Ray Zahab, Marshall Ulrich and Bart Yasso in a ChiRunning class!

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I had the great pleasure of being surrounded by three men who are legends in the sport of running. I was invited to teach ChiRunning at a running camp organized by Marshal Ulrich and Ray Zahab. It was the first in what they hope to become an annual event. Bart Yasso (of Runner’s World) was also invited to do a presentation. In case these names aren’t familiar to you I’ll give a condensed version of their accomplishments in the world of endurance sports.

Ray is a remarkable human being. I remember him calling me back in 2004, when the ChiRunning book first came out. He had just started running after being a pack-a-day smoker and was totally excited that the book was helping him enjoy his new-found sport. Since then he has: run the 1130km to the South Pole, run 4300 miles across the Sahara desert, and founded an interactive educational program which allows school kids to track the progress of his adventures in their classrooms as a way to spread awareness of some of the countries he travels through. He has helped us immensely by helping to spread the word about ChiRunning and injury-free running all over the world.

Marshall Ulrich is equally remarkable. He’s the only person to run four laps on the infamous 135 mile crossing of Death Valley from the lowest point in the U.S. (282′ below sea level) at Badwater to the highest point in the contiguous United States (Mt. Whitney – 14,505′) in one effort. He’s climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents, and he most recently ran across the U.S. in a record-setting 55 days (that’s about 60 miles every day for 55 days!). He’s also a formidable expedition-length adventure racer and has run 121 races over 100 miles. He also raises money for various charities that help to spread peace and justice in the world.

Bart Yasso is a household name when it comes to running. He’s been on the staff of Runner’s World since paper was invented. He has been inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions. He invented the Yasso 800′s, an ingenious way of predicting your finish time for a marathon by averaging your times for ten consecutive 800m intervals and then converting minutes to miles and seconds to minutes (i.e. a 3:15 average for all 800′s would mean that you could expect to run a 3:15 marathon). He is one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents from the Antarctica marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon. In 1987, Yasso won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship and in 1998 won the Smoky Mountain Marathon. He has also completed five Ironmen and the Badwater 146 through Death Valley, as well as cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice.

Needless to say, it was very exciting to be surrounded by three of the “big guns” in the world of endurance running. The workshop was held at Stovepipe Wells in the middle of Death Valley…a place that could be quite easily mistaken for the surface of Mars. In fact, there are still rumors that the Mars Rover was really just driving around somewhere in Death Valley. For as stark as the landscape is, it is equally beautiful and stunning to behold. On the last day I was there we did a run up a canyon that was sensuously sculpted and polished by millions of years of erosion (average rainfall is 2″ a year!) through solid marble, if you can imagine that. It was truly magical. The humidity hovered around 3%, so it was a welcome change from the high humidity of the North Carolina tropics.

If I were to pick a high point of my trip I’d have to say that it was something Bart Yasso said to me at the top of our run up Marble Canyon. After being led through a full morning of ChiRunning classes and an afternoon of trail running, he smiled and said to me, “I’ve learned more about running today than I have in my 33 years of running.”

After wishing everyone safe travels Ray and I took off, half running and half dancing our way back down the canyon for a mile and a half to the parking lot. I drove directly from there to Las Vegas for my flight to NYC to teach a ChiRunning class to forty five wonderful New Yorkers in Central Park. I’ve been through some abrupt changes in scenery before, but none have topped this week’s ChiRunning classes which were only two days (and worlds!) apart.

Happy trails,
Danny

 

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