March 3, 1979.  Cindy, my bride of less than two years kissed me for good luck as I ventured out into the streets of Gainesville, Florida to tackle my very first marathon.

December 9, 2012.  Cindy, my wife of over 35 years gave me a congratulatory kiss moments after I crossed the finish line in Honolulu, Hawaii as I finished my 200th marathon.

It’s been a great run, literally and figuratively.  I’ve been fortunate to have run the fabled Boston Marathon twelve times.  I’ve run through the Brandenburg Gate on my way to finishing the Berlin Marathon.  I’ve run my all-time favorite marathon, the Atlanta Marathon (the Thanksgiving Day version; sadly, it no longer exists) 27 times.  I feel blessed to have completed every marathon I’ve ever started.  I ran 10 Shamrock Marathons (Virginia Beach, Virginia), as much a reason to visit my parents as a reason to run a marathon.  I was Master’s Champion at the Vulcan Marathon (Birmingham, Alabama).  Twice.  I’ve lost track of how many inaugural marathons I’ve run (some of them didn’t survive, while others have flourished).  I ran New York City and Chicago when the field was only (only!) 20,000 runners.

I set my sights on the 2012 Honolulu Marathon as my 200th marathon as early as 2010.  In late 2011 I realized I would have to run an aggressive schedule of marathons in 2012 in order to complete #200 on December 9.  To begin the year I ran 11 marathons in a 13-week window.  I optimistically registered for the Honolulu Marathon early in the year, and was lucky enough to get an early-bird registration of only $40.  The trip to Honolulu was going to be a surprise 35-year wedding anniversary present (which she would find out about on June 18) for Cindy and I.  Virtually everyone I knew was aware of the impending trip; in fact I wrote about it in my running club’s quarterly newsletter, a monthly on-line column I write for a running magazine and on my running club’s Facebook site.  In all instances I would mention ‘it’s a surprise wedding anniversary trip for Cindy so don’t mention it.’  No one did.   

‘But Scott, you said it was going to be a surprise!  What if Cindy read about it and found out?’

I appreciate your concern, but if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize it’s that Cindy doesn’t read much of what I write.  Granted, she did read my first book…two-and-a-half years after it was published.  But I knew there was no way she would read anything I wrote in 2012 in 2012.   I was absolutely right.  When Cindy learned about the trip on our anniversary it came as a complete surprise, although in my circle of friends it had been common knowledge for well over six months. 

You may be wondering why I chose Honolulu for #200?  My dad, an officer in the U.S. Navy was stationed in Pearl Harbor from 1967 – 1970, and in all honesty it was the best assignment my dad—and our family ever had.  I learned to play golf in Hawaii (thank you Navy-Marine Golf Course).  I was in the inaugural class of Moanalua Intermediate School in Hawaii (go Mustangs!).  Our family lived in the greatest military housing in Hawaii (Radford Terrace).  Hawaii 5-0 (the Jack Lord version) and Tora! Tora! Tora! were filmed in Hawaii while we were stationed there.  I learned to walk barefoot—everywhere and eat Li Hing Mui (salty dried plums soaked in salt, sugar and licorice—pretty frightening, huh?) in Hawaii.  I kissed a girl for the very first time in Hawaii.

So over 42 years later I returned to the scene of the best assignment our family ever had.  The Thursday before the race Cindy and I endured a 10-hour flight (thankfully, direct from Atlanta to Honolulu) and upon landing on the island of Oahu Cindy immediately looked for a restroom in the terminal.  I told her to look for a door with ‘wahine’ (‘woman’ in Hawaiian) on it.  Oddly, I hadn’t spoken or even remotely thought of that word in 42 years.

