“The Jester” is back at the Badwater 135 for the fifth time.
Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen is still jestering on, a term coined by Ettinghausen’s friends and followers in reference to his festive jester attire, upbeat demeanor and seemingly tireless running exploits. For a man who began running ultras in 2009, The Jester has made quite a name for himself in six short years. He spent 2014 focused on setting a new record for running the most 100-mile races in a calendar year. He succeeded, passing the old record of 36 set by Liz Bauer in 2012, and kept on running until he finished 40 races.
An extraordinary accomplishment no matter how you look at it, his 40-race record represents more than three 100-mile races every month, month after month. Ettinghausen, who ran his 100th 100-miler this past May, said part of what drives him is avoiding the post-race blues.
“I do a lot better when I have a year of races on the calendar and when I have big goals to look forward to,” says Ettinghausen who credits good genes, clean living and the support of his wife and the ultra running community for making his feats possible. “I set the past world record for most marathons in a year with 135, and I wanted to do something more. Once I started running ultras, I was hooked and everything kind of evolved.”
Reaching a goal can be bittersweet and Ettinghausen said while the experience is something he will cherish for a lifetime, he was, at least at first, sad when it was over.
“In reaching the 100/100 milestone I feel as though I reached this new place where I have such confidence with any challenge I want to take on,” says Ettinghausen who admits he’s still processing the experience. “I definitely have a healthy respect for trying new things and for my limitations, but the fear and anxiety is gone. I know what I can accomplish.”
This year marks The Jester’s fifth time running Badwater 135, a grueling race through the California desert from Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park to Mount Whitney Portal.
Part of the lure of Badwater and any race 100-miles long or longer, according to Ettinghausen, is the unknown and the importance of respecting the event. No matter how you prepare and train, running 100-plus miles is hard and so many factors can affect your race.
“Badwater is such an awesomely epic and unique event, but it’s also a big commitment in terms of cost and needing a team,” the 52-year-old says. “Yet, every year I get invited, I’m sucked back into it. I would run this race every year if I could!”
After having the course rerouted in 2014 due a review by Badwater National Park, Badwater 135 is back to its original route, albeit with a nighttime start. Night temperatures in Death Valley can still hover at 100 degrees, but the temperatures may not be as extreme as other years. In addition to being run on the traditional route, Ettinghausen said other aspects adding to Badwater’s appeal are the race’s history, energy and vibe, organization, challenge and teamwork.
Plagued by an injury during the 2014 race, The Jester had to walk much of it. But don’t let his cheery garb fool you. This year he’s feeling more prepared than he has in the past and has been strategic in his training. In fact, the heat, running on roads and the 135-mile distance all speak to Ettinghausen’s strengths.
“This year I can go all out and really push it. I’ll have fun, but I look forward to seeing what I’m capable of doing and pushing my body to its limit,” the CPR instructor and Wildomar, Calif. resident says. “Doing well at this race is about more than being the fastest runner, it’s also about strategy. I can be a lot more competitive at Badwater than other races because it has the elements that really suit me.”
True to his nature, Ettinghausen, while excited about Badwater, is looking to the future. At Badwater he begins The Jester’s 1,000 Mile Challenge, which runs until October 18. He plans to run 1,000 miles (including an attempt to run 153 miles on his 53rd birthday) while raising money for school children participating in the 100-mile challenge to run 100 miles during the school year.
You can learn more about The Jester’s 1,000 Mile Challenge at Ettinghausen’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ed.ettinghausen