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Ultra-marathon athlete runs 100 miles in 24 hours to honor son's memory

Wes poses with his wife Christa and daughter.
Wes poses with his wife Christa and their daughter Callie. (Photo by Tricia Williamson)

Wes Claytor turned 33 on August 7th, but instead of a normal day with celebratory cake and presents, he had other ideas. Wes decided to run 100 miles in 24 hours. At midnight on Saturday, he set off for his long trek at Hilltop Needmore Park in Fuquay-Varina, looping around the five miles of paved trail.

The day of the run was also a special one because Wes shares his birthday with his late son, who would have turned three on Saturday. He ran to honor the memory of baby Lennox, who passed away from birth complications four days after he was born. It's taken time for Wes to shift his perspective after his loss, but he says he wanted to use the run as a way to try to do something good. "I feel like I'm finding a purpose through the pain."

Long distance running is fairly new for the Digital Marketer from Fuquay-Varina. Wes started racing marathons and ultra-marathons only three years ago. "I remember reading stories and hearing podcasts about people running these ridiculous lengths and I thought, 'wow I could never do that'", he said. "Then I did a marathon and it spiraled from there. If I can run that, what else can I do?" Wes is also a writer, and chronicles life events, thoughts on fatherhood, and his running journey, on his blog.

Although most of the run was done solo, Wes did get encouragement along the way. Amber Epps, a friend from Wes' jujitsu class, came out to run alongside him for a loop around the park. Wes' wife Christa also took to Facebook to spread the word about the run. As a result, a steady stream of supporters cheered him on throughout the day. The outpouring of love and encouragement from the community took Wes by surprise. "Everybody in the community showed up. They were showering me with praise and sharing their stories with me. It was a completely mind-blowing experience."

One supporter was Mindy Nelson, who lives near Hilltop Needmore Park. She and her husband made a sign of encouragement and remembrance for Lennox. "We had a personal loss of a newborn grandchild, so I empathize with Wes and his wife," said Mindy. "That was my reason to want to visually support him with a sign. We were glad if our little bit of effort helped him achieve his goal."

At 11:53pm on Saturday, Wes Claytor finished his 100 mile run. It's the first time he's finished this distance, although not the first time he's tried. He's attempted one other 100 mile ultra-marathon race, where he didn't make the time cutoff at the 75 mile mark. There was no such cutoff on Saturday though, and Wes crossed the finish line with seven minutes to spare.

Now that this goal has been reached, Wes says he's going to recover for a couple of weeks and then look to the future. "Now that this one is done, I don't think I need to do another 100 any time soon. I think I'll focus more on marathons for a while."