WeRunFar: Deb and Steve Pero

February 17, 2015


Here is a story of a couple named Pero. He is grey-haired, with a tall, Slim-Jim-styled body and a wicked gruff, Bostonian awhccent. She is a Southern-drawled gal with fluffy hair that bounces with each step of her strong, ultrarunning legs. They met one day on the trail, he organizing the run, and she just stepping into the trail running world.

They locked in step-for-step, synonymous with each of their respective newly divorced statuses and love of running. He was a veteran marathoner, looking for something new. She was an endurance junkie looking for the next distance level.

That’s how they became life partners and ultrarunners.

Steve and Deb Pero, ages 63 and 60, bonded on those Massachusetts trails: igniting a love for running, the outdoors, and later discovering an intense passion for the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

The two have been married for 13 years. He brought two grown children, Deb brought three into the pact, and together they have 11 grandchildren from one to 15 years old.

Steve grew up in a town just outside Boston, Massachusetts, whereas Deb traveled to the East Coast in the 1980s after living in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you simply glance over these WeRunFar articles, pausing at the pictures and taking note of what races people have done, then I will help you out. If there is one thing to take away from this profile, it is this: the pure, raw love Deb and Steve equally share for the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run.

Okay, that’s it. Go back to your Facebook page, if you must.

Steve and Deb moved to New Mexico in 2010 to be closer to the Hardrock course. But, after a few years of unstable job prospects, they moved back about a month ago to a farmhouse in Sharon, New Hampshire.

Now, in between training, the self-proclaimed “hippies” are balancing Steve’s job as a mechanical designer, Deb’s pajama-wearing painting career, and the transformation of an old farmhouse into a self-sustaining homestead, equipped with chickens, horses, and a garden.

“We are preparing for the zombie apocalypse, growing all our own food,” joked Steve. “Yeah, Swiss chard,” Deb added. “But, I don’t think zombies like that.”

Steve has taken up brewing his own beer, a hobby inspired by fellow Hardrockers, and they both are trying to learn how to play an instrument, from the piano to the banjo.

“Don’t ask us to play, though,” Steve warns. “We won’t. We are really bad.”

But the two are experts in a different field—the field of each others’ emotions, their past, and finishing the other’s upcoming sentences. They are also experts in the field of running—thanks to years of experience, both good and bad. Whether it is DNFing more times than finishing, or running fat-ass races so fat ass that you only knew of the run by word of mouth, the Pero team functions as one.

April 2015 marks 40 years of running for Steve.

“I started running after seeing Bill Rodgers win the Boston Marathon,” he said. He and his friends walked through town, just catching the runner cross the finish line. “We saw Bill, long, blonde hair flying, hands in the air. It really inspired me, and the next day I started running.”

He has since run the race 13 times.

Deb’s inspiration for ultrarunning also came from the Boston Marathon, but in a somewhat different way. Years before moving to the East Coast, she volunteered at a local race in Texas. Amazed at what those runners were about to do, she said she picked up the sport the next day. (Note the same next-day mentality as her then-husband-to-be.) She quickly switched to trail running due to severe knee pain during road runs. While volunteering for the 100th Boston Marathon, she recalls, Deb walked around the remnants of the starting line, picking up the discarded clothing the runners shed before taking off.

“I picked up a sweatshirt with a 50-mile race logo on it,” she said. “I thought, No way! Impossible!

Turns out, it is possible. She still has that shirt, and now an excuse to wear it.

“These trail people…” she said. “They say 10 miles is fun, then 20, then 30. Within a year I was training for the Vermont 100 Endurance Run.”

Steve said that he fell “into bad company” as well. His first ultra was in 1987, just a local fat-ass event. “Never again” was his response, and he stubbornly stuck to it for 10 years. Coaxed into the Don’t Run Boston 50k in Massachusetts, where he tied for first, he said he was changed forever.

Since then, the two have been to the Vermont 100 and various East-Coast ultras put on by David Horton and the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC).

Steve completed the ‘Fun Run’ distance, 60 miles, at the Barkley Marathons in 2001, a race that “nearly killed me,” he claimed.

