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From the Vault

From the Vault

May 02, 2016

Closing in on 100,000 miles

There’s a 1,000-mile race in Alaska that’s calling to Marshall Ulrich ’74, and no, it’s not the Iditarod.

Who would want to run 1,000 miles on foot? For most of his life, Ulrich, 64, has.

After earning his UNC degree, he built a business, a dog food rendering plant in Fort Morgan, with annual sales of up to $4 million. Then he started running to help cope with stress. He found he had a body that could take punishment that would make most people blanch and made himself into one of the best adventure racers in the world.

“I’ve certainly backed off,” says Ulrich as he was mulling the Alaska race. “I don’t train nearly as much, unless it’s something like Badwater (a 135-mile race through Death Valley), where I need to really focus my training. What I’m doing is trying to extend the longevity of what I can do, and I feel better than ever.”

Other than a rotator cuff surgery last year, his body is doing well despite running close to 100,000 miles now — roughly the equivalent of crossing the United States 33 times.

“There’s a certain amount of suffering, and I guess I’ve become less tolerant of it,” Ulrich says. “I’ve lost some of that burning desire. I have to admit that. And yet I never really think I’ve done enough. So I’m trying to overcome that.”

His achievements aren’t limited to physical feats. The working title of his second book, Both Feet on the Ground, addresses the need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.

“During that Death Valley circumvention, it was reconnecting with that solitude and peacefulness,” Ulrich says. “It’s hard to do that because we get so wrapped up in our gadgets.”

His sponsors tell him they hope he continues to do Badwater because they enjoy working with him. That made him think about the many others who may be inspired by his determination.

“It becomes more about other people,” Ulrich says. “I want to set a good example for others.”

–By Dan England

Marshall Ulrich
Considered one of the best adventure racers in the world, Ulrich:
  • Has run — and won — ultramarathons (completing over 120 averaging over 125 miles each).
  • Ran across America, 3,063 miles from San Francisco to New York, in 52 days, breaking two transcontinental speed records and averaging 60 miles a day — chronicled in his book Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss and a Record-Setting Run Across America.
  • Climbed the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each continent, including Mount Everest.
  • Joined a friend in becoming the first ever to circumnavigate Death Valley National Park on foot, logging 425 miles in the hottest place on earth.
  • Will return to Death Valley in July to complete his 21st Badwater ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through the valley to the trailhead of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48.
Editor’s note: The magazine first featured Ulrich in the March 1991 issue in the article, “Pushing the Limits.”