And they say I have a death wish

Just about every time I tell people I’ve:climbing

  • Summited Mt. Washington 15 times
  • Rock climbed in Scotland’s rugged Isle of Sky
  • Topped out South Dakota’s treacherous Devil’s Tower
  • Completed two of the fabled Seven Summits (Elbrus & Kilimanjaro)
  • Scaled many of Colorado’s 14ks
  • And taken everything the Andes, the Alps and the White Mountains can throw at a person,

I invariably hear the same response, “Do you have a death wish?”

Au contraire, mes amis.

Ice, rock and mountain climbing rejuvenate me physically, mentally and emotionally. They’re my drug of choice. But, according to a New York Times article, I’m a rank amateur. Extreme athletes, bored by the mundane accomplishment of running a mere 26.2 marathon, are testing themselves in truly remarkable, mind-boggling ways.

Consider the following:

Pete Kostelnick just completed the fastest run across the United States. He covered the 3,100 miles in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes (I’ll bet that last half-hour was a killer). Kostelnick “paced” himself, logging a mere 40 miles in the morning, taking a lunch break to replenish the 13,000 calories he’d just burned, and then completing his day with an easy 30-mile trot.

If you think Kostelnick is alone in his love of extreme exercise, think again:

  • Jim Walmsley just logged the fastest rim-to-rim-to-rim trip around the Grand Canyon (it took him five hours and five minutes to complete the 42-mile circuit).
  • Karl Meltzer just completed the fastest traverse of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. It only took him 45 days.

In fact, there are all sorts of new, maniacal challenges ranging from: A 135-mile run through Death Valley and up the face of Mt. Whitney in mid-July (I’d pack extra deodorant for that one). And get this. There’s even an endurance run that retraces the steps of the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines (Note to Millennials: You will not believe the story of the actual march).

Alas, high reward is often accompanied by its evil cousin, high risk:

  • A man recently died after running 40-miles through wind-driven snow in Patagonia.
  • A Canadian runner was struck by lightning in the midst of running a 100-mile race. But, he got up and finished third. What a bummer NOT to have won!
  • After being trapped under a boulder during a trail run, Dave Mackey had to amputate his leg to free himself (Now that’s what I call being caught between a rock and a hard place).

Anyway, you get the gist. There are uber athletes (I’d like to think I’m one) and then there are super human athletes (a la Pete Kostelnick).

I think it says a lot about a person’s image and reputation when she’s willing to break through barrier after barrier of pain to, say, summit Everest or swim the English Channel.

But, extreme athletes are a breed apart. Do they have a death wish, or what?


8 thoughts on “And they say I have a death wish

  1. I think we have a greater value on the rewards that come from solo efforts… like good PR people.

    When I land something skateboarding (yes, I’m still skating at 41) that’s either a new trick or otherwise something I was really hoping would work out ( there’s that feeling of excitement and accomplishment.

    For some PR practitioners, I think we feel the same way.

    Media coverage, at least the ‘oh wow’ placements that go into our case studies, are never a given in what we do. So when we make them happen, there’s that endorphin rush that we accomplished something monumental.

    At least, until the next quarter’s client update report 😉

  2. Chris: I was actually thinking of another extreme athlete, Alec Shapiro who, having wedged his hand inside a Smith-Corona typewriter, was forced to use a second-hand pair of standard issue Geltzer scissors to amputate said appendage. My apologies for the mix-up.

  3. Oh great RepMan, far be it from me to contradict your most excellent excellence, but I humbly submit that you have erred. Dave Mackey did not amputate his leg to extricate himself. See He had many surgeries to repair his shattered leg before deciding to jettison the offending limb. Is it possible that you were thinking of Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm to free himself from a boulder? See

    It turns out he can beat up his kid even with just one hand. See

  4. Great read !

    What I love that rock climbing taught me (whether I liked it or not) is to handle life threatening pressure and problems — Breathe – one foothold at a time – breathe — look around find that next hold ….