Burbank man always ready when a long-distance race is afoot

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 9, 2013 

Brandon Lott raced along the iconic Iditarod Trail in Alaska this month, but he didn't have a team of sled dogs to help him out.

The Burbank blueberry grower hauled his own sled and gear -- 50 pounds of it -- by foot across the snow and frozen landscape, covering 350 miles in six days and 22 hours.

Lott, 40, is a seasoned endurance athlete. But the Iditarod Trail Invitational is the longest race he's run. It tested him.

"Each day, you have personal challenges ... with your body, with your feet, with your sled. Each day there were things that I'd run into that I had to overcome. It was tough. Some days, I just wasn't sure if I was going to make it," Lott said at home last week, shortly after returning from the race.

"There was one day in particular I was just thinking, 'Man, I don't know why I'm doing this. This sure is tough.' "

For Lott, that's part of the appeal. He's competed in numerous 50K and 50-mile races, as well as 15, 100-mile events.

He gets something out of them -- a sense of accomplishment, for one thing.

Those around him get something too.

Lott's wife, Marilyn, said she's inspired by her husband's determination and will.

"I admire him for constantly searching to challenge himself. He's not one to be complacent. He's always looking for the next challenge," she told the Herald.

The fact that Lott is a runner at all is unlikely in more ways than one. When he was a young man, he didn't much care for it. "I didn't do any sports that really involved running. I thought running was not for me," he said.

And in 1993, while he was on a church mission in Scotland, he was seriously hurt in a car wreck.

He was in a coma for a couple of days and hospitalized about a month. Speech, physical and occupational therapy followed.

"They had me start walking -- assisted walking -- around the hospital. Then pretty soon they would have me try running around the hospital, stuff like that," Lott recalled.

"It was kind of a long process."

He added that he feels he's "recovered pretty well" from the wreck.

That's one way to put it.

Here's another: That Alaskan race Lott just completed, in which he hauled his own gear behind him over 350 long, cold miles?

He finished fifth overall. Some racers took almost 10 days.

Even as Lott has competed in long endurance races, he's put together events here. He organizes the Badger Mountain Challenge, which this year is March 29-30. It includes 15K, 50K and 100-mile events.

Scott Conrad from Runners Soul is the co-race director.

Lott also started the Tough Rhino Mud Run. He got hooked on running after he took it up several years ago to lose weight.

He ran his first marathon in 2006.

He said people aren't meant to sit around -- that's part of why he runs. "The human body is meant to go and go and go," he said.

"People can do more than they think they can do. ... They can go farther, run faster than they think they can. Just by experience, I know I can push my body to go far," Lott said.

But what about when his body is ready to quit? How does he keep going then?

On the Iditarod Trail, at the 300-mile mark, Lott stopped at a checkpoint and looked at his battered, blistered feet. He knew there was nothing he could do to make them feel better. He put some balm on them, put his shoes and socks back on, had something to eat and headed out.

"You're kind of like hobbling a little bit, until you kind of pick (up) your pace a little bit and start a little shuffle," he said.

And then after a mile or two, the pain decreases. You get used to it. You go faster.

Marilyn said her husband and others like him seem to tap into an internal strength.

"They dig really deep," she said.

She and her husband sat on a couch at home on a recent afternoon. Lott wore socks but no shoes; his feet still were pretty sore.

He described the Iditarod race as an exhilarating experience -- with the scenery, the chance to rub shoulders with great athletes.

And there was the support he received.

He was sponsored by Naturipe Farms and Wilbur-Ellis. Friends and family also showed their love. Lott was able to talk with Marilyn and their four kids -- ages 11 to 17 -- by satellite phone during the race. At one point, Marilyn told him about the message board on the race website, where loved ones were leaving encouraging messages.

Sometime later, when he was able to access Wi-Fi at a checkpoint, he read them.

"It was inspiring ... it basically boosted me for the rest of the race," he said.

"I wasn't just doing it for me."

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