We then rented our Ford Mustang (a red convertible!) and drove in Honolulu rush hour traffic (wow—it wasn’t anything like that 42 years ago!) to our hotel.  The next morning (Friday) we went to the Honolulu Marathon Expo, which was like any other with one major difference: virtually everyone was Japanese.  I was a definite and dare I say distinct minority.  Cindy decided to enter the 10K race walk to be held in conjunction with the marathon.  Her entry fee?  $70!  (So much for the money-saving early-bird marathon registration!)  I figured it was worth it: Cindy would enjoy a walking tour of Waikiki and since both our races shared the same finish line, she would be there to see me as I completed marathon #200.

We went to the pre-race luau that night where—for the ‘bargain’ early-bird fee of $54 each—had a meal eerily reminiscent of the lunches I ate at Moanalua Intermediate many years ago.  The entertainment?  The good news: It was exactly what the audience wanted.  The bad news: The audience was predominately Japanese, and their idea and my idea of entertainment are worlds apart.  (The host?  Remember the ‘lounge lizard’ entertainer Bill Murray portrayed on the old Saturday Night Lives?   His brother.)

After the luau we stayed on the beach to watch the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade (it happened to be December 7, which I haven’t mentioned yet).  The highlight of the parade was seeing the Pearl Harbor survivors—all of them heroes and all of them beaming with pride.  The lowlight?  A Japanese woman in her 40’s asking me what the parade was for.  Me: To honor Pearl Harbor.  Her: What happened at Pearl Harbor.  Me: It was attacked on this day 71 years ago.  Her:  Attacked?  By whom? (At least her grammar was good.)  Me: The Japanese!  (I couldn’t help it; I stayed PC as long as I could.)

Saturday we took a drive to the north shore and encountered considerable traffic on the two-lane as there was a surfing competition going on at the infamous Banzai Pipeline.  We had a great lunch at the artsy-hippie village of Haleiwa, vowing to return later during our vacation when we had more time (translation: when I didn’t have to get back to the hotel to rest up for the marathon).  Once we got back to the room, I laid out my running gear and noticed the screen of my chronograph was blank; the battery had apparently died.  Cindy and I made a quick trip to a drug store at the Ala Moana Mall where I bought a battery and borrowed a watch tool (from the counter clerk) and a pair of reading glasses (right off the rack) and replaced the battery.  The chronograph was as good as new, and after setting a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call (the race would start at 5:00 a.m. the next morning), I was fast asleep by 9:00 p.m.  Cindy wasn’t far behind.

Race morning I walked to the starting line (a mere 1/3 mile from our hotel) where I lined up in the middle of the ‘three-to-four hour’ corral.  A fantastic fireworks display began minutes before the start of the race; in fact the fireworks were still lighting up the sky (and waking up the locals and any tourists who weren’t in town to run, which fortunately for the local Tourism Board couldn’t have been very many) when the marathon began.  As I was watched the fireworks I felt a lump in my throat: partially because I knew how much Cindy enjoyed fireworks (and they really were amazing) and she was missing them as her race walk didn’t start until 5:25 and partially because I knew it was signaling the start of my very last marathon.  Yes, #200 was going to be my finale.  My swan song.  My farewell.  Sayonora (for my Japanese readers).  Aloha.

I started my chronograph as I crossed the starting line and spent the next hour or so dodging other runners, and by ‘other runners’ I mean a good many of the Japanese runners who were stopping here, there and literally everywhere to take photographs of the Christmas lights of Waikiki Beach, the historic landmarks of Honolulu and last but not least of each other.  The aid stations posed another problem: in the dark the white paper cups discarded on the road looked a lot like the white traffic reflectors, so I made every humanly effort I could muster to avoid stepping on anything white.  All I wanted from this marathon was to finish: time was irrelevant.  I couldn’t afford to twist an ankle, trip and fall or entangle myself with another runner—anything that would jeopardize me finding that pot of gold at the end of my final 26.2-mile long rainbow.

