Two weeks ago, Scott Jurek became the first man to win the Western States 100 seven years in a row. He was also the youngest male winner of that race. This morning, Jurek won the Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon—tucking a few other superlatives under his belt.
Jurek finished at 24:36:08, under the previous record by over thirty minutes, making him the fastest Badwater finisher since the race’s inception. The record set in 2000 by Anatoli Kruglikov—25:09—had been considered unbreakable (obviously not by Jurek).
Jurek was also the youngest male in this race, which is typically filled with middle-aged athletes. Around mile 85, Jurek and the (soon to be) second-place finisher, Ferg Hawke, edged out an older competitor, Mike Sweeney, who is 50 years old. Jurek only took over the lead at the Darwin time station (mile 90).
“It was tough,” Jurek breathed to the crowd of reporters waiting for his first post-race comments. After the finish line, Jurek—who seemed to be in impeccable condition considering he had just run for 24 hours—took a long walk away from the finish line, held by his wife, Leah. He returned minutes later to a quick interview with Badwater Ultramarathon Director Chris Kostman and a barrage of questions from everyone else.
How did you survive it? “I had amazing crew, pacers, just phenomenal.” About Leah in particular, he said, “Leah is the toughest coach, the biggest fan, the love of my life. She makes sure I find the possibilities in the low points."
Was it tough to run on pavement for so long, given that he had not trained for that kind of pounding? “I’m surprised don’t have any injuries. I’ve been wearing the same shoes, same socks the whole time.”
And the ever-present question: why do you do it? “Initially, I started running because of the challenge. My pacer, Dusty, got me into 50s and 20s. Then I think you go through the phase where you realize that the human body was built for endurance—for endurance, not for speed. We have an instinctual drive to do this perpetual motion thing. And then, there is the spiritual, psychological side—to find out who I am as a person, who I am inside.”
Asked if he would ever come back, Jurek replied, “Ask me in another day or two. I told my crew and everybody that this was a one-time thing, just to see what I could do and celebrate. But you never know.”