Billy Richards

I grew up on Long Island in the Town of Islip. I graduated from Islip High School in 1999 and went into the Marine Corps a few months later. I played sports recreationally, but was never into anything organized, however, I have always been into working out, and got my first gym membership at the age of 13.

I was in the Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003 based out of Camp LeJeune, serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. During my time there my Primary MOS was an 0311, but I got the opportunity to be on the security element of the MSPF for my first deployment, then stayed with H&S and was a Training NCO, Police SGT, and was also in charge of the MCMAP(Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) for the company, being certified all the way up to Black Belt, by the time I was promoted to SGT. I have 2 deployments, both were Mediterranean floats, the first being from November of 2000 to May of 2001 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) and the second being March of 2002 to November of 2003 with the 26th MEU(SOC).

I started out running races with a few military friends down south. My first race was the Army birthday 10 miler at Ft Bragg. I liked the atmosphere, so I then found a 10k in Rocky Mount, followed by my first Marathon in November of 2010, the City of Oaks Marathon, in Raleigh. A month later I ran the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, then the following year I decided to attempt 5 marathons in 7 weeks, finishing with an Average time of about 3:40. In 2013 I would get into obstacle races, doing 7 Tough Mudders, 2 Spartan Trifectas, also attempted my first Spartan Ultra Beast, and World’s Toughest Mudder.

In 2014, I started running every race I did with a 45 lb. ruck (except World’s Tough Mudder because of the flight) I did this to honor our military, and embrace the struggles we go through as troops and now as veterans by carrying the weight. This is the year I would finish all 24 hours at World’s Toughest Mudder, and also was coerced by a friend to do the Spartan Death Race. I did the Team Death Race with 3 other people, and after 42 hours of just being beaten down with silly tasks in the freezing cold, and tons and tons of mileage, we ended up winning the race by about 3 hours.

2015 was the year I got into ultra running. I just changed gyms and moved back to Long Island. In the process of making videos for Instagram to advertise personal training services, I ruptured my tricep tendon lifting weights. After surgery and being in a brace for roughly 7 weeks, my friends decided to do the Paumonok Trail 70k and wanted me to come along. Arm still in a brace, unable to move, I decided I would go for it. I did the race, figuring out to snake my arm through a pack strap with the brace, finishing about an hour under the cutoff, and decided to keep going. Over the next few months, I did a 50k, 50 miler, and DNF’d my first 100k because I missed a marking and got lost. Later on in the year on 4th of July, I decided to run with an American flag. I wore the 45 lb. pack and an American flag to a local 5k. The flag inspired others during the race, so I haven’t stopped running with it since.

Later on in 2015, I ran my first 100 mile race, The Summer Beast of Burden. It was agonizing, I finished the first 50 miles in 10:02, then lost my ability to run, so I relentlessly walked. By mile 75 my body started to fail, I was shivering uncontrollably and my legs were locking up. The race director gave me a set of sweats, stood me up on my feet, walked me to the arches and let me free. I limped all the way to the 87.5 turnaround. The next day the sun was blazing, I made it to the 93 mile aid station, and almost dropped out of the race. The volunteers at the aid station put a handkerchief full of ice on the back of my neck, stood me up, walked me out and I continued to press forward. At mile 98, my legs had shut down completely, I kept my legs locked like I was walking on stilts, my left hip flexor was severely swollen and I lost the ability to move my left leg, so I dragged it. My right quad was locking, so I had to position my foot so I wouldn’t fall over. It took over an hour to finish the last 2 miles of the race. After receiving my buckle, I sat down. They gave me food and fluids, didn’t feel too bad, just exhausted, however, when I went to stand up, I couldn’t move my legs on my own will, or support my own bodyweight. They brought me to the picnic table and tried stretching me, every time they moved my legs it felt like they were being ripped apart by knives. My friends put me into the back of the car, drove me 8 hours back to Long Island, carried me to my car, I drove home. When I got home, I couldn’t get out of the driver seat, so I slept in my driveway. I posted Facebook posts asking if anyone was off work and could get me to the VA. After going to the VA, I was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, and spent 3 days in the hospital. 2 days after leaving the hospital, I would do a 5k in the morning, Tough Mudder in the afternoon, and a GoRuck 5k later that night. Besides that 3-day hospital visit, the rhabdo didn’t keep me out of anything, 3 weeks later I did a 24-hour GoRuck Heavy, and continued to do several marathons and ultras.

