Nick Sherrell, an 18-year-old who graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School in June, finished ninth overall and first in the under-20 age group in the Headlands 50 and Marathon, a trail run in Marin County, on July 16.
In his first long-distance running event, Sherrell finished the grueling 50-mile trail run through the Marin Headlands in nine hours, two minutes, 58 seconds. He averaged just over 10 minutes a mile.
“I can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to quit,” Sherrell said. “I just thought, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Then I would get another wind and power through another few miles before I would repeat the whole emotional cycle in my head again.”
Sherrell and the other racers ran the 25-mile loop in one direction and then retraced their path for another 25 miles. Marathon runners covered a short 1.2-mile loop before running the 25-mile circuit once.
The eventual winner of the 50-mile loop was 25-year-old Phil Shaw of Oakland, who finished in 6:59.03 and averaged 8:20 minutes per mile.
Garrett Morris, 19, of Encino, was the second finisher in Sherrell’s age group, finishing almost two hours behind the Ben Lomond runner in 10:53.04.
Sherrell had a tough time crossing the finish line, though.
“I got way too excited at the end and tried to sprint to the finish,” Sherrell said. “After passing two other runners in the last 400 yards, I cramped up, like, 30 feet from the finish line. So I had to kind of hop through the finish.”
Out of the 109 runners who started the race, put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, 90 finished the 50-mile Headlands circuit in the allotted time of 15 hours.
Sherrell, a cross country and track runner as an SLV senior, only recently began running long distances.
He ran 50 miles during the Relay for Life at Skypark in May — most people walk — to raise money for cancer research.
“I just heard about extreme running and thought I had to at least try it,” Sherrell said.
By finishing in less than 12 hours, Sherrell qualified for the Western States 100 in June, a 100-mile foot race that takes runners along trails from Squaw Valley Resort in Lake Tahoe all the way to Auburn.
Sherrell has begun training for that race, which he plans to run.
“The emotional high from finishing an accomplishment like that is so worth the experience,” he said.