"I found that I was no longer a slave to my watch. When you run shorter distances, you're always worried about your time. So mentally, running ultras is easier on me. Also, in ultra training, you don't have to do speed work like you do in marathon training."
Instead of dodging traffic, Baldwin dodges wildlife.
"With ultra running, you have to worry more about running into bears than about drivers sending text messages," he said, laughing.
In a typical week of training, Baldwin combines short weekday runs with much longer distances on weekends.
"I like to do a 30-mile run on Saturdays and a 50-miler on Sundays," he said.
West Virginia is home to several ultra-level trail-running races, many of them sponsored by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners Association. Competing in those helped Baldwin prepare for his first 100-mile race, the Umstead 100-Mile Endurance Race held earlier this month near Raleigh, N.C.
After nearly 23 hours' worth of steady running and mind games, Baldwin finished the Umstead race -- and immediately started wondering what he might do next.
"I'm looking at doing some of the 'mountain hundreds,' races held at altitude," he said.
Baldwin acknowledges that most people consider ultra-level running an "extreme sport," something only elite athletes can do. A few short years ago, he felt the same way.
"I used to think [ultra running] was insanity," he said. "But once I got back into running, I started enjoying the challenge of pushing myself to run longer distances. I'm not a fast runner; there are lots of guys faster than me. But you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has more fun at running than I do."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.