Skip to main content
Original Issue

Livin' It An ultrarunning champ is going to great lengths to help needy children

The notoriously brutal Badwater 135 footrace begins July 25. The
route climbs through Death Valley from Badwater, which is 282
feet below sea level, to the base of Mount Whitney at 8,360 feet.
Ulrich, a Coloradan, has won the race a record four times. This
year, to raise money for starving children in South America and
Africa, he's adding a twist to the competition.

I call it the Badwater Quad. I'm going to run from Badwater to
the top of Mount Whitney and back--twice. That's a total of about
600 miles. My goal is to begin the third leg at the same time the
other racers start on the 25th and to do all four legs in eight

I've been training for about eight weeks. Among other things, I
run in place inside a sauna for 90 minutes, twice a week, to get
ready for the intense heat. I also train on a 14,000-foot peak to
prepare for the altitude. The race ends at the foot of Mount
Whitney, but I, like most racers, will continue to the
14,996-foot summit, where the air is frigid.

Beginning the Quad beforehand virtually ensures that I won't have
the strength to win the race. That's O.K. I hold the
Badwater-to-Whitney record of 33 hours, 54 minutes, and having
turned 50 on July 4, I'm quite certain I can't break that mark.

The Quad probably won't be as hard as when I became the first
person to go from Badwater to the Whitney peak solo, in 1999.
Usually you run with a crew, but I went unaided. I pulled
everything on a cart that weighed more than 220 pounds. I started
with 22 gallons of water, clothes for all the climates, blister
cream, bandages, nuts, beef jerky and a tire pump in case the
cart got a flat. It took me almost 78 hours, and I slept two
hours a night.

I started running in 1978, when cancer was diagnosed in my wife,
Jean. I needed something to help me get through the stress. I've
put my body through some difficult trials. In '89 I ran six
100-mile races and finished in the top 10 five times. I've also
completed a 100-mile ultra and a standard marathon within a
36-hour stretch. When Jean died 20 years ago, I adopted a motto:
As far as I can, as fast as I can. I've stuck to that motto ever

To help the charity effort, donate at