BORN TO RUN
Midtown resident and self proclaimed Run Bum Sean Blanton finds his calling charting courses…
“My life begins at the end of my comfort zone,” says Sean Blanton, race director of Run Bum Tours and co-host of the “East Coast Trail & Ultra” podcast.
And in Blanton’s case, the sentiment can be taken literally: He runs to the top of Stone Mountain for fun, and he once ran from Athens to Atlanta in under 20 hours “just because.” He skydives in foreign countries, and he’s run more than 130 ultra marathons.
Challenging physical activity has always been a big part of Blanton’s life, but he didn’t start running until 2008, when he signed up for the Peachtree Road Race. A few months later he was traveling to New Zealand and made a bold move to sign up for his first trail race, the Luxmore Grunt. At the end of the grueling, 17-mile race, Blanton was in tears because it was the hardest thing he had ever done. But it was also one of the most beautiful and inspiring, he says.
From then on, Blanton deemed himself the Run Bum, traveling the world in search of crazy experiences that would push him beyond his comfort zone. The more he raced, the more he wanted to share the beauty of the trails with other runners.
“My goal is to inspire and change people’s lives,” says Blanton. Naturally, he does it through running.
In 2012, Blanton founded the Run Bum series, which comprises nine trail races and attracts more than 5,000 runners annually, from first-timers to elites.
His process for creating races is simple. “I pick my races based on beauty. I find an area where I want to host a race, then I go exploring,” Blanton says. “I find all the key views and experiences I want people to have during the race. Then, I connect the dots in a way that flows.”
Now a full-time race director, Blanton does his due diligence when choosing courses, running hundreds of miles along trails until he finds a course that flows. “Most of my races are in remote places because I don’t want an excess of people on the trails,” he says. “That takes away from the beauty and the remoteness.” As such, Run Bum races average only 300 runners apiece.
Arguably, Blanton’s most difficult—and popular—ultra is the Georgia Death Race, a 68-mile course in the North Georgia mountains that sees runners through 40,000 feet of elevation change. With about a 60 percent finisher rate, the race is “a different beast,” says Blanton. This year’s Georgia Death Race, for which runners must pre-qualify by having completed a 50k (32-mile) race, is scheduled for April 1 and 2. Blanton says that the 2016 race hosted runners from more than 25 states and multiple countries, evidence of its allure within the running community.
Despite spending five months each year traveling around the world, Blanton always returns to Atlanta. “Every time I try to move away from Atlanta, I come back,” he says. “I was born and raised inside the Perimeter, and that’s where I want to stay.” Maybe it’s his family, or his tight-knit Atlanta running community, but even Maui, where he hosts a trail running camp each year, can’t draw him away from his hometown.
When he is home, Blanton loves running in Piedmont Park. “Everything around there is chaos, but when I get into the park, everything slows down,” he says.
Georgia Death Race By the Numbers
5 Years the race has been held
68 Trail miles in the race
40,000 Feet of elevation change
49 Minutes it took for the 2017 race to sell out
750 Dollars in prize money for overall male and female winner (apiece)
Visit eastcoastultrapodcast.com for trail races and running news from Blanton.
STORY: Alexa Lampasona