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Trevor Stewart, a former Marine and a seasoned ultra runner, admits that running 50 or a 100 miles doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“It’s pretty silly, actually,” he says. “You have to have a reason to do it, or you’ll quit when it gets hard — and it always gets hard.”

Trevor, 45, says his six years in the Marine Corps taught him that you can accomplish anything with the proper motivation.

His reason for running 100 miles the first time was clear — and heartbreaking: His buddy Tyler Swisher was killed in Iraq.

“My Marine brothers and I decided to run 100 miles to raise money for his family,” Trevor said. “I didn’t know anything about running 100 milers. I didn’t even know it was a thing. But, one guy had heard of 100s, and we thought it was crazy enough that it would get people to donate.”

They started a non-profit called Always Brothers for the proceeds. At the time, Trevor was running 25-30 miles a week but knew little about endurance training.

“I spent nine months getting serious about running. I taught myself how to fuel and run longer distances by trial and lots of error.”

In August 2011, Trevor and his Marine brothers ran 100 miles from Camp David (where they had been stationed in Maryland) to Tyler’s grave in Arlington. “It took like 29 hours or something,” Trevor recalled. “I was hooked.”

Since then, Trevor’s run half a dozen 100-mile ultras and many more 50 milers and 50K races. Last weekend, he finished his first Hellgate 100K, a 66.6.-mile race that he says lived up to its name and infamous reputation.

Trevor Stewart

Hometown: Born in Atlanta, grew up in Baltimore. Go O’s! Now lives in Blacksburg with his wife Ginger and their two-year-old son, Paul.

Job at Virginia Tech: Associate Professor English Education

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How does your experience as a Marine influence your running? My time in the Marines taught me a lot of lessons that make a big difference in running ultras. Sniper school taught me that you can endure way more than you might ever think possible. Even when you think you’re completely out of energy, your body can do more as long as you don’t let your mind limit you.

How was your experience at Hellgate? Running Hellgate for the first time was an incredible experience. It was actually harder than I thought it would be. A lot of folks have trouble with the midnight start. I wasn’t worried about that. Between my job in the Marines and the more recent sleep deprivation training I have as a new father, I handle not sleeping very well. It was COLD, but it didn’t snow or rain, so we had better weather than most years. I think I expected to it to be a little easier than it was because it’s 66.6 miles, not 100. But, it was HARD.

Parts of the course are so technical, and you run so much of it in the dark. The hardest section for me was the “Devil Trail” section. It was super technical, a bit snowy, and REALLY COLD. I had to dig deep and think about my motivation. Knowing that Ginger was bringing Paul to the finish really kept me going. All night I kept thinking: “The sun will come up. Ginger and Paul will be at the finish.” I knew I’d be so happy to see them, and setting an example for Paul is important to me. I want him to know that we can do hard things.

The most satisfying part of the actual race was bombing the final descent to the finish. Josh Clemmons (who paced me for the last 20) and I passed 5 or 6 people in the last mile, which clocked in at 7:09. But, the BEST part of the whole experience was having Ginger and Paul at the finish and then getting to celebrate the great race that everyone in our crew ran. We have the best people!

When and why did you start running? I started running in grad school as a new way to go on adventures with my buddy Reeve. We would just go on these long adventure runs in the mountains of NC and north Georgia. I didn’t know anything about running ultras. He dragged me along for my first ultra in 2008- a 28 mile trail race in north Georgia. I’d never even run a marathon. But we had fun.

Most satisfying running accomplishment? Finishing that first 100 miler and honoring my friend. The hug Tyler’s father gave me at the finish will be one of the most powerful things that ever happens to me.

Proudest race moment? That’s a tough one. Probably watching my friend Chris Larson win the Yeti 100 this year. I’m always proud of my own race finishes, but there’s really nothing like watching your friends pull off things they never imagined they might be able to actually do.

Who inspires and/or motivates you? The running community here in Blacksburg. Everyone here has been so kind, generous, and welcoming. The runners in our community are constantly re-defining what is possible. It’s so motivating to be surrounded by people who are not afraid to try to do things that seem impossible. It’s made me a different runner for sure.

Advice for new runners? Take it easy. Build miles slowly. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Ask tons of questions, but remember that everyone is an experiment of one. Light always follows dark, so don’t give up!

Favorite race? Hardrock 100. I still haven’t gotten in, but I’ve paced it twice. It has the most incredible vibe. Really hard, really beautiful, and no ego: Just fun people out doing fun stuff and not taking it too seriously.

Trails or roads? Trails for sure.

Fact many people don’t know about you? My first job in the Marines was Presidential guard duty at Camp David.

Running goals for 2019? Have fun. Spend as much time running in the mountains as possible without sacrificing too much time with my family. I’m signed up for Hellbender 100 in April. I’d also like to try to break 4 hours for 50K, so I’m doing Dam Yeti 50K in June.