decided to run his first race ever. Although the AHS graduate had played football as a high-schooler, he didn’t have much experience running. Nevertheless, he decided to go for it and signed up for Ashland’s fouth of July race, which took place the next day.

“I didn’t want to get beat by my boss,” Ali laughs, when asked if he had any goals while running his first race. The coordinator of Ali’s tech department at AHS, Steve Mitzel, was also running in the fourth of July race and had helped convince Ali to give running a try. Ali was successful in achieving his goal, and less than a month later he was running his second race, the notoriously steep and difficult Mount Ashland Hill Climb. Ali was quickly moving onto bigger and better races. November of that same year, Ali ran the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.

Today, Ali is on a trajectory of steady improvement. The majority of Ali’s races are far longer than his first racing endeavors. His most recent feat was his conquest of the Pine-to-Palm 100-mile race. Stretching over the Siskiyou mountains from Williams, OR to Lithia Park, the race involves 20,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Despite the difficulty of the course, Ali managed to break 24-hours and run the second fastest split for the final nine miles. (An average of 7:46/mile)

The Mountainous Course of the Pine to Palm 100, on its way over the Siskiyous.
Equally impressive to his finish in the Pine-to-Palm 100 was Ali’s dedication in training during the months leading up to the race. Ali is a Muslim, and participates in the holy month of Ramadan. This means that this year from August 1 through 29, he participated in fasting from sun-up to sun-down. During this time, he continued to train for the Pine-to-Palm, not eating or drinking during the day. Even so, he ended up finishing that month having run 258 miles with 50,000 total feet of elevation gain. Ali describes a sense of confidence for the upcoming race during this final month of training. “I was excited to go see what I could do,” he explains, “Because I was fasting I wasn’t able to get super long runs in. But I don’t think I was nervous.”
A topographic chart showing the net-elevation-gain and loss of the Pine to Palm 100
Ali’s future plans for running include racing in the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon this November and the North Face 50k in December. He also has goals of someday making it into the elite Western States100-mile race.“[Ultra-running] takes patience.” concluded Ali “It’s easy to give up. You’re out there so long. You’re going to have your ups and downs. It’s about how you break through those ups and downs.”
One of the many vistas of the Pine to Palm 100, overlooking the Siskiyou Mountains.
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