“I have never seen him look so terrible,” Deb exclaimed. “I lost 10 pounds, and I am six feet tall,” he said. “I looked like hell,” Steve added.

They consistently make it out to The Ring in September and The Reverse Ring in February, two VHTRC races. And they always show up for the unpredictable More and More Difficult 50k, the secret race that gets “more and more difficult” each year. Steve proudly keeps the loincloth given to him by the race director for finishing the outing five times.

Deb and Steve have ventured across the country as well, competing in Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Speedgoat 50k, and The Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, a favorite of the two.

But nothing, nothing compares to Hardrock.

Deb and Steve have been on the Hardrock course every year since 2001, except when the run was cancelled in 2002. They even announced their engagement together on the course at the 2001 event. Every year the run’s administration selects a piece of artwork or photo to be their poster. It is shown on the website and each finisher gets an individual copy. Deb has had four of her paintings selected.

They have run–tripped, wept, Steve gotten sick, and Deb pushed the time limits–each year since 2001 as well. However, the two have only finished the 100-mile journey three times each.

It’s a poor finishing record, Steve admits, but Hardrock is like no other.

Sure, every time Steve DNFs he says he is never coming back, but Deb knows it never sticks.

“’Damn it, I didn’t finish,’” Steve says, after another disappointment. “But, it pulls you back.” “We have been to other races several times, but it is not the same thing,” Deb says.

Okay, keep up with me here:

In 2001, Deb dropped and Steve finished. In 2002, the run was cancelled for weather conditions. 2003: Deb finished, Steve dropped, but then Steve paced Deb to the finish. 2004 to 2007: both dropped. In 2008, Steve finished and Deb dropped. In 2009, Steve did not get into the run so the pair didn’t go. 2010 to 2011: neither finished. In 2012, Deb finished and Steve dropped. 2013: they both finished! And in 2014, neither got in. For 2015, Steve remains on the waitlist and Deb is in.

Inside the Hardrock lottery, the drawing of a Pero name is a common sight. Is it luck? A sign from the Hardrock gods?

For whatever reason, the couple returns each year to run, pace, finish, or drop. They come to experience the trails, the mountains, and the beauty together, in an odd, painfully sweet way.

Deb explains the usual protocol for signing up for a race, which involves Steve signing the two up and later sending an email to Deb writing, “Oh, by the way I have entered us in…”

For Hardrock, Steve discovered the event in 2000 when he agreed to pace friend Sue Johnston, who ended up dropping him to win in 32 hours. He returned home and said, “Deb, you have to do this.”

“I had nightmares about it,” she admitted. “I saw photos of it. They scared the bajeezus out of me!”

However, it didn’t stop her from arriving at the start line in 2001, ready for the 100-mile adventure. Unfortunately, she was forced to drop that year from sickness, but vowed to return again.

Over the years of Hardrock miles, Deb pinpoints one moment as her happiest of running moments. After dropping in 2001, she toed the 2003 starting line with determination, something the run would test of her later on. Deb, a usual back-of-the-pack runner had trouble keeping a running partner. “Everyone around me kept dropping,” she said. Mentally, things were not going great. As of halfway, she was the last runner. “I kept thinking, I’m not going to make it,” she said. At Telluride, she was ready to call it quits, but an aid-station volunteer informed her that her husband had dropped, but was running back to pace her to the finish line. “I thought, Oh crap, now I have to keep going,” she laughed. She left the aid station so late that the volunteer told her, “No one has ever left this late and made the cutoff time.”

Steve met her soon, and at a 49-hour pace, they knew they had some ground to cover. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be a Hardrocker.’ I teared up a little at that,” she said.

Steve pushed Deb on to a 47-hour-and-three-minute finishing time.

“You barely got in,” Steve said, remembering the run from so long ago like it was yesterday. The last two times she has run, Deb has been the oldest woman to cross the line.

his year at Hardrock, if Deb decides to return to the fierce trail again, her brother Drew Meyer will return to pace her. Meyer, who is another Hardrock devotee, has been Deb’s pacer several times, one year actually having to catch and find her on the trail.

