Sophie Bolich

‘Six Days in the Dome’ Race Underway At Pettit Center

Grueling six-day ultra-marathon has attracted racers from across the globe.

By - Jun 21st, 2022 04:47 pm
The Pettit National Ice Center hosts the six day race. Photo by Sophie Bolich

The Pettit National Ice Center hosts the six day race. Photo by Sophie Bolich

The Pettit National Ice Center is well-known as a venue for the Olympic speedskating trials, but you might not know it also hosts another world-class competition: Six Days in the Dome.

As the name suggests, the competition is a six-day continuous foot race around the Pettit’s 443-meter track. The event also includes 12, 24, 48 and 72-hour competitions. The first races kicked off Friday morning and the six-day race started Sunday.

The runner who logs the most miles by the end of the nearly week-long event is crowned the winner. To track their progress, runners wear a chip on their ankle that sends live updates to a computer.

Eighty nine athletes are competing this year, many traveling from across the globe to chase world records. The current leader in this year’s six-day competition is Canada’s Viktoria Brown. The 46-year-old holds numerous ultra-running records and has logged an impressive 216 miles heading into the third day of the competition. Her projected distance based on her performance so far is about 663 miles. For reference, last year’s champion, Budjargal Byambaa, completed 571.57 miles. Also competing: John Geesler, a three-time national champion in the 24-hour race and a former 48-hour American record holder. Geesler, 63, is currently in fourth place.

Despite the heat outside, the temperature in the Pettit remains a steady 55 F year-round, thanks to two full-sized hockey rinks inside the dome. The temperature is perfect for running, but less than ideal for crew members, who support the runners with meals and gear. The race provides three main meals per day and keeps a snack table stocked around the clock with grab-and-go items like chips, pretzels, cookies and candy.

The clock keeps running, even when the athletes are not, so a big part of race strategy is to minimize time spent away from the track. The Pettit provides showers and sleeping quarters in the lower level of the building, but the most extreme competitors opt for brief naps on the side of the track, curling up in sleeping bags, cots and even on chiropractic tables.

Running in circles is tough on the body. Overuse injuries that typically take months to develop can emerge in just a few days at the Pettit. Tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, muscle strains and shin splints are common issues that runners face during the competition. The race provides a medical tent where runners can receive treatment.

This is Milwaukee’s fourth year hosting Six Days in the Dome.

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