Ryan Lange went off the grid on October 11.
In the days leading up to his departure, he asked his professors at Drexel LeBow and in other colleges what tasks and assignments he could complete ahead of time in order to stay on track.
What prompted this advance planning? Lange was headed for the remote wilderness of southern Utah, where he would run through rugged, isolated terrain as a participant in the Moab 240 Endurance Run. When he completed the 238.2-mile race on October 16, he was on record as the youngest runner ever to complete a race of over 200 miles.
He wasn’t alone out there, though. His father, Chris Lange ’91, followed in a truck and met him at pit stops throughout the course. Friends and family, including his mother Patricia Fenimore-Lange ’90, tracked his progress through the race’s website.
Leaving aside the pure numbers of his race – completing the course in under 87 hours as the 25th runner out of 127 to finish – Lange said his greatest accomplishment is the sense of maturity and self-knowledge he gained from going through it.
“It gives me confidence that I can carry in my back pocket through everything,” he said. “It allows me to say, ‘What can’t I do?’”
After several days of recuperation and a flight back to Philadelphia, Lange returned to his regular life as a pre-junior economics and finance major. He was back in class on October 20 and resumed preparing for midterms.
“That was honestly the hardest part,” he said.
RAMPING UP QUICKLY
Surprisingly, Lange took up running only about two years ago in order to lose weight and increase his fitness. “I would run three miles and I thought it was the greatest thing, and I slowly built myself up from there,” he said.
He quickly ramped up to running long distances: he ran his first marathon in November 2016, followed by a 50K in January.
Earlier this year, during his co-op experience with Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynywd, Lange logged plenty of miles running on the Schuylkill River Trail after work hours. He also made regular trips up to the Delaware Water Gap to practice running through big changes in elevation.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I got addicted to the feeling after a big run.”
His progress as an endurance athlete continued to accelerate as the top distances he finished kept getting longer. Between running a 50-mile race in North Carolina in March and a 100-miler in Ohio in July, Lange attended an ultra-running camp in Colorado over Memorial Day weekend. He credits this experience with introducing him to the small but tight-knit community of ultra-runners and springboarding him toward completing the Moab 240.
“I never had the sensation of wanting to quit,” he said. “I never thought about the distance; I just thought about getting to the next stage.”
Friends are already asking him if he’ll do another 200-plus miler, but other priorities come first, including lining up his next co-op experience.
In the near term, Lange he has his eye on a shorter race: an 81-mile race for three-person teams next spring. In both his studies and his preparation for another race, he’ll rely on persistence, passion and simply putting in the work.
As a self-described “average guy,” he says he’s learned that “anyone is capable of a lot more than what they think.”