For the 2012 race, Drew planned on pacing Steve the entire 100 miles, which is allowed by the rules of the event because he was over 60 years old. Steve was forced to drop due to sickness at the Ouray Aid Station, and Drew was informed that Deb was only a few minutes ahead of them, also not feeling great.

“I proceeded to the next aid station fully expecting to find Deb sitting there, wrapped in a blanket, done,” he said. “I confess I was hoping she was done so I could quit, too. But she had gone on past that aid station, and as I reached the top of Engineer Pass just at dawn, I saw her ahead of me, running strongly downhill.” Drew paced his sister to that year’s finish.

“I give him all the credit in the world,” Deb said. “He is awesome. It is hard to run 100 miles, and harder to run at someone else’s pace.”

“As a back-of-packer, you have to know the cut-off times, but you cannot pay attention,” she said. “You have to ignore it.”

You don’t know what might happen, she says. You could go blind in one eye or you could run the last nine miles without a headlamp, only to remember within minutes of finishing that your pacer has an extra in his pack. Both have happened to Deb on the Hardrock course, and Steve has been given the nickname “The Barfomatic” by his loving wife from years of on-course illnesses.

“Stuff like that happens, and it is just nuts,” she says. “But we don’t have anything to prove. It is just a fun challenge.”

A fun challenge they enjoy together. They run every other day, and do body-strength exercises on their off days. On the weekends they take to the trails for their long run on Saturday and either another run or long hike after church on Sunday. They have adopted a plant-based, near-vegan diet, which they claim has upped their energy levels and decreased their recovery time.

“We spend a lot of time together, and I look forward to the weekends,” Steve says. “If she wasn’t a runner then I would be out there by myself.”

“At this age, to have a shared passion is really awesome,” Deb added.

But there are some downsides to having two intense, stubborn ultrarunners in the family. For one, they said, when they both want to run, there is usually no one to crew. When the other one has to drop it is discouraging, they agreed, but then again when she knows Steve is out on the trails, it is really encouraging for her, Deb said.

“When we get to an aid station the first question is always, ‘How is Deb/Steve doing?’” Steve said. “Even if he is not next to me, I am glad we are doing this together,” Deb added.

With their hands full of fermenting beer, squawking chickens, and logging mile after mile, Deb said it is awesome to be healthy and to keep running.
Steve and Deb Pero, 2010 The Bear 100 finish line, photo 9

Crossing the finish line together at the 2010 The Bear 100.

“If and when we can’t run, then we’ll hike,” she noted. “Yeah, life is like a circle,” Steve chimed in. “In the Boy Scouts you’re a hiker and one day I will be a hiker again.”

“When we’re 70,” Deb said laughing.

“No,” he stated decisively, “at age 70, I’ll be at Hardrock!”


WeRunFar Glenn Tachiyama

January 20, 2015

Most of the time, you can’t see Glenn Tachiyama’s face. Crouched down, obstructed by trees and rocks, the only visible thing is the long black lens of his camera. Each click of the camera’s button captures the step of hundreds of ultrarunners shooting past him on the trails. These runners may see Glenn, or maybe just a flash, as they quickly bound by, but it is the finished product of these encounters that confirm he was really there. For years, Glenn has been the man behind the camera, and this article brings him to the other side of the lens.
Glenn was born and has lived in Seattle, Washington for the last 58 years. He attended college at the University of Washington where he studied psychology and sociology. After realizing that these two majors did not present too many opportunities that suited him, he received a Master of Business and accepted a job working at Bank of America. While working there, he developed one goal: to save up enough money to retire early and devote his life to something he was sincerely passionate about.
Glenn came into running as a form of rehabilitation after breaking his foot while playing tennis. He ran through the local park, enjoying the strengthening muscles he was rebuilding and the solitude the new sport offered. That was in 1979. Then, he said it took him one year to muster up the courage for his first 10k, and another one after that to run his first marathon. For the next 30 years, Glenn has panned the country running marathons on the west coast, Hawaii, and even a few in Canada. Overall, he zoomed in on a Boston Marathon qualifying time, and a marathon PR of 2:38.

But, the long exposure to road running began to take is toll, and in 1994, the trails were luring him in.