Once daylight arrived (two hours into the race) I found the course much easier to navigate.  I could see the reflectors in the road.  The crowd had thinned out.  The temperature had only risen seven or eight degrees (keep in mind, however that the temperature at the start of the race was 70 degrees so by now things were getting pretty toasty).  With every nine (Ten?  Eleven?) minutes another mile could be checked off. 

Then the unthinkable happened.  I saw a life-size Scooby-Doo (who happens to star in my grandson Krischan’s FAVORITE cartoon) and I knew I just had to have a photo of the two of us.   So on the only out-and-back section of the entire course I cut through the crowd running in the opposite direction (Ruh Roh), took my cell phone out of my waistband (I would later use it to call Cindy when I had one mile left in the marathon) and asked an obliging elderly Japanese gentleman if he would take a photo of my pal Scooby and I (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em).  This two-minute drama made me realize two things: (1) I am no longer in any way, shape or form the serious marathoner I used to be and (2) I am now more a grandfather than I am a runner.  Not that there’s anything wrong with either or those revelations.

Almost four-and-a-half hours after the firework display signaling the start of the marathon, I had one mile left and called Cindy.  She would be on the right side of the road just before the finish line…which is exactly where I later found her as I was duking it out with a Japanese man dressed in a white swan costume, complete with a two-foot long neck with a tiny swan head on top.

As I approached the finish line I wondered why I wasn’t getting a lump in my throat…or sensing that special feeling of pride and accomplishment I normally have when I’m about to finish a marathon.  The only thing I felt was anxious; anxious to get it over with.

After completing lifetime marathon #200 (the time is totally irrelevant; better to focus on the 100% marathon completion rate!) I met up with Cindy who gave me a congratulatory hug and kiss and asked me how it felt to finish my final marathon.  I told her two things: I was relieved to be at the end of my 34-year journey, and embarrassed I had been duking it out with a guy dressed as a swan for the final eight miles of it.  Cindy said I would be more embarrassed if I had seen some of the other runners who finished in front of me.

Sometimes fate has a funny way of telling you when your time is up.

Less than 30 minutes after finishing the Honolulu Marathon, the face on my chronograph was blank once again.

Like I said, sometimes fate has a funny way of telling you when your time is up.

Marathons are no longer fun.  I can no longer run marathons without pain.  Sure, in the old days I didn’t mind some good old-fashioned self-inflicted pain—the kind of pain you can only get from pushing yourself to your anaerobic threshold.  But the kind of pain I had been experiencing in marathons wasn’t that kind of pain.   It was the kind of pain that was telling me I shouldn’t be running 26.2 miles any more.  Truth be known I knew it over a year ago, but I’ve always been good at lying to myself as well as being a ‘numbers guy’ and I found 200 to be a nice round number.  And from what I can tell, my body and (believe it or not) my mind had been telling me that 200 would signal the end of the (marathon) road.  And I’m good with that.

For the rest of the week we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Oahu.  Pearl Harbor.  Punchbowl Cemetery.  Diamondhead.  We celebrated my 58th birthday the day after the marathon.  We returned to Haleiwa (we had more time to spend this time) and the Banzai Pipeline (when there was no surfing competition).  We drove to the northeast side of the island and watched the windsurfers at Kane’ohe Bay.  We took a trip to the Navy-Marine Golf Course, Moanalua Intermediate and Radford Terrace—for old times’ sake.  We took a dolphin-watching/snorkeling cruise along the southwestern shores of Oahu.  We ate Li Hing Mui seeds (yes, we).   We celebrated 35 years of marriage.  We also celebrated the end of my 34-year marathon career.

March 3, 1979.  Cindy, my bride of less than two years kissed me for good luck as I ventured out into the streets of Gainesville, Florida to tackle my very first marathon.

December 9, 2012.  Cindy, my wife of over 35 years gave me a congratulatory kiss moments after I crossed the finish line in Honolulu, Hawaii as I finished my 200th marathon.

It was only fitting that Cindy—who has been with me every step of the way, was there for the first and last steps of my marathon career.