In 2016 I joined Airborne Tri Team. They are a Triathlon Team with the goal of helping veterans overcome PTSD and other injuries by boosting morale, giving them goals, and making them feel part of a team again. To raise awareness, and draw attention to these issues, and to help out the team, I would go on training runs during rush hour with the American flag. It motivated my entire town. I would also continue to run my regular weekend events, and got a bit heavier into ultras, but right before that, I entered and won my division in a powerlifting meet. Once the powerlifting meet was over, I went on a tear and did something I didn’t think was possible, but figured I’d try it out and did 8 ultramarathons in 8 weeks. And I would double up every weekend, with the worst being the 30+ mile Spartan Ultra Beast, followed by the Long Island Marathon the next day. On week 8 I came to a screeching halt. I finished the Mayapple 100k, then the following day went to Coatesville PA for a Tough Mudder. I ran the Tough Mudder with a 45 lb. pack and American flag. About 10 miles in I did the Funky Monkey with the pack, and reaching for the platform at the end of the obstacle, my bicep tendon ripped off the bone.

I would have surgery to repair it the following weekend. 10 days later, I did my first races back (a 5k and a 5 miler.) I still had the hard cast on my arm, before wearing the brace. I felt sorry for myself in the beginning, but then said to myself I still have a left arm and 2 legs, so I grabbed my American flag, synched my sling down really tight to take tension off the surgical site, and headed towards the starting line. At the beginning of the 5 mile race I was approached by a woman and she said to me “because of you I no longer know the meaning of the words ‘I can’t’” to this day that stuck with me.

Before rupturing my bicep tendon I was invited to do the 50 Miles for Murph Run. This run started in East Harlem, and ended at the starting line for the 4 mile Run Around the Lake at Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island. 3 weeks prior to the event, I ruptured the tendon. I received the spot through Airborne Tri Team. Before the event the leader of ATT told me I wouldn’t be able to do the event because of my tendon. I told him to not count me out just yet. The week prior to 50 Miles for Murph, I contacted the person in charge, who I found out was a friend of mine through Spartan racing Freddy Rodriguez. So I asked him directly, and he let me in. I completed the entire 52 miles overnight, plus the 4 mile race the next day while carrying an American flag in my left hand, and having no use of my right arm.

In July, I got together with 2 other members of Airborne Tri Team, and did a 22 mile road march across long island overnight, starting at the Calverton Cemetery, to raise awareness for veterans’ suicide, with the road march ending at the starting line for the Airborne 5k. My arm was still out of commission; however, I was still able to snake it through a pack strap and carry a 45 pound pack. After the race I did the 5k with a surviving member of a suicide victim.

After getting home from the 22 mile road march, I got fed up by seeing all the hatred towards police officers, the negativity being spread across social media, and the shootings that occurred in Baton Rouge and Dallas, so I decided to get dressed in blue, grabbed my American flag, got on the LIRR went out to Penn Station, and ran up and down the streets of Manhattan to honor the police officers with the goal being to take as many pictures with police officers as I could, say thank you to them, and I did a Facebook live feed during the run. This would later morph into what I called the #ThankThePoliceTour. When I got home, I started thinking how I could do something to stop all of this, so I figured, why not use social media and turn things around and create a positive image towards the police department? The plan was loosely put together, but I bought 40 American flags, Packs of Thank You Cards, and set up a GoFundMe to cover travel expenses to cross the US. I started to draw attention by running around local precincts in Suffolk County, but then had to take it a step further, and on a weekend, I drove to Baltimore, ran 6 miles through the really bad parts by myself, dressed in blue with the American flag, then went to Philadelphia in the same day, and ran 4 miles. Each precinct I went to, I folded the American flag I ran with, left a Thank You card with my contact information, and a handwritten list of everyone that donated to show the police that the community still supported them. I started it out of my savings account, but I ended upraising around $6,000 and was able to visit precincts coast to coast, stopping in major cities with primary emphasis on cities where there were shootings, including Baton Rouge and Dallas. (If you search Google for “Billy Richards thank the police tour” you can find many articles and news features explaining everything).

