At 13, Kirk Harper was the youngest person ever to compete in the 12.4-mile Tioga Pass Run this year
Kirk Harper ran his first Tioga Pass Run this year, finishing in 2 hours 40 minutes, an average time for the 12.4-mile long hill. Not bad considering Harper started running just three months ago—and that he’s 13. He wasn’t sure if he was old enough to race but wanted it so badly that he said he was 15 on the registration form. He’s the youngest racer to ever finish the run.
Harper said in an interview with The Sheet that he was “kind of forced into it (the race).” His dad Bryan Harper and Kirk’s running coach Benjamin Mitchell started laughing.
Kirk Harper was a soccer player in North Carolina and always the fastest player on the team, Bryan Harper said. The Harpers had moved to Bishop a year ago.
At mile three of the race, Harper said he began to doubt himself if he could even finish the race. Then, he said, he lifted his head to see his dad in a car next to him yelling, “Keep going!”
Mitchell told Harper to back it off a bit and save it for the entire race.
“By the sixth mile he was dancing,” Bryan Harper said. Kirk was spurred on by Michael Jackson and Johnny Cash on his headphones.
“I’ve never run that far before,” Harper said with a smile.
A long-distance runner himself and USA Track and Field Coach, Mitchell took Harper up hills, out to the track at Bishop High School, and the two even ran at 10,000 feet of elevation in the White Mountains for training. There was cardio-vascular training, longer runs and attention to nutrition.
“I gave him the ingredients to make his own soup,” Mitchell said.
Harper learned to set goals and achieve them, how to push through when you hit a wall, and the importance of training hard so the race isn’t so tough, Mitchell explained.
He said Harper has Olympic potential.