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In misery, Johns sees mystery
Area runner travels far to explore the lure of long-distance racing

Debbie Fetterman writes about running for The Dallas Morning News

Last fall, longtime Dallas-area runner Patrick Johns became the first person to complete the Himalayan 100-mile Stage Race four times. For Johns, 51, the story isn't about his personal achievement.

His background is in behavioral science. Johns, who said he is a sales manager, motivational speaker and journalist, began wondering why he and the others subjected themselves to the torturous conditions associated with this five-stage race held near the border between India and Nepal. The grueling race features views of four of the world's five highest peaks – including Mount Everest.

"The answer was that by pushing the ends of the spectrum, you increase your ability to cope, and that's a good thing," said Johns, the father of 17-year-old twins.

Johns initially registered for the 2000 Himalayan 100 with a friend because it was a new challenge in his running adventures. He had finished about 30 marathons at the time – Pike's Peak three times.

"I call it a progressive disease," he said of his passion for running longer distances. "Once you get confidence that you're able to run shorter distances, the distances grow."

Johns wrote a story about his adventures following the 2000 event. Race director C.S. Pandey learned of the story and invited him to be a guest in 2003. Race officials sought event promotion in the United States. After the horrors of Sept. 11, American race participation dipped from 25 in 2000 to two in 2003. The event had 12 Americans this year among the 70 participants.

In 2004, Johns returned to study the core values of these highly motivated, hard-core runners. He identified what he calls the five C's, or core values, possessed by these runners: comfort zone, commitment, connection, common sense and compassion.

Letting go of one's comfort zone is what an endurance race is all about, he said.

Commitment also is important. Johns said he and a friend spent a year planning and training for the event.

"The reason we were there is that we said we'd be there," he said. "We told people. We verbalized our intentions and believed in the commitment."

Connection comes in many ways, he added. It goes far beyond life experiences gained traveling to a Third World country. He said he's met fascinating people, often at speaking engagements after his trips, who are making a difference in the world.

Common sense is a necessity to finish such an endeavor. Participants must have appropriate training, pace themselves daily, be smart and not take chances.

"The race has so many pitfalls and problems and injuries because of the hard conditions and altitude," he said.

That's where compassion comes into play.

"To get everybody across the finish line requires compassion and teamwork," he said. "You see the most elite runners helping the slowest to make sure the majority of people finish. It's a powerful thing to watch."

Johns said he might return for a fifth try in October. Every time he goes, he learns more life lessons and more about himself.

"By exposing yourself to very difficult things, you redefine your personal definition of what hard is," he said. "Other things you choose to do seem easy."

For information about the race, visit

~~ Debbie Fetterman writes about running for The Dallas Morning News