Next huge challenge awaits UM grad student Venti


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Special to the Miami Herald

University of Miami graduate student and ultramarathoner Alyson Venti, of Boston, is training for her next big feat, the 2014 Badwater Ultramarathon.

The 135-mile race in the middle of the summer is considered one of the world’s toughest races. This year’s route features a gain of over 19,000 feet, two dramatic ascents into the Sierra Nevada and a 15-mile dirt road trek to a ghost town in the desert. Participants will have to complete the course within 48 hours of the start on July 31.

Only 100 of the toughest athletes are invited, and in order to qualify you must have already finished the Badwater 135 previously, or you must have finished at least three ultra-distance races with at least one in the past 12 months.

“It is definitely a challenge, for sure,” said Venti, who is 31. “My goal going into it ranges the gamut from winning to just finishing. A race like that is just an accomplishment to just finish. Honestly, I would be happy with either one.”

While qualifying for Badwatter, Venti set a course record, winning the Long Haul 100 in Wesley Chapel with a time 17 hours 14 minutes, just over 20 minutes faster than the original course record.

Additionally, after a failed first attempt in 2011, she set the record times in the female division of the Keys100 in both 100- and 50-mile distances, with times of 16:07:06 (2012) and 6:51:08 (2013), respectively.

“I won’t lie; my first attempt at 100 miles was an epic fail,” Venti said. “With poor nutrition and disastrous pacing, I ended up quitting after just 68 miles. But I learned from my mistakes, and the following year I raced, I finished, I won, and I got the course record, beating the previous course record by over two hours. I returned the following year to claim the title and overall — men’s and women’s — course record of the 50-mile race. I was hooked.”

Venti is now a graduate student pursuing a doctoral degree in chemical oceanography at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

“I study the effects of global climate change on coral reefs, an ecosystem,” Venti explained. “I have always run. I started in middle school and just never stopped. I went to school in Western Massachusetts. I had modest success as an NCAA Division III runner in the 5K, but I wasn’t much of a standout.”

After graduation, she never stopped running.

“As a US Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji, running was the one consistency I could rely on in the midst of foreign culture,” Venti said. “As an intern in South Africa, running became a way to explore an amazing and beautiful country. When I started my PhD at UM, running became a time to meditate and think about anything and everything. It turns out pursuing a PhD requires a lot of thinking, and before I knew it I was logging some pretty high weekly mileage.”

She plans to increase her training to over 175 miles per week in order for her to make it through the 135-mile course at the head of the pack.

All the training aside, Venti still has one last challenge — raising the money she needs to get there and to the finish line.

Fortunately for Venti, she is not alone in her efforts. The iRun running store on North Biscayne Boulevard has been trying to help Venti raise the money she needs to make it to the competition.

If you are interested in helping Venti, you can find out more at Info@Iruncom or call 305-751-9440.

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