Marshall Ulrich is one tough dude. His resume as an adventure racer and ultramarathoner stands alone–he’s run more than one hundred foot races averaging 125 miles each; he’s summited Everest; he’s completed 12 expedition-length adventure races. And he’s won a heck of a lot of these events. All of which prepared him for the ultimate challenge of running across America 2 1/2 years ago, which he did with the 3rd fastest time ever, at the age of 57.
Pretty amazing journey, all of which he chronicles in his just released book, Running on Empty. It’s a fascinating story that takes you across the U.S. on his adventure, showcasing the good, the bad and the ugly. While it’s a story of this amazing athletic endeavor, it’s also a story of a man finding himself out there on that 3,000-plus mile stretch of road. That’s the aspect I found most interesting, which is why when I got to interview him, I focused on that part of the story. Below, my Q & A with Marshall Ulrich:
Q: It sounds to me that after the run across America, you came to a place of peace. Is that still the case?
A: I came to a place of peace in my own mind that has continued through the present. That peace centers around not thinking that I HAVE to go to and beat the pavement to feel whole. Rather, I turn to my wife and my children for support. It still takes effort and willingness on my part, but I’m learning the value of being able to rely on others to help me through rough times.
Q: I have doubts that someone with your background and make-up can truly let all the record-setting attempts go.
A: I’m always looking for new challenges so those are what I look to for motivation, but with some of my greater efforts, such as summiting Everest and the solo and quad Badwater runs, they are history. I’m content with my effort as I know I gave them my all and will not do them again.
Q: Do you think you truly know yourself now?
A: Not entirely. I have come to accept that I’m always learning about myself. Mostly I’m coming to terms that I can’t do what I used to do and that I’m extremely vulnerable and weak at times. It’s allowed me to relax and accept myself where I am right now.
Q: At the end of the book, you talk about limits being self-imposed. I agree, but I also think that we have to carefully consider the impact taking on challenges like you have has on others. Early on, it’s clear you didn’t take that into consideration. What advice would you offer others today on finding the right balance between meeting challenges and giving loved ones what they need as well?
A: Finding balance in one’s life is difficult, but is is the key as well. It’s easy to be passionate about a sport such as running. When that starts taking on a life of its own, however, it’s time to do an evaluation. What is really important in your life, is it family first, then work, then sports? Or are things out of order? If so, we need to make a critical evaluation of who we are and if we are willing to change.
Q: On a physical level, how are you feeling these days?
A: It’s now been almost 2 1/2 years since the run and I still struggle mentally motivating myself to get out and run. So that is gradual. Physically, it took me a full 1 1/2 years before I felt back to near normal–I just felt tired and lacking in strength. As of today, I’m returning back to where I was before the run, but I feel I will never be the same.
Want to win a copy of Running on Empty? Thanks to TLC Books, I’ve got a copy to give away. To enter:
- Be a follower or become one
- Tell me how you balance your love of sport with your love of family
I’ll pick a winner via random.org on 4/21.