Trading Places

Welcome to another year of Badwater 135. I hope the temperatures hover above 130F during the day and 120+ at night (my conditions in 1977). You guys have had it too soft (cool) over the past few years. It’s been hotter in Lone Pine than in Death Valley. But, I do wish all of you good health and a successful completion of this year’s ‘BW-135’ 2009.

In less than 24 hours you will ascend the balance between: mind, body, spirit AND the unknown. To each participant, I ask of you ………. for YOURSELVES: acknowledge, appreciate and respect these powerful God-given individual strengths. Use them effectively, placing one foot in front of another as you follow the “long, white line”. Never take these wonderful assets for granted”‘They” are gifts and will be the “pillars” of your life as an Ultra Athlete and beyond.