“I just wanted to have fun,” he said. “I felt like a kid again on the trails.”

Glenn’s first ultra was the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run, a 30-mile trail run in Vancouver, British Columbia. He then spent the next few years shuttering through different ultra distances under the 100-mile distance. In 2010, Glenn underwent surgery for his back, and the recovery took longer than he was expecting. He set his sights on the McDonald Forest 50k in 2011.

“One year of recovery was not long enough,” he said laughing at his past mindset. “I finished it, and wanted to finish it, but it was a struggle.”
Glenn Tachiyama running

Glenn running the McDonald Forest 50k. Photo: Janine Meissner Beaudry

After the 2011 race, Glenn decided to become a non-competitive runner, sticking just to his own pace and own trails. Yet, his role in the ultra community was still a large part of the picture.

Today, Glenn can be found on the trails of ultra races all over the west coast, including the Deception Pass 50k, Oregon Coast 50k and 30k, Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series, and several marathons. He and his camera have also been stationed at numerous Western States races over the years. His photos pop up all over the internet and in other publications, such as in iRunFar.com articles and UltraRunning magazine.

His photography hobby was born from trail running, rather than being a lifelong muse.

“I started pacing and running around, documenting beautiful places,” he said. “I would bring my camera on everyday runs, but then I gradually progressed to [shooting] races.”

A self-taught photographer, Glenn’s hobby has developed into the Glenn Tachiyama Photography company, where he sells his photos on his personal website, Tachifoto.net. Now, he is asked by local race directors to attend races all year long, donned in a camera rather than a race bib.

“I do not miss out,” he said, reassuring the inquiry on whether or not he missed being a part of the race. “This way I get to capture the racers and the community.”
Though not physically trekking through the 100 miles, Glenn still spends the entire race day on his feet. He is on the course from start to end, sometimes running around to different locations or staying in one opportune spot before heading to the finish line to document the lead runners. The amount of equipment he hauls around depends on the race, but the majority of time requires the same things: two cameras, two to three lenses, batteries, and whatever personal items he needs for himself.

“I am self-sustained,” he said. “I have to bring extra food, water, and clothes. I don’t want to rely on aid stations, those are for the runners.”

Meghan Hicks can back this up, adding in her own experience of working instead of running during an ultra. It was the infamous early rain and later sunshine of the 2012 Western States where Glenn was taking photos and Hicks was doing live coverage for iRunFar. They saw each other early in the day, each one donned head to toe in rain gear, including each ones’ electronic gear. They laughed at the down-pouring weather, commenting, “Better to be us than the runners.” However, 60 miles later they were again on the course, but this time with the sunshine beating down on their t-shirts- and shorts-wearing bodies.

“At the finish, when Timothy Olson rounded the track, the sun was an orange orb sinking from a clear sky,” Hicks said. “Glenn and I stood behind the finish, awaiting him. ‘What a day,’ we commented.”
Glenn officially launched his photography business in 2011 and has since documented thousands of photos from races and training runs. He has worked with other organizations and websites producing projects like videos and slideshows.

This year marks the 10th annual Tribute to the Trails Calendar, a compilation of photos taken from an ultra he shot each month of the year. When first starting to take photos, Glenn said he would wind up with hundreds of pictures and not do anything with them. He began pulling photos to design the calendar as a fundraiser for the local running organization, the Washington Trails Association (WTA). Today, he and the president of WTA, Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs, work together putting out the calendar each year and managing sponsorships like Udo’s Oil and Flora Inc., among many others. Over the last nine years, proceeds donated to the organization through calendar sales have totaled more than $133,000.

Glenn said that he represented these sponsorships as an ambassador, but two years ago he asked the companies if they would instead support the production costs of the calendar instead.

For the calendar, Glenn tries to flip through the hundreds of photos he takes soon after each race, but the stack of potential candidates escalates quickly.

“I will note while I am shooting, ‘Okay, that one will go into the calendar,’” he said. “But I usually will have to go back later and select one.”
A lot of the photos come from the races directed by James Varner and Matt and Kerri Stebbins and the Rainshadow Running Races, a series of Pacific Northwest ultras and distances.

