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Drew Bell crosses the finish line at the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals where he finished in fifth place in his age group, thus gaining his 18th All-American honor in his lifetime. The 55-year old is the head coach of the James Clemens cross country and track programs. Photo Contributed

Drew Bell Earns 18th All-American Honor

OGDEN, UTAH- Madison’s Drew Bell has faced adversity numerous times in his 55 years as an athlete and longtime coach. Like the super-trooper he is, Bell again looked hardship in the eye as he participated in his third XTERRA Trail Run Nationals one-half marathon in Ogden, Utah. Bell completed the grueling trail run in 2-hours, 12-minutes, 21-seconds, which placed him in fifth place of the Men 55-19 age group. His superior performance gave him the honor of being named All-American, which was his 18th overall All-American distinction going back to his youth.

“The race was fun and a battle as you never know what’s going to happen,” said Bell. “My first All-American honor came at age 17 while I was running track in high school.”

Since that first All-American listing Bell has earned the distinctions while participating in indoor track, outdoor track, cross country, trails and road races.

An additional delight to the national event was the fact his son, Jase, 22, also ran in the race and he, too, earned All-American honors by finishing in third place in his Men 20-24 age group with a time of 2:04:30. The former cross country runner at James Clemens under his father’s coaching currently lives in Salt Lake City and works as a government contractor. It was his son who was responsible for having Bell attend the event.

The Trail Run Nationals were originally on the calendar for Bell but was quickly erased from his schedule after he suffered injuries during a training run. Over 18 weeks ago he was on a 10-mile morning run by himself and suffered severe cramps at about the seven-mile trek. He couldn’t move and fell off a cliff on the Wade Mountain Trail in Huntsville. The drop was about 20 feet and he suffered three broken ribs, which were the same ribs he injured in an incident in November of 2020 at the Cave Run in Guntersville.

“After about 15 minutes I somehow made my way back to the trail,” said Bell. “Afterwards during my recovery I suffered from constant heartburn and I just didn’t feel well and not ready for any type of endurance competition. Two weeks prior to the Trail Run Nationals, Jase asked me to race with him. Once I started the race, the quick climb in elevation was difficult as I wasn’t used to the elevation in Utah.”

Bell said there was really nothing he could have done in training to prepare for the elevation change from North Alabama, but he was determined to participate with Jase and finish the race. Not all went well in his efforts. At the eight-mile mark Bell fell and hit his knee on a nearby boulder. He would fall three more times on his way to the finish, but his determination to finish and self-pride actually enabled him to pick up his pace.

“It was sort comical as I passed some runners, fell and passed them again,” chuckled Bell. “At about the 10-mile mark I opened up and basically began a sprint to the finish.”

The course, which began at 6,400-feet in elevation in the Wasatch Mountains above Ogden, featured 2,200-feet of gut-wrenching climbs. Shortly after the five-mile mark, the route took runners up to Sardine Peak for one of the most epic vistas imaginable. The course is brutal and taxing on any athlete who faces the challenges.

“I like running and competing,” said Bell. “Three years ago I couldn’t do anything as I was physically and mentally out of shape. I felt miserable, so I chose to make a change and began my trek in losing 40 pounds. I never want to get out of shape again.”

At the recent Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Bell stood on the winners’ podium for the first time with a third place finish in his age group by posting at 10K time of 47:14. In Utah, he was attempting to qualify for the World Championships in Maui, Hawaii, but fell short of that goal.

Bell runs 50-70 miles weekly on trails with some elevations. He’s been running for 50 years and said he knows it won’t last forever, but he’s doing what he can. His next running endeavor will be the New York Marathon set for Nov. 7 as a 1:31 time in a half-marathon qualified him for the annual trek among up to 35,000 runners in the Big Apple.

“If I can stay healthy and stay away from injuries, all will be good,” added Bell.

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