Sometimes fate has just the right way of telling you when your time is up.

Just Crew It

By Scott Ludwig

My wife Cindy gave me the movie Running on the Sun, a documentary of the 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon for a gift on Father’s Day 2001.  As I watched it and saw the variety of pain and discomfort the runners experienced running across Death Valley, all I could say was ‘been there,’ ‘been there’ and ‘been there.’  When the movie came to a close, I said in no uncertain terms ‘I’m doing it.’  (Cindy—who had been in the kitchen noticing what the runners in the movie were going through quickly replied ‘no you’re not.’  She didn’t have a prayer.)  

For me to one day run Badwater was, as they say a ‘no-brainer.’  A couple years later when I signed the Badwater Ultramarathon waiver, specifically the statement ‘I realize I may die participating in this event,’ I couldn’t help but think that ‘no-brainer’ took on an entirely new meaning.

From my perspective, I knew that deep down inside I had been training for almost a decade for something special; I just wasn’t sure exactly what.  I’d been putting in well over 90 miles a week during that time while maintaining a requiring 50-hour-a-week job and a household with a wife, two sons and our black lab Magic.  I learned to survive on five hours sleep, literally (as I called it) ‘training to exhaustion.’  I knew that one day my decade-long sacrifice had a purpose: I just didn’t know it would take me to Death Valley to compete in the planet’s toughest footrace.

Now for the really hard part: finding a few people who would be willing to crew for me.  Not only would they need to sacrifice a week of their respective lives; they would need to be in top physical (not to mention mental) shape to endure the challenges of the harshest environment they had ever encountered.

Surprisingly, the search for a crew didn’t take long at all.

Al Barker

Al Barker and I had been running 20 miles every Sunday morning together since Thanksgiving 1993.  We had been to hundreds of races together during this time and became great friends.  Ten years my senior, Al sported personal bests that mirrored mine in races of virtually every distance from the mile to the marathon (Al is quick to point out that he ran a sub-five minute mile—I never did, but I always counter with me breaking 2:50 in the marathon—which he never did).  I’ll have to give him credit, though: after running with him for ten years I wasn’t running anywhere near the fast times he had been running ten years earlier—back when he was my age. 

Asking Al if he would crew for me at Badwater was (yes, I’m going to use the phrase one more time) a no-brainer.  He eagerly accepted and we both decided we needed to focus on increasing our mileage and getting acclimated to the conditions we would face in the desert.  We increased our mileage, occasionally putting in 30 or 35 miles on Sunday.  We also believed our training in the heat and humidity of Atlanta, Georgia would probably translate well to the extremely hot yet arid conditions in Death Valley.  In time we would discover that our assumption was correct.  The desert heat would ultimately be one of the least of our worries, however…

Gary Griffin

I met Gary Griffin at the three-mile mark of the Callaway Gardens Marathon in January 2002.  He was sporting a Gulf Winds Track Club singlet—a club Al had been a member of when he lived in Tallahassee, Florida before he moved to Atlanta—and I introduced myself and asked if he knew Al.  Gary didn’t know Al, but after Gary and I ran the remaining 23 miles of the marathon together—talking every step of the way (in all honesty Gary did most of the talking and I did most of the listening), I did know that in time the two of them would become friends.  You see, I did manage to mention to Gary that one day I wanted to run the Badwater Ultramarathon and he said he wanted to be a part of it. 

Eighteen months later Gary would get to know Al; in fact he’d get to know Al very well.

Paula May

I met Paula May at a summer track meet in Peachtree City, Georgia in 1999.  Less than a year later she became part of our regular Sunday morning 20-mile group and became quite an accomplished masters runner in the southeast, regular winning her division in distances from 5K to the marathon.  A physician’s assistant anesthetist by trade, Paula—knowing I would need a person in the medical in-the-know at Badwater—volunteered her services.  I quickly accepted and in time Paula developed an elaborate plan to ensure I would be getting the proper nutrition, fluids and calories as I made my way across Death Valley. 