Two days after returning home from my 2 week Thank the Police Tour, I returned upstate to take on the Beast of Burden 100 for a second time. This time I was better acclimated having run out west in 100+ degree temps with police officers. This year it was brutally hot and humid, and out of the 62 that were registered, I ended up being one of the 20 people that finished, and had no health complications.

At the end of August, I had a follow up with my orthopedic. He kept giving me recommendations on what I should never do again. This was also the same orthopedic that operated on my tricep the year prior. On this follow up I started asking questions on what I could do. So I asked him can I swim? He said yes. Can I ride a bike? He said “uhhhhh, I suppose so.” Then I said to him obviously I can run. His response was “I don’t even want to know what you’re getting into anymore, but it’s probably something you shouldn’t do.” So then leaving the office to be a wise ass, I turned and said to him, “by the way, your tricep tendon surgery healed great, I was not only able to do many obstacle races, but I also won my division at my very first powerlifting meet earlier this year” and then I walked off. I then called up my friend at Airborne Tri Team and asked “Is that triathlon still open for this weekend?” he responded “yes, it’s not sold out” I responded, “good, the doctor said I can swim and bike, so get me signed up.” Then I went home and was on runningintheusa.com and found the King George Challenge the following weekend, which was an Olympic distance Triathlon, and a Half Ironman on back to back days, so although I had never ran a triathlon before, haven’t biked since high school, and haven’t swam since the Marine Corps, I believed I could do it, so I signed up. The Sprint was Sunday, but before that I ran the Baker Trail 50 miler in Pennsylvania the day before, and drove overnight after finishing, directly to the starting line for the triathlon. Not only did I finish my first triathlon the day after running a 50 mile race, but I did the run portion carrying a 45 pound pack and American flag, and I repeated the feat the following weekend with the Olympic and Half Ironman distance Triathlons.

In between this and 2017 I completed many races, to Include my first Ironman, but I’m going to skip ahead a little. In May of 2017 I completed 8 ultramarathons (Spartan Ultra Beast, 6 50ks and a 50 miler) and 1 Marathon in a 9 consecutive day period.

Thanksgiving of 2017 I loaded up a 45 lb. pack with canned goods, and started a fundraiser for Boots on the Ground NY. I found an event in Dallas called the Texas Quad (4 marathons in 4 days.) I loaded up the ruck, drove 1600 miles to Texas by myself, finished all 4 marathons in 4 days with 45 pounds and an American flag, and then drove 1600 miles back to Long Island, donated the cans I ran with, and raised $2,850 over Facebook going to Boots on the Ground, a charity that helps feed and house struggling veterans.

In 2017 I also finished 112 races and was up to 35 Tough Mudder Finishes. In  2018, I did 12 Spartan Trifectas (Sprint, Super, and Beast in 1 Calendar Year). Finished all US Spartan Ultras, taking first in the open division in Lake Tahoe and Dallas while carrying an American flag. I also finished both World’s Toughest Mudder and the Spartan Ultra World Championships in Iceland, both of which were subzero temps, while carrying the American flag in both 24 hour events.

I also became the first person to complete the Savage 7 Challenge, which was 7 50ks in 7 days, while carrying the American flag, and raised another $1,250 to help support Boots on the Ground NY.

In 2019 my plan is to beat the 100 mile finish record of 40 100s in 1 calendar year.

Three pieces of wisdom:

I’ll give advice in relation to long ultras, but have a plan, make sure you stretch, keep up on your nutrition, and most importantly, DO NOT QUIT, relentless forward progress until you cross the finish line.

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