History Major Redefines “Student Athlete”

By Lauren Cooper ’16 | April 2, 2015

While most Reed seniors spent their last precious hours of spring break polishing their thesis drafts, history major John Young ’15was performing another impressive feat.

On Friday, John turned in a 100-page draft of his thesis on the yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in 1793. On Sunday, he ran a heart-stopping 50 kilometers in the Gorge Waterfalls ultra-marathon.

This wasn’t the first time John has pushed the limits of his endurance. Last year he was the youngest runner to complete the 50-mile American River Ultramarathon, and in November he finished the Portland Marathon in 3 hours 14 minutes and 19 seconds.

From John’s own account of his achievement:

The course went from Wyeth to Multnomah Falls, and included a brutal 6,000 feet of elevation gain. The course ran along gorge trail number 400, the Pacific Crest Trail, and concluded with the infamous loop up, over, and around Multnomah Falls. There's nothing quite like running a marathon and then finding yourself at the bottom end of a several mile and several thousand foot climb! Thankfully, though, after the climb over the Multnomah Falls it was just three miles of downhill to the finish line at Benson State Park. I finished in the top 10% of a competitive field, with a time of 5 hours 38 minutes. It was a particularly challenging course, composed almost entirely of rugged and technical single-track trails and, again, significant elevation gain (almost 1000 feet more elevation gain than making the summit of Mount Hood from Timberline Lodge) . . .

Far from being a distraction, I have found that training gives me nothing but time to reflect on and think about my school work, and any and everything else that I might have the inclination to ponder on about. Making the time to train has also taught me volumes about time management and working efficiently.

After graduation, John will join the Peace Corps and be part of the first cohort of volunteers to go to the island nation of Comoros, where he will serve as an English teacher. We have a feeling he'll pack his running shoes.

Tags: Sports & Adventures, Thesis, Students