I asked Paula to be my Crew Chief.  She gladly accepted.

Eric Huguelet

I met Eric Huguelet by way of Paula May.  You see, Eric is Paula’s husband.  At first I’d see him every once in a while—usually at the annual Peachtree Road Race where we’d meet in Piedmont Park after the race and drink a few beers.  In time Eric would occasionally join us on Sunday mornings as well as for an occasional marathon.  However, in time what Eric and I enjoyed most was playing Darkside (the name of our running club) golf, which meant one of two things: (1) there are no rules and/or (2) rules can be made up along the way.  Don’t like that five-iron you just hit into the woods?  No worries; try another.  Just missed that two-foot putt?  No worries; keep putting until you make it.  Hit your drive out of bounds?  No worries; I’m dropping a ball next to your drive you put 250 yards down the middle of the fairway.  You get the idea.

Eric was the first to suggest I practice walking—and more specifically walking uphill in preparation for Badwater.  One of my biggest regrets to this day is that his suggestion was made less than a month before the actual race… 

Josh Ludwig

I knew Josh for his entire life.  Since the day he was born, in fact.  Josh is the youngest of my two sons, and the only one who took an interest in running.  He started running when he was six years old, and by the time he was 10 was running 18 minute 5K’s, 40 minute 10K’s and one memorable 76:36 10-miler that would have bettered the Georgia state age group record by over nine minutes—had the course been certified.

Josh took an interest in other sports as well.  He was particularly adept at soccer and basketball, but managed to find time for a little baseball and football as well.  As children are apt to do, in time he experienced a ‘sports burnout’ in high school, which served as the perfect time to ask him to be on my Badwater crew.  After all, isn’t that the dream summer vacation for most 17-year olds?

Well, maybe ‘dream’ isn’t quite the right word, but Josh reluctantly became the fifth and final member of my Badwater crew.

The Crew

Overall my crew was in excellent physical condition.  Al and Paula were accomplished marathoners, and Eric was not far behind; Gary was a talented and experienced ultrarunner; and Josh was in great physical shape and had the added advantage of youth on his side.

The crew and I met several times to go over our Badwater game plan.  We met with a veteran Badwater crewmember (Andy Velazco) as well as with an experienced Badwater crew chief (David Sowers): both had successfully supported their respective runners in the past.  The advice and information was invaluable, and quite honestly I don’t think we would have had as good an experience in the desert without their help. 

I knew the crew was just as committed and excited about Badwater as I was—if that’s possible.  They quickly adopted the slogan ‘Just Crew It.’

I couldn’t help but think that if you said the slogan really fast it could just have easily been ‘Just Screw It.’  Just in case, you know. 

The Runner

I’ll be the first to admit that once I received my official acceptance into the 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon, every day as I finished my run I would visualize myself crossing the finish line on Mount Whitney.  I knew in my heart and without a doubt I would make it—I just didn’t know if I would be competitive or if I would be bringing up the rear.  But I was absolutely confident in the fact that I would finish.

I gave my crew a simple list of Badwater Don’ts:


  • Tell me my injuries (if I have any) are bad (downplay them, please!).
  • Tell me where I stand relative to others in the race (in my mind, if I was running well and no one was in sight, I wanted to believe everyone else had dropped out and I was winning).
  • Feel sorry for me.
  • Complain (not in front of me, anyway).
  • Let my shoes and/or socks get wet.
  • Force me to eat (you can force me to ingest liquid calories, however).
  • Question what I want to eat (trust me—it won’t be much).
  • Let me start out too fast.
  • Panic if I fall behind my game plan/time table.
  • Allow me to waste energy/motion.
  • Allow me to look at any blisters, etc.
  • Share our team goals with others.

The Badwater Do’s?  Didn’t have any.