Glenn and the Rainshadow Running series have a long history, and according to the Stebbins, Glenn is “omnipresent” when it comes to working at their races, and they absolutely love it.

This year a Vimeo film showcased the Sun Mountain 50-Mile and 50k in Winthrop, Washington. Project Talaria, a two-man company that documents their personal and others’ running adventures was chosen to shoot the race. They teamed up to interview Glenn while he was there to photograph the race.

“I shot many of the Rainshadow Running races,” he said. “They are challenging races and it lets me do something different for each one. The video project was something new, too. It was a promotional video to highlight some of the races of the series.”

Matt and Kerri feel like Glenn is part of their extended Rainshadow family, admitting that they couldn’t imagine a Rainshadow race without him.

“We know runners love getting to relive race weekends via the fun, sometimes gritty, and always authentic photographs of themselves rocking epic trails that Glenn takes at the races,” Kerri said. “That’s part of what makes Glenn so great, too, is his humility. He’s so reluctant to take credit for a great shot. He does such a great job of always making his work about the runners and the trails, and his work is just always so solid.”
The Project Talaria video differs than others made by the team. In addition to featuring the racers, Glenn’s own story is interspersed throughout the film, showcasing his history of running and photography. The camera is turned on him as he arrives and sets up for a day of shooting the race.

“I was uncomfortable,” he admitted. “I am not a big speaker. Every time someone asks me to do something like that I ask, ‘Why are you interested in me?’”

The shy, introverted quality of Glenn’s personality may be present in front of a camera or on the phone, but while running with close friends out on the trails, that side is soon forgotten.

“Around his close, friends he’s talkative, playful, and silly, but he’s also a good listener and he’s attentive,” Kathleen Egan said. He remembers everything. He’s very much a youthful soul, I really like that about him.”

Coming across his photos on websites or used by other people, Glenn typically does not recognize it as a large success on his part. However, he wrote in an email a couple weeks ago about how that sometimes changes.

“Yesterday was a good example when Rob Krar used one of my photos with his 2014 Ultrarunner of the Year post,” he said, referring to Krar’s January 1 Facebook post. “I mean out of the hundreds of photos that were taken of him last year, he ends up using one of mine. It’s satisfying and validating knowing that an image I captured resonates enough with him to represent his year!”

Egan also mentioned Glenn’s humble attitude toward his role in the ultra community.

“Let’s just say that within 15 minutes of getting out of the car in Chamonix, France (the week of Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc), he was recognized by a local runner,” she said. Glenn accompanied Egan and her husband as they ran and fastpacked the Tour du Mont Blanc trail. “I think that speaks volumes about his work both on an international as well as national level.”
Glenn’s photography is dedicated primarily to ultrarunning. As an ultrarunner himself, he believes his success on being able to appreciate and understand both sides: of being in front and behind the lens.

Similar to spending hours on a trail running, with nothing but the wind whistling and squirrels skittering about, Glenn spends many hours alone, trudging through his ‘miles’ of work.

“I don’t mind being out there alone for hours,” he said. “Then I get home and edit photos for days. It has helped being on both sides.”

Still, Glenn prefers to remain behind the camera. From this seat, he can study the ultra community and contribute to it in his own way.

Krissy Moehl says it is his ability to appreciate both positions of the community that enables him to capture the spirit and beauty of the trails.

“I have such admiration for what he has created for himself as a photographer,” she said. The two met through fellow runners and the Seattle running community. “Doing something he loves and finding that people love what he does. It is a great story.”

As a part-time gig, Glenn works at the Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle, where he manages the store’s website photos and Instagram page.

Training and participating in another race is not on Glenn’s agenda. Instead you will find him out on the Washington trails, running shoes on and camera in hand, ready to capture the next breathtaking photo.

“I’m not interested in competing,” he said. “If there is good scenery then I will stop and take a photo, but I just want to go out on the trails and run.”

Whatever the temperature, weather, or terrain, ultrarunners are out there on the course. And whatever the temperature, weather, or terrain, there Glenn will be, ready to document the adventure of trail running.