“Endurance King” Returns to NYC for Anniversary of Record-Setting Run

09/29/2011 - 05:04

Idaho Springs, CO -- Marshall Ulrich went 3,063 miles on foot, running about 60 miles a day for 52 days straight, from San Francisco to New York City. He was 57 years old when he ran the equivalent of 117 back-to-back marathons in an attempt to break a world record set by a man half his age. Ultimately, he set two new records and completed the third fastest trans-American crossing in history.

At the end, he ran right into Times Square on election night, November 4, 2008. As he watched people shouting and dancing in the streets as the election returns blared on the CNN jumbo screen, Ulrich remembers, “I pretended all the hoopla was for me.”

He returns to New York this year on the anniversary of his finish. As part of the celebration, he will attend the ING New York City Marathon (Nov. 3–5) as one of the elder statesmen of running, on hand all weekend to meet and encourage this year’s racers. At the Expo held in the Javits Convention Center, he’ll be signing his book, Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America (Avery, $26).

While the book centers on the transcontinental run, this legendary athlete has been competing in extreme endurance sports for nearly three decades:

• He began running ultra distances in his thirties, and in his forties he set records on some of the world's most difficult courses. Known primarily for his exploits in Death Valley, Ulrich won the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon a record four times -- a race dubbed by National Geographic as the toughest in the world. He still holds the record for the original 146-mile course, which starts at below sea level and concludes at almost 14,500 feet, on the peak of Mt. Whitney.

• Then he began adventure racing; competing in multi-day events with a team of hard-core athletes. He’s one of only three people to complete all nine Eco-Challenges; contests that make the TV show Survivor look like a resort vacation. At the same time, he became an innovator in the sport of ultrarunning; finishing feats of endurance no one had accomplished before. To mark his 50th birthday in 2001, he ran across Death Valley four times in a row for a total of nearly 600 miles, crossing the scorching desert and going up and down Mt. Whitney to raise money for orphans who live in some of the poorest countries in the world.

• In his 50’s, he ascended all Seven Summits on first attempts, including reaching the top of Mt. Everest in 2004. Outside magazine crowned him an “endurance king;” Trail Runner named him one of the legends of the trail, and Adventure Sports highlighted him as an athlete “Over 50 and Kicking Your Butt.”

• Four years later he completed the run across the United States, breaking the Masters and Grand Masters records and outpacing all but two of his peers - both of whom were 20 years younger than Ulrich when they ran it.

• Since then, Ulrich has continued to take on new challenges. This summer, to celebrate his 60th birthday, he ran the Badwater Ultramarathon again, and then headed directly to the Alps. There he summitted five peaks over 13,000 feet, including an ascent of Mt. Moench in near white-out conditions.

Revered by those who have heard of his exploits, but relatively unknown until publication of his book, Ulrich is frequently asked why he waited so long to write about his accomplishments. He says this book is richer and more reflective than one he might have written as a younger man. "Before, I didn't feel qualified to speak with authority," he admits, though many would argue the point. "Finally, I felt comfortable to write about something more than sport, to communicate some valuable lessons I've learned about living."

One important element in the book is a recounting of how Ulrich met his wife, Heather, late in life and how she taught him to love again after great personal tragedy. He credits her not only with helping him to become a better man, but also with being essential to his completing this epic, record-setting transcontinental run.

So Running On Empty is both a gripping love story and an inspirational look into the life of someone who has accomplished more than most people can comprehend – and who insists that everyone is capable of much more than they may think. He continues to take on new challenges to reveal that the human body and the will to endure are miraculous indeed. Ulrich shows all of us that there are no such things as "too old," "too far," or "too difficult."

Please visit for a closer look at the life of this extraordinary man.

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