Ed Roberson

Ed Roberson

This Saturday, I’ll be pacing my friend Ed Roberson for the final 10 miles of the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Run.

Except I’m not so sure he needs my help.

Ed has climbed the highest peaks in North America (McKinley) and South America (Aconcagua); he finished an ultramarathon last summer; and he lives and runs in Boulder, Colorado, where he can run up mountains in his backyard. By comparison, I have driven to the top of one of the highest peaks in Colorado; I have never run an ultramarathon; and I regularly run at less than 400 feet above sea level.

Plus, we’ve never actually run together.

But just in case those first 40 miles push Ed to the brink of exhaustion—just in case I might come in handy—I wanted to be prepared.

To learn more about Ed’s motivation and his expectations for the race, we recently had the following conversation over e-mail. Along the way, I also learned that Ed

  • Once roomed with “two cajun dudes named Sooterbob and Garyman” in a double-wide trailer in Louisiana
  • Once escaped a series of life-threating misadventures during a single afternoon in Nicaragua
  • Has two uvulas (that thing that hangs in the back of your throat)

If he doesn’t need my help on the trail, I’m looking forward to hearing more about Sooterbob.

Anyone Can Enter: Are you crazy?

Ed Roberson: I hope so. All of my heroes are complete lunatics in one way or another, so if I’m at least a little bit nutty, then I feel like I’m on the right track.

However, it is hard to judge what crazy really means when you live in Boulder. No joke. Today, I saw a guy dressed in full pirate regalia, wearing a gold Phantom of the Opera-eque mask, holding a cardboard sign, and begging for money at a busy intersection. And on the sports side of things, there’s a professional ultra runner here in town who runs up Green Mountain 300-plus times per year.

So compared to those guys, I feel pretty boring.

Anyone Can Enter: So, basically, in Boulder, everyone is so nice that pirates ask for money instead of taking it from you. That’s good to know. Does that same sort of friendliness carry over to the ultra running community?

Roberson: Definitely. Boulder is the home base of a lot of world-class professional ultra runners, and I have met a good number of them or crossed paths with them during runs. On the trails, they always say hello and smile, even if they are in the middle of sprinting up a steep 3,000-foot climb and are on the edge of puking. In extended conversations I’ve had with some of them— (such as) Scott Jurek, Marshall Ulrich, and Geoff Roes—they spend more time asking me about my running plans and offering great advice than talking about themselves or their own accomplishments. Me spending time with those guys is like some washed-up rec league basketball player getting to hang out with (Michael) Jordan, Kobe (Bryant), and LeBron (James).

But also, the average runner you meet at an ultra is just as cool. Last year at the Leadville 50, I was going up a pretty challenging hill at about 11,500 feet and passed by a lady who was at least 70 years old. We chatted for a while and she told me that she’d done the race every year since it began. Then she looked around at the awesome scenery, smiled, and said “Don’t these views just pull you right up these steep mountains?” I thought that her awesome attitude pretty much sums up the type of person who does these longer races—positive, laid back, supportive of the other runners, and enjoying the moment and the mountains.

Lake City

Mountains near Lake City, Colorado, home of the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Run. Photo by Ed Roberson.

Anyone Can Enter: Hearing you talk about these races is getting me pumped up for (the San Juan Solstice). Are you ready for this thing?

Roberson: I hope so. But one of the reasons I like to try stuff like this is because I’m never quite sure if I’ll be able to do it! Last year, Leadville was challenging, but not the world-class ass whipping that I was expecting. This one has a good bit more elevation gain and loss than Leadville, so I’m guessing that it will be a hard, but fun, day.

In my experience, the key to these long runs is managing nutrition, hydration, and electrolytes—you don’t want to run out of gas or overheat. Hopefully the weather, my gut, my legs, and my brain will all cooperate so that I can get across that finish line before the 16-hour cutoff.

Anyone Can Enter: If they don’t, I will do my best to drag you across the finish line. Wait. Is that allowed? And what are you really expecting of me out there?

Roberson: Did I forget to tell you? I’ve retrofitted one of those baby-carrying backpacks, and I’m going to hitch a ride on your back up that last 2,500 feet of vertical. I’m pretty sure I remember telling you to train by carrying a 190-pound rock up a really steep hill for 10 miles while breathing through a straw.

But if you’re not willing to do that, I’d say that best case, we have a fun but challenging run/hike through some of the prettiest mountains in Colorado. Worst case, you have to shoot off signal flares to show the rescue helicopter where to land to evacuate me.

But most likely, it will be somewhere in between those two scenarios—I’ll probably need you to tell me a few jokes and keep the mood light as I try to finish this thing. If I’m moving slowly, it would be good if you had an idea of the pace we should be keeping so that we finish in under 16 hours. I imagine that I’ll really want to be walking that last downhill, so I’d appreciate any “encouragement” you could provide to keep me moving at a reasonable pace. “Encouragement” could equal light-hearted joking, violent cursing, or aggressive trash talking. You and Kim (Ed’s wife and my good friend since 10th grade) can evaluate my condition at mile 40 and determine the best course of action.

Anyone Can Enter: I’m glad that Kim will be there to evaluate how you’re doing, seeing as how I have never gone running with you. Speaking of that, are there any things I SHOULDN’T do or talk about while we’re on the trail?

Roberson: Don’t badmouth Sylvester Stallone, the movie Cobra, or the movie Road House. Also, don’t say anything derogatory about Teddy Roosevelt. Other than that, everything is fair game.

Anyone Can Enter: Noted. I will hold off on my review of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot until after the race.