Featured Runner “Dave Renfro” April 2016

Dave Renfro (in his own words): I’ve always been fairly active, but I started running just before my 40th birthday when I realized my body was changing and that I needed more exercise to stay fit. I started running on trails about a year after that and actually completed a 37-mile death march on the OHT by myself a month before running my first ultra, the 2012 War Eagle 50k. I was pretty much hooked at that point. I started feeling like crap in the summer of 2014 and was diagnosed with papillary renal cell cancer in September of that year. My CT scan looks like a plate of General Tso’s chicken. My left kidney is trashed plus I have spots on my neck, between my lungs, on both sides of my liver, and on lymph nodes all over my abdomen. Fortunately, the doctors have not found a speck of cancer in either leg, and the oral targeted therapy drug I’m taking is holding the line on everything else. That means I can still run!


Date of Birth: 1970

Place of Birth: Bethesda Naval Hospital (Army brat)

Currently Residing:  Springdale, Arkansas

Marital Status: I held hands with a girl for the first time when I was 28 years old and married her four years after that. She’s all I ever think about!

Job(s): Manufacturing for the last 15 years or so, mostly running automated carbide compaction presses. Airframe mechanic before that.

Children: Ten-year-old Donald. He’s a trip!

Height: 5’7”

Weight: I’m at my best when I’m ten pounds into the overweight range on the BMI charts. Good to have some fuel in the tank. Before I started my cancer treatment, my weight had dropped well into the supposedly healthy range and I felt like a ghost! It was a hard fight gaining that weight back.

Shoe Size: 8

Best Physical Feature: My hair. It used to be red, which was cool, but my cancer medicine has turned every hair on my body into an unnaturally vivid white. They look like optical fibers. People stare all the time because my dress and demeanor does not match that of a person who dunks his head in peroxide every night.

Worst Physical Feature: Definitely my amygdala.

Religion: It would be inexact to call myself an atheist. Whatever understanding of God I do have is vague and not guided in any way by scripture, unless you count Beckett.

Political Affiliation: Very Liberal. I’m willing to pay to live in a modern, peaceful, compassionate society.

Educational Background: Mostly vo-tech: A&P, CDL, Machine Shop, more Machine Shop. I did get an associate’s degree in business from one of those idiot online universities, but I’ll never sell myself out like that again. One of the few life decisions that I genuinely regret!

Personal Strength(s): My ability to change as I learn more about myself and the crazy-ass world we live in.

Personal Weakness(es): Life-long social anxiety. I’ve learned to like people, but I just don’t understand them. I never know what to say.

Make Of Car You Drive: Mostly my wife’s Toyota Matrix but I’m more comfortable in my 2000 Cavalier with the A/C ripped out.

Make Of Car You Would Like To Drive: A Datsun 510 sedan if I could travel back in time, otherwise anything that’s paid for and cheap to drive with manual windows and locks and no air conditioning.

Pets: No thanks.


Favorite Author: Anton Chekhov

Favorite Book: A brilliant writer and long-time friend of mine named Mike Little gave me his personal copy of E.M. Cioran’s The Trouble with Being Born during a visit last summer. I’m bringing that book and my beloved Petzl headlamp with me whenever my goose finally honks.

Favorite Non-running Magazine: Ten rounds or less.

Favorite Movie: Open Range

Favorite TV Show: The Rachel Maddow Show

Favorite Actor/Actress: Denzel Washington

Favorite Music: Gary Clark Jr. doing a Hendrix groove.

Favorite Musical Performer: John Mayer is the best Strat player to ever walk the earth, and the Blues Hall of Fame should be moved to Fairfield, Connecticut in his honor.

Favorite Artist: Don’t have one, but my favorite painting is Ilya Repin’s Barge Haulers on the Volga.

Favorite Spectator Sport: Leafs Hockey

Favorite Subject in School: Machine Shop

Favorite Game: Chess, but I haven’t played in years.

Favorite Vacation Destination: Southern Philippines.

Favorite Time Of Day: After midnight (No Clapton reference intended.)

Favorite Item of Clothing: $17 jeans from Walmart.

Favorite Non-Running Leisure Activity: Riding bikes with my son.

Favorite Running Shoe: The exactly one pair I own at any given time, currently Brooks Ghosts. I’d been running in Altra Instincts for the last three years and loved them but decided to go back to high-heels just to change things up. Took me a week to quit scuffing my heels!

Favorite Food/Drink Before An Ultra: Hormel Comfort Classics Dumplings and Chicken Compleats, my secret weapon. Delicious hot or cold!

Favorite Food/Drink During An Ultra: Margarita Shot Bloks. Twice the sodium!

Favorite Food/Drink After An Ultra: I’m usually full but I can always eat another bag of pretzels.

Favorite Crew/Pacer Person(s): Never tried that. I’m such a solitary runner throughout the year that it would seem really awkward to suddenly ask a friend to give up a weekend to help me out. I should probably just get over that particular hang-up.

Favorite Place To Run: Fly Gap Road. It’s a fire road in the Ozark National Forest running east to west for about 15 miles. It follows the top of a ridge with really nice views but also drops down a few times for some good climbs.

Favorite Type Of Running Surface: Fire roads. I also love searching out small, paved loops and seeing how many laps I can do in twelve hours.

