SHOW LOW — Good news travels fast. It may not be as fast as 19-year-old Zach Bates can run, but it’s close, as is the 100-mile race he plans to run on Jan. 15 in Goodyear.

Following an article in the Independent on Nov. 26 telling Zach’s story about his goal of running a 100-mile race before his March 2, birthday, Zach has gained a number of interested followers, including AzFamily 3TV/CBS 5 Sportscaster/Anchor Nick King and Travis Holt Hamilton, producer and director of Travis Holt Hamilton Films of Flagstaff.

Zach, who is 19 years old and autistic, was adamant about running a 100-mile race. Rana Bates, his mother, tried to tell him that his goal might not be realistic since the biggest race he had ever run was a 5K. But, the totally focused Zach told her, “You can’t keep me from doing it.”

And, she hasn’t. In fact, she is all in. She knows her son and hopes his story will be motivation and inspiration for others who are autistic.

Zach started running in the 5th grade in Flagstaff and was totally focused on world records. He knew statistics of the world runners and the runners who were his favorites at school. He still does. Though he did not have the same motivation for other classwork, he had no trouble understanding and using his math skills to calculate his paces and speed.

When the family moved to Show Low, Zach was able to do track and cross country at Show Low High School. Coach Mike Hall told Rana that Zach was average but that he had never had a student with as much determination and heart as Zach.

Rana resorted to books to help Zach achieve his goal. They studied together and she found races that built on each other and they started a training program.

Their first entry was the Aug. 7 High Mountain Half Marathon in Pinetop. Zach came in 9th place with a time of 1:42 which was very good and that thrust them forward to the next step in achieving Zach’s goal. His next race was a 25-miler and he came in at 3:52. Then Rana bought the ultra marathon book and opened a TikTok account to track Zach’s progress. The TikTok account brought followers and advice.

And then, they met local runner John Hendrix who became Zach’s mentor.

Other races showed Zach’s progress and provided lessons along the way. Staying consistently in the top 10%, Rana reached out for help in finding a proper trainer who could help take Zach all the way. That trainer is Nick Hollan, a 31-year-old world class runner, who has slowed Zach down and increased his strength for injury prevention.

Aravaipa Running, who does trail and endurance runs across the Southwest, followed Zach on TikTok and did an interview with him on Nov. 12 on Instagram.

Rana said that King saw that interview and came to Show Low on Dec. 14 to interview Zach and the family. He and his camera man spent the day interviewing each family member as well as Hendrix. They also filmed Zach running. King will be at the Jan. 15 race, and following the race, they will air about a seven minute video on Zach.

Hamilton’s wife read the Independent’s story on Zach and showed it to her husband. After reading it, he linked the Independent story on his Facebook page and wrote, “When I read this story, I instantly knew I wanted to get involved. There is much heart and hope here that I want the world to also see and feel as Zach works for his dream of running a challenging 100-mile race!!!”

Zach has been working at Culver’s in Show Low since September. They have hired a number of autistic kids and work around their school and activity schedules. He started in training in the dining room learning to talk to guests. They also teach the kids to smile when doing so, but that is not anything they had to teach Zach. He now works at the drive-in window.

Culver’s, supportive of Zach’s goal, surprised Rana with an unsolicited donation of gear for Zach’s 100-mile race.

Hamilton arrived with his film crew at Culver’s on Thursday, Dec. 16 to begin filming his feature documentary on Zach. They filmed Zach working and also interviewed Assistant Manger Barclay Thompson regarding the training Culver’s does with autistic kids.

Many are familiar with Hamilton who did “More Than Fry Bread,” which was shown locally.

The holidays have not been a rest period for Zach. Rana said that Hollan provides him with a daily list of what to do based on issues he may be experiencing and on how he is feeling. Sleep and nutrition are also a big part of the training. Rana has learned just how much more she needs to feed Zach in order for him to keep up his strength. He is also practicing running on tired legs.

The last race Zach ran was the Mayhem Night Run at Ft. McDowell on Dec. 4. He came in 2nd place at 2:15.

In 18 days Zach will run his 100-mile race. He may not know it, but he is running for all autistic kids. And Rana will also have met her goal — motivating and inspiring other autistic kids who hear about Zach’s goal to say, ‘If Zach can do it, I can do it, too.’

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(1) comment

Bob Smith

Zach, you've already accomplished more in your life than many people do in a lifetime - great job chasing your dreams. We're all rooting for you!!

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