How did the crew fare, you ask?  One at a time, here’s how they did:


Al was responsible for driving the backup support vehicle, a four-door sedan.  The backup vehicle was essential for critical errands (ice, emergency popsicles when I craved them) as well as being on standby should anything happen to the primary support vehicle, a large van.  Fortunately it was never needed for the latter.  He also accompanied me as a pacer on several occasions.

Al would later admit that it took a full month for him to recover from the Badwater experience, only to add that he didn’t regret it for a minute and loved every second of it. 

The moment the other members of the crew talk about all the time is something Al said in the middle of Death Valley.  Paula was meticulously recording the ‘input’ and ‘output’ of both me and the members of the crew to ensure we were all properly hydrating and eating.  At one point both vehicles drove ahead to a predetermined spot where they waited for me to take my next break.  Once they got there Al walked off into the desert, bent behind a bush and returned to the vehicles uttering the most notable line of the adventure: ‘Put me down for a turd.’

However, the most notable comment from Al was something he wrote after our week out west:

Being a part of it, even in such a small way is one of those times in life that
I will never forget.  Someone once said that ‘going for a run with good friends
 is one of life’s greatest joys.’  And what a run it was!


Gary had a secondary motive at Badwater: he wanted to determine if one day he would be willing to give it a try himself.  With that in mind Gary volunteered to run most of the race with me from Furnace Creek to Townes Pass—a distance of over 40 miles (Gary would ultimately accompany me for approximately 60 miles).  In Gary’s role as ‘spiritual advisor’ (which I anointed him with), he lived up to his job description doing everything he could to keep my spirits up and keep my body moving.  Gary ran beside me carrying two water bottles: one for me to drink and the other to pour on me to keep me cool.  What Gary didn’t use much of the water for was for him, which ultimately led him on a desperate search for medical assistance in Panamint Springs.  After consuming some water and sodium, Gary was eventually able to return to pace me through some of the faster miles we covered between the Darwin Turnoff (mile 90) and Lone Pine (mile 122).

During the stretch leading to Stovepipe Wells Gary proved one of the myths of the Death Valley heat to be true when the sole of one of his running shoes melted while he was pacing me through the desert.

So, after all that what did Gary say to his wife Peg when she asked him after we finished if he would one day give Badwater a shot?  An emphatic ‘NO!’

But, as Gary wrote afterwards: ‘as is often the case in ultrarunning, (in time) it always gets better.  Never say never.’


Paula was a masterful crew chief.  Keeping the peace amongst a crew of five in the most undesirable and inhospitable environment imaginable—while ensuring that the runner is supported every step of the way during a 135-mile odyssey is indeed quite a challenge.  But Paula pulled it off. 

In fact, Paula knew that it would be ‘detrimental to the mission’ (as she called it) if any of my aforementioned ‘Don’ts’ were not followed.  She also realized that it was not in my best interest to tell me anything negative—regardless of how big or small.

Which is why she didn’t allow anyone in the crew to tell me someone temporarily lost my credit card which they were using to purchase gas, ice and whatever else we needed along the way.  Or that she and Gary had a slight ‘disagreement’ about my hydration plan immediately after the pre-race meeting at Furnace Creek the day before the race.  Or that I had fallen behind my time/game plan during the long uphill climb from Panamint Springs to the Darwin Turnoff.  Way behind.

Paula was a rock from start to finish.  I think the only break she took was when we were at the Panamint Springs Resort.  I requested a five-minute nap once we had covered 72 miles (it was now pre-dawn on the second day) so that I could mentally divide the first day from the second day.  Paula and I each took one of the twin beds, and although I’m not sure if Paula ever dozed off, I do know that in what seemed like a lot less than five minutes Paula was telling me ‘that’s it—time to go.’  And off we went.

