Non-Scientific Adventures

Running Biography

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Running Biography

Total about 14 ( London, Los Angeles, Pacific Shoreline, Saddleback Mountain, Palos Verdes) PR 3:17 ( London, 1984)


San Juan Trail 50K. Cleveland National Forest., CA. 1993, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 00, 01. Best time 6:20.
Holcolm Valley 50K/33 mile Big Bear , CA 1998, 1999, 2001. Best time 5:37
Fat Ass 50, Maryland version. 1996, 5:05.
Baldy Peaks 50K. Mt. Baldy, Angeles National Forest. 1994, 97, 98. Best time 9:49

Mule Run, 50K, Sierra foothills, CA. 1997, 7:40.


San Juan Trail 50 M. Cleveland National Forest., CA. 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998. Best time 11:32
Mountain Masochist 50+M, Blue Ridge mountains. 1995, 10:43
JFK 50 M. Maryland 1995, 10:05

Leona Divide 50 M 1997, 1998, 1999. Best time 10:21.

Lakeland 3000's. Race over the four highest peaks in the English Lake District. 1978, 1979.


Helen Klein (USATF Championships) American River, CA. 1994, 11:56
Catalina 100K Catalina Island, CA. 1999, 2000. Best time 15.31



San Diego 1 Day (National 24hr championship) 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. Best distance 86.6 miles; 39 th place (2003)

Across the years 24hr race, Phoenix, 2011


100 MILE
Western States 100M. Sierra Nevada, CA. 1996, 1997. Best time 29:31
Leadville Trail 100M. Colorado Rockies. 1997, 1999. Best time 29:56


Trans-Maryland Run for the Homeless. 1995. 200 mile, 5-day stage race; road/dirt road/ Appalachian trail. Cumulative time 38:50. Fourth place finisher (6 starters).

Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles). Death Valley to Mt. Whitney. 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011. Best time 47:50 (2004).


Selected solo ultraruns
Grand Canyon Double Crossing. Unsupported, solo runs. Seventeen times total from 1994 to 2005. Best time 13:47.
Camino del Diablo. 100 miles, supported solo run through isolated Southern Arizona desert. Winter 2000.
Badwater to Darwin. Cross-country solo run/trek via Trail Canyon and China Springs. Easter, 1999.

Badwater to Telescope Peak. Cross country via Hanupah canyon/ridge. 10:27 to summit. Fall 2000.

The British Three Peaks. The three highest mountains in England (Scafell Pike), Wales (Snowdon) and Scotland (Ben Nevis) within 24 hours (car transport between peaks). Winter circuit, including solo ascent of Ben Nevis via Zero Gully (grade V ice climb). 1983.


Why do I run Ultramarathons?
My first sport was mountaineering, which was a passionate obsession for many years. But then I got married, kids came along and, given the increasing number of friends who went off to do climbs and never came back, that didn’t seem like a responsible idea anymore. To keep fit I started jogging, and went through the usual progression of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and marathons. At that stage I was running mostly for the exercise, and big city races ( London, LA marathons), with all their crowds and commercialism, didn’t really appeal. Then I discovered, quite by chance, the existence of a wonderful, small community of ultramarathoners, who did crazy things without thinking them to be crazy. I was hooked, and have stayed so for nearly 10 years now. Among the attractions of ultrarunning for me are the experience of covering vast distances through beautiful terrain; the companionship of fellow runners or, conversely the freedom and isolation of long solo runs; being able to do quite well by merely keeping up a good walking pace; and the endorphin high after finally stopping. Of course, I start questioning why I run ultras when the blister the forms the entire sole of my foot pops after the river crossing at 4 am, and when I can’t even make it out of the aid station before vomiting much needed fluids: but the good memories are the ones that stick.

Best Ultrarunning Experience
My best ultrarunning experience came a few ago while I was running a solo Grand Canyon double crossing and acquired a big horn sheep as my pacer.

While heading back up to the South Rim around sunset I seemed to be the only one left on the South Kaibab trail. However, nearing the Tonto plateau I noticed a figure walking slowly up the trail a few hundred yards ahead of me which, looking more closely, resolved into a big-horn sheep. This was exciting, because big-horn sheep are normally very timid and I had only ever seen them at great distances crossing far away ridgelines. The big-horn, although apparently walking very slowly was actually going faster than I, and the distance between us increased until suddenly it stopped and turned to look at me. Fixing me with a baleful stare (‘come on slowcoach!’), it waited until I had caught up. At that point I wondered if I ought to be worried – big-horn sheep weigh more than 200 pounds, the males charge each other at speeds over 25 mph, and the narrow trail ran above a high cliff – but this one looked to be a juvenile female who was just curious about this intruder into her rocky lair. She let me approach within a few feet, then started upward again at a pace that looked languid but still left me trailing behind. Again, though, she paused to let me catch up, all the while fixing me with her intent stare, and again set off upwards when I was almost close enough to touch. This little game carried on for around 10 minutes before she tired of it and bounded effortlessly away up a steep talus slope. The memory of our brief encounter stayed with me throughout the cold, hard slog through the darkness up to the rim and, like all good pacers, my big-horn sheep provided a psychological boost at the toughest time during a run.

