The North Face Endurance Challenge, the Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler, the Mohican 100-Mile Trail Run.
These are just a small fraction of the races conquered by Philadelphia distance runner Michael Gagliardi, widely known in the city’s running community simply as “Gagz”.
Now, he has his sights set on the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, set to take place from Sept. 13 to Sept. 18 in Homewood, California. As its name implies, the course will span 200 miles in length and circumnavigate Lake Tahoe, along the Tahoe Rim Trail and other terrain.
It will be his longest race distance to date.
“I’m training my a–s off for Tahoe 200. I’m going out there and I’m going to give it all I got, and I’m looking forward to representing the City of Philadelphia,” Gagliardi said.
In that spirit, Gagliardi requested Bib #215 when registering for the race, matching the city’s telephone area code. Organizers later confirmed that they granted his request.
“I feel good going out there. I’m really motivated up to do this thing and just bring home the glory for my city, my running club, my family and myself,” Gagliardi commented.
Gagliardi is also excited to support the participants of Legacy of Hope’s PHL24 event, a 24-hour stair climbing marathon and fundraiser to be held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s famous steps, beginning on September 20. The $100,000 fundraising goal will go directly back to the Philadelphia cancer community to support patients and researchers.
He spoke of how he came to be affiliated with the organization.
“[Legacy of Hope founder] Mike Rowe reached out to me last summer. My running group Torresdale Beer Runners, we had worked with Mike’s previous charity 11th Hour Racing in years past as our Philly Mayor’s Cup fundraiser charity. I was familiar with Mike and the work that he does,” Gagliardi said.
“He reached out to me last year, and I was like, ‘This is perfect timing. Absolutely.’ I was honored to be a part of it, because of the good work that they do. I mean, helping people pay their bills when they’re going through chemo? You can’t get any better than that.”
Gagliardi added that the group’s assistance to local families in need was something he could get behind, and chose to take part in last year’s incarnation of PHL24.
“I felt really good doing it. It was a nice event, it was all for a good cause and I was really happy to work with [Mike] last year. I’m sorry that I can’t do it this year, I was kind of bummed about that,” Gagliardi stated, referencing that his recovery from the Tahoe 200 will preclude his participation in this year’s event.
Though he may not be running on the Art Museum steps this year, Gagliardi offered a wealth of advice to those who will be in under two weeks.
“If someone is relatively new and looking to do the 24 hours on the steps, my advice to them would be, ‘Take it slow.’ You’re not going to run up and down the steps full-speed for the first three hours. It doesn’t make sense. You’re going to need to go slow, take your time and fall into a rhythm. And just constantly assess, evaluate and talk to yourself throughout. And hopefully in their training, they will have learned the difference between an injury and just pain or discomfort,” Gagliardi said.
Gagliardi continued that part of the allure of ultra-running events is discomfort and he would advise runners to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”, by preparing to run the event by mimicking race-day conditions and taking the opportunity to walk or run steps whenever possible.
“There are steps literally everywhere. The easiest thing you can do is avoid the elevator at your job or wherever it’s available,” Gagliardi said.
In addition to event participants also maintaining both nutrition and hydration during PHL24, a key component Gagliardi elaborated on was the matter of mindset and mental toughness.
“You need to go there and say to yourself, ‘I’m here for 24 hours.’ You got to keep moving. When things get tough, and they will get tough, you need to remind yourself why you’re there, why you’re doing this,” Gagliardi said.
“If I was doing the stair challenge this year, the thing I’d be telling myself over and over and over again when I get tired is, ‘I’m running for people who can’t.’ There are a ton of people in this world who would love to be able to walk those steps at least one time in their current condition, whether they’re sick, they’re going through chemo or for that matter, people who have lost somebody. They would love to have that person come back and be able to do what we’re doing.”
Gagliardi also advised runners to make friends and speak with their fellow PHL24 participants.
“Having people in your corner is just huge, whether it’s your family, your friends, the running community. And it’s the same thing for the folks running those stairs: They’re running the stairs with other runners, but they’re doing it for a bigger reason. You’re like a spoke on the wheel,” Gagliardi stated.
According to Gagliardi, the event’s purpose is so much bigger than just steps.
“It’s a fun challenge, it’s cool, it’s Philly, it’s Rocky. It’s so much more than just steps and Rocky. You’re literally helping people survive,” Gagliardi said.
If you’re looking to participate in PHL24 and run the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art alongside Christopher McDougall, Bart Yasso, cancer survivors, cancer fighters, family members, friends and supporters, sign up here.