Running the World’s Toughest Race

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.