Best Hallucinations

An interesting feature of running ultramarathons is the tricks that your mind can start playing after a long time out on the road or trail. My experience is that a regular 100 mile ultra is not long enough for full effect, as it involves only one night without sleep. By contrast, the Badwater ultramarathon takes me at least 48 hours to complete, and during the second night (after 40 hours with essentially no sleep and a distance of more than 100 miles), wierd things start happening. My most interesting experience came during the 2003 Badwater, and was probably enhanced by electrolyte imbalance resulting from the unusually high (127 Farenheight) daytime temperatures that year. Judit, my pacer, had been continually feeding me pretzel sticks as a source of supplementary sodium. During the night, the pretzel sticks escaped from their bag, and took on human stick-figure forms, walking alongside me on the road by Keeler. They seemed quite companionable, and I struck up a conversation with them - though the subject now escapes me. I was alone on that stretch, but my wife was waiting in the support vehicle a mile ahead. As I approached the van I was sufficiently aware that the pretzel stick men were not quite real, that it might be a good idea to stop talking to them before I got within earshot. But, Anne overheard the conversation (or at least my half of it!), asked who I had been talking too, and has never looked at me in quite the same way again...

Most challenging Ultrarunning experience
The final 13 miles of Badwater, during the 2004 running, has now taken its place as my most challanging ultrasport experience. The reason comes down to a line drawn on a coffee- and sweat-stained sheet of graph paper.

As a scientist, I need to quantify everything, and have satisfied that urge at Badwater by getting my crew to plot my progress on a graph - time along the bottom, and miles vertically. In 2002 and 2003 my goal was simply to finish within the time limit, and so the graphs were pre-drawn with a target line, intercepting 135 miles at 60 hr. That provided a good incentive, as at each stop I could see how far the hand-plotted points lay above the line.

Last year, I had the temerity to draw a new target line, intercepting the finish at the 48 hr buckle cut-off time. For all the way out to Darwin the little crosses lay satisfyingly above the line: but then the hallucinations came(an Irish lady, dressed in green, accompanied us). Along the never-ending stretch by Kieler energy sagged, and by Lone Pine the last point lay dead on the line. At that stage I had given up hope of a buckle as the line merely predicted linear progress, 13 miles in about 4 hours. It didn't know about the Portal road and some 5000 feet of ascent. My thoughts instead turned to sleep, followed by a leisurely ascent, still finishing safely under 60 hr.

That is when my most excellent pacer, Judit, stepped in. She somehow managed to convince my befuddled brain that my body had the ability to pull off 18 minute uphill miles, and set off at precisely that pace, leaving me no option but to follow. The rest is now a blurred memory of gasping agony, with a dimming flashlight illuminating an oval of road that encompassed my entire universe but which never seemed to change. My crew periodically appeared out of the murk ahead, then slid back behind, and Judit kept me going with a subtle mix of kindness ("I don't want to kill you Ian. We made up 30 second on the last mile, so you can go 15 seconds slower for the next one") and cajoling (" I'm sick of your Western States buckle! You need to get a new one").

Four hours that somehow seemed to bear no resemblance to the progression of time, but just at the break of dawn we reached the big ponderosa pines and crossed the finish line -emotionally- with 9 minutes to spare.

Wierdest Ultrarunning experience
Here, I will stretch the definition of ultrarunning to include a multi-day ‘fastpack’ trip I made through the Scottish Highlands many years ago, as this featured the strangest event of my life – an encounter with a Scottish ghost.

Some background to begin. Firstly, scattered at remote locations throughout the Highlands are primitive shelters – mountain bothies – which range from small huts to little more than walled-in caves. I planned to travel between these bothies, and thus carried only sleeping bag and food. Secondly, my journey took me through a remote pass, the Laraig Ghru, which is flanked by Ben MacDui, one of the highest peaks in the Cairngorm range. Ben MacDui is notoriously haunted by a ghostly figure, the Grey Man, ( whose existence is attested by many mountaineers who have seen him on the bleak, misty fellsides. Noteworthy among these is Sir Norman Collie - a pioneer of Himalayan exploration and eminent scientist credited with taking the first medical X-ray photograph – who was chased off the summit by the Grey Man.

My journey was made during the Easter vacation, in typical Scottish weather with rain, sleet and snow blowing horizontally in a mild gale. Well after dark I reached the Corrour bothy, on the lower slopes of Ben MacDui, after a long, cold and wet day. The bothy was quite palatial, as they go, consisting of a single-room stone hut, with a small lobby and separate outer and inner doors serving as an ‘airlock’ to stop snow blowing inside. I had the whole place to myself and, after cooking up a freeze-dried meal, I settled down to a comfortable night’s sleep. This was abruptly interrupted around 2:00 am, by a loud banging on the outer door. Thinking a late-arriving climber might be having trouble with the latch, I called out; but there was no reply. The outer door then flew open with a crash, and there was a sound as of heavy boots scraping the stone floor of the lobby. Again I called out; again there was no reply. Around this time I started to wonder whether my visitor might be of the ectoplasmic, rather than protoplasmic constitution but, since my flashlight lay on the table across the far side of the room, it was hard to muster the courage to scramble from my sleeping bag and find out. My heart rate shot up another notch as the inner door then banged open, and the footsteps crunched into the main room. A final, nervous call “er…, hello there,…it’s a wild night isn’t it…” met again with no response. Summoning courage I made a wild leap for the flashlight, even if that might involve colliding with (or passing through?) the ghostly figure. The glare of the flashlight showed the room exactly as it was when I had gone to sleep, and the sounds of footsteps had ceased abruptly when I first moved. Both doors were, however, ajar - but there was nothing and no one to be seen outside despite improving visibility after the storm; and there were no marks in the fresh snowfall beyond the doorstep…

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