When I developed the only blister of the race (picture in your mind a cherry tomato balanced between the second and third toe on the top of your left foot), Paula did a masterful job doctoring it.  I also learned that Paula is arguably the best sock-changer-for-someone-else in the world.  At Lone Pine, after 122 miles, Paula made the best cup of Raman noodles anyone has ever cooked on the radiator of a car.  Paula May: Crew Chief Extraordinaire.


Eric was the primary driver of the team van, a thankless job requiring him to drive usually one mile at a time, pull over on the side of the road, open the back of the van and help the crew get any fluid, food and/or gear ready for me once I got there.  However, through it all his sense of humor and positive attitude remained a breath of fresh air.

Eric was also assigned the role of ‘designated uphill walker.’  Officially the Badwater Ultramarathon has 46 miles of uphill with a total elevation gain of 13,000 feet.  Eric was by my side for most of them, ironic in a way as he was the one who mentioned I should have done more walking (specifically uphill walking, remember?) in my preparation for Badwater.   

Eric also made sure I didn’t waste any motion late in the race when I wanted to retrace my steps to check out a dead animal (a bat, I believe) on the side of the road.

Lastly, Eric was the videographer of our desert adventure.  A few months after Badwater the crew and I were all treated to the premiere of the 55-minute film Running on the Sun Redux, ‘starring’ none other than yours truly and a supporting cast of five.


Josh was the anchor of the crew, and outside of one minor mistake when he informed me at the Darwin Turnoff that we were in 8th place (‘Don’t tell me where I stand relative to others in the race’), his performance was peerless.

Josh paced me for one incredible mile around 100 miles into the race.  Eric, after driving ahead mentioned there was another runner about a mile in front of me, and at our current pace we would catch him in about five miles.  I looked over at Josh and asked him if he wanted to run hard until we caught him.  Josh, chomping at the bit to run hard replied yes, and after an 8:15 mile we caught him (Charlie Engle) and took over 7th place.  (About 30 minutes later this entire sequence played out again almost identically—although this time I was running with Gary, and soon we were in 6th place.)

Paula may have said it best in a note she wrote to Josh afterwards:

I know your dad is as proud of you as I am for being a great team player, always having a positive attitude, being available to run, pacing your dad through some of those difficult hot miles before Lone Pine, and being my go-fer.  There were so many tedious tasks that I needed done, and you were always there to handle them.  I’m so glad you were part of the crew.

 So was I, Josh.  So was I.

The Finish

The crew made one critical mistake near the end of the race: they failed to reset the odometer of the van when we began the final 13-mile ascent up Mount Whitney.  In all of our preparatory meetings we had been advised that the runner would want to know precisely how much distance was left to the finish line during this final stretch.  I’m here to tell you that we had been advised correctly: I must have asked every 45 seconds or so ‘how much now’ (i.e. how much further to the finish line)?  When you’re progressing (notice I didn’t say ‘running,’ or even ‘walking,’ for that matter) up Mount Whitney after covering 122 miles across Death Valley and over two mountain ranges, you want to know exactly how much is left until it’s over. 

Finishing at night made matters worse, as every headlight of any vehicle driving down the mountain appeared to be the lights that in my tired mind indicated the finish line.  Of course they weren’t, so for the final 90 minutes of the race I saw what I thought (wished!) was the ‘finish line’ at least three dozen times. 

With two miles to go Eric drove to the finish line, parked the van and promised to run back to the ‘one mile remaining’ point so that we could all run the final mile together.  Eric left the video camera with someone at the finish line to record our finish.  Eventually we met up with Eric and 25 minutes later we finally…finally were crossing the finish line together at the Whitney Portal.  No more 133-degree heat.  No more mountains.  No more Raman noodles, lost credit cards or running on the sun.

We did it.

Footnote: I couldn’t have done it—any of it, without my crew.  To this day whenever I talk about our Badwater adventure I refer to the experience with the pronoun ‘we.’  

It was the ultimate team effort, pure and simple.

2003 Finishing Time – 36:32:46
Sixth Place       

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