Stormy Kies had already run 100 miles straight when a drawing from his late daughter pushed him to double that total.
Kies, of Woodstock, recently finished the Hennepin Hundred, a 100-mile ultra marathon that starts in Sterling and ends in Colona. But unlike last year, when he crossed the finish line at the 100-mile mark, Kies didn’t end his race until he’d run the course in both directions for a 200-mile total.
“You never know how far you can go until you push yourself,” Kies said. “I had never found an actual limit to how far I could go, until I fail. People are always afraid of failure. I wanted to get to a point where I failed so I knew what my limit was.”
Kies was prompted to find that limit when he discovered a drawing from his late daughter, Faith, who died in January at the age of 16. Kies knew the drawing, a dragon shooting fire in the shape of the number 100, was intended to be a tattoo for him to commemorate his initial 100-mile run.
But Kies had already gotten a tattoo to mark the occasion without realizing his daughter had designed one for him. And so he pledged to run 200 miles and have Faith’s tattoo design altered slightly to symbolize his 200-mile achievement.
“I found this tattoo in her stuff. I thought, ‘I didn’t get her tattoo.’ One of the main reasons I did this [is] I felt I have to do something that’s big enough and worthy of this,” Kies said.
The Hennepin race director suggested Kies complete the 100-mile run, then turn back and run to the starting line. The entire race took Kies four days, from Oct. 1 to 4.
Kies, a 1986 graduate of Woodstock High School, ran track for the Blue Streaks but didn’t maintain his habit for most of his adult life. Always an athlete, he enjoyed other sports such as basketball, but various injuries sidelined his ability to play.
Kies regularly runs with the M.U.D.D. (McHenry County Ultra Dudes & Dudettes) group. In this circle, he says his belief in love and humanity has been restored.
“I’ve never met a mean runner. These people suck you in,” he said.
During his first 100 miles, Kies depended on aid stations offering food, drink, first aid and support, but for his return trip they had been taken down. Instead, he had to rely on the support of the same community that inspired him to find his limit. He plans to get the tattoo sketched by his daughter, with a 200 above it, completed sometime soon.
Kies found the experience uplifting, if challenging.
“The running itself tears away the layers you build up over the years. You start talking about things with these people that you’d never share,” he said. “If I can get people lifting up, back into helping each other, treating each other the way we should, that would make my life much better.”