Favorite Famous Quote: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” –Samuel Beckett


Number of Years Running Ultras: 4

Number of Ultras Finished:  6

Best Ultra Performance(s): 2014 Prairie Spirit Trail 50. I had the weirdest abdominal pain during the race, like someone jamming a thumb into my stomach, but I still pushed hard and PR’d by more than an hour. I figured out a few months later that the stomach pain was actually an early symptom of my cancer, which makes me all the more proud of how well I ran.

Most Memorable Ultra: 2013 FlatRock 101k, in the mud. That race was crazy!

Typical Training Week(s) Before A Major Race: I was lucky to have a very active job operating robotic carbide presses for the last 12 years. That was equal to thirty miles a week at least, so I’d just did long runs on the weekends and that was enough. The medicine I’m taking now really zaps my energy so I just walk as much as I can and take naps in between. I’ll finish my next race, but it will be something other than training that gets me there.

Injuries: None.

Ultrarunning Idol: The guy who finishes last in any given race.

Why Do You Run Ultras:  I race twice a year just to connect with friends and challenge myself against a clock or a hard course. I’m like a trapper who goes to rendezvous to play games and peddle his furs. I still prefer to run by myself most of the time, but the few races I do run are a big deal to me. I plan my whole year around them!

Advice For Other Ultrarunners: If you’re going for speed, I have no advice to offer. If you just want to get out there and do the distance, don’t get hung up on a training plan. If a run just isn’t happening, cut it short and don’t worry about it. If a run is happening unexpectedly well, stay out there for twelve hours!


Personal Hero: Lots of heroes out there!

Personal Philosophy:  Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Short-Term Goal: Redeem last year’s DNF at Prairie Spirit…Editor’s Update: ACHIEVED!!!

Long-Term Goal: I’m thinking either the Snowdrop 55-hour race in Houston or the 72-hour Ultracentric race in Grape Vine, Texas. My 100-mile ambitions didn’t disappear just because I got sick. It’s just going to take me a little longer than 30 hours!

Most Prized Possession: Nothing in particular.

Most Proud Achievement: My marriage. Neither one of us is easy to be married to, but we figured it out.

Happiest Memory: A week-long fishing trip to Toledo Bend with my uncle Steve in about 1987. My hands were cracked and bleeding from taking so many catfish off the trot lines. It was epic!

Secret Ambition/Fantasy: Trekking the Annapurna Circuit.

Greatest Adventure:  Meeting my wife in person for the first time. I went to Hong Kong in 1998 to meet my penpal of three years who was working there as a domestic helper. We spent five days together in Hong Kong before going to her home in the Philippines for another three weeks or so, Cebu and northern Mindanao. It would be another four years before Cristina and I finally got married, but I knew I had found an amazing life companion!


Least Liked Subject: The Kardashians.

Least Liked Household Chore: Eating vegetables.

Pet Peeve(s): Boring prose.

Greatest Fear: The thought that I might not always be around for my son.


Book Currently Reading: Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov.

Hobbies: I’ve had a million. I guess my hobby is trying new hobbies.

Collections: Collections? Like The Collected Works of Guy de Maupassant?

What’s next: If we make it through December, everything’s gonna be alright I know.

WinslowDave with his wife, Cristina.

Dave at his recent Prairie Spirit Trail 50 Mile Finish with Epic Ultras Founder,
Eric Steele & Prairie Spirit Trail Race Director, Trevor Darmstetter.

8 Responses to “Featured Runner “Dave Renfro” April 2016”

  1. Shannon McFarland

    Dave is an inspiration that we could all, regardless of goals, expectations, or pace, should look up to. Great guy, proud to call him a friend.

  2. stan clark

    Dave, what an inspiration you are ! At 64 still contemplating doing my first ultra, your story, for multiple reasons leaves me no excuses to make it happen .
    Most important wish you all the best with your continued cancer battle. Am sure your absolute toughness and obvious remarkable spirit will prevail.

  3. red dirt girl

    An awesome read about an awesome guy! We love you, Dave. xxx

  4. Susan Smith

    Dave is a great selection for runner of the month! It was such an honor and pleasure to met Dave at the Prairie Spirit Trail 50 mile run this past weekend. I recall his cheerful attitude when I again “ran into him” as he was approaching Garnett, KS. Yes, Dave, is an inspiration!

  5. Jennifer Travis

    Fantastic writeup, Dave! When I drove up there to run that first Winslow Run with you, I never imagined it turning into this. Regarding your long-term goals, I am rooting for the Snowdrop 55. I think if you dig around in your closet, you may find a gift certificate for a Houston-area running event. You probably got sidetracked and stuffed it into a box (they changed the rules on that gift certificate–it never expires!) Houston is usually pretty nice in December! If you decide to spend your gift certificate on Snowdrop, I’ll do it with you! (Though I expect you will leave me in your dust.) Congrats on the 50. Love you!

  6. charity larson

    Hey Dave! This is a GREAT article and I felt like we just started up our conversation again after hanging out together Sunday morning watching the other finishers come in. The will knows no boundaries!!!

    I sooooo look forward to hearing about your adventures next year at PS 100 again!

    take care,


  7. Jana Graham

    What an inspiration! You are amazing!

  8. Bulletholes

    My nephew Dave finished his race two years later on Global Running Day. He was the most amazing person I ever met, and he loved his runner buddies.

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