Mike Ehredt can claim a lot of feats to his name. He’s an army veteran who has qualified for the National Time Trial Championships twice as a category 2 cyclist. He also completed Eco-Challenged in Asia, ran the Marathon des Sables several times and even won a canoe orienteering championship.
None of those feats, however, compare to completing one of the world’s toughest races: the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. We set down to speak with Ehredt’s about his accomplishments, and also about his personal project to run races in a way that honors fallen soldiers.
The Clymb: The Hardrock 100 Endurance Run is perhaps one of the most challenging, and most difficult races ever created. Can you tell our readers a bit about it and what made you decide to run one?
Mike Ehredt: It is a 100 mile trail race in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton and Telluride, CO. The average elevation is above 11,000 feet and the total vertical ascent that a runner will do is over 33,000 feet. Knowing these stats and the area made it very appealing to me. It was very difficult to get in the race as they only accept 152 runners in a lottery from a pool of over 1400 and you have to have done a qualifying mountain 100 mile race to even get in the lottery so experience is valuable. Every year they change direction, which is unique. I was lucky and drawn last year and again this year so its a once in a lifetime chance let alone two years in a row, so I could not say no.
The Clymb: What was the experience like?
ME: It was absolutely breathtaking. I often would just stop and look around. When you realize its only your legs that take you to these places its a powerful feeling.
The Clymb: Anything in particular that surprised you about it?
ME: The amount of snow and creek crossings this year. We had over 80 of them and my feet were wet the entire 100 miles.
The Clymb: You have a long background in adventure sports. Can you tell us a bit about your cycling adventures and your experience participating in the Eco Challenge in Borneo and Fiji?
ME: I started cycling in the early 1980s and raced till the late 90s. I did not want to become one dimensional and I wanted to be a well-rounded athlete—or able to do many things well. Ultra cycling was appealing and I once rode 424 miles in 24 hours for Muscular Dystrophy. Then I got into mountain bikes and had some success and then eventually adventure racing.
I really enjoyed that heyday. The Fiji and Borneo Eco-Challenges were very difficult and in jungle settings; hot, humid, leeches, that sort of thing. I found that I was better off as a solo athlete because then all I had to worry about was myself.
The Clymb: What other athletic activities have you tried in the past?
ME: Back to that one dimension thing. I actually stopped running in 1982 and did not take it up again competitively till about 2000 when I began trail running. In those years I was heavy into orienteering and flat water canoe racing.
The Clymb: In 2010, you came up with the idea for Project America Run and ended up running over 6,570 miles. What inspired it and what were the goals?
ME: I served in the Army from 1979–83 and 35 years later decided to build a wall to honor and remember our troops in Iraq. There was no political agenda or statement to be made I just wanted to run a mile, place a flag and do so until my wall was complete from water to water, west to east.
After the first run I took a break then went to Spain and ran the 520 mile Camino de Santiago, came back and leisurely backpacked the 250 mile John Muir Trail in 12 days. It was during that time I decided to do a second run for Afghanistan troops we had lost. Hence, the mileage. The first run was 4424 miles and the second in 2012 was 2146.
The Clymb: Can you tell us a bit about your goal of running 81 marathons, one a day for 81 days? How was the idea born and how did it work? It seems like an impossible feat!
ME: In 2012, Project America Run Part II began. This was from the Canadian border to Galveston, TX. Ironically, it averaged out to over 26 miles a day. I did not take any days off during the 81 days. On both runs I did not have a support vehicle or an RV. I ran solo and relied on pre-arranged families that I had not met to put me up for the night.
Seeing the country this way, on foot, and touching the water on every coast, north, south, east and west gave me tremendous satisfaction but even more so is that my wall of flags is now complete and forever archived with each location gps’d.
The Clymb: When does your next run start?
ME: After two trips across the country, my mission is done. In 2013 I ran with a small group of two Americans and two Germans and five Tanzanian runners around the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in six days. It’s runs like that keep me going and what I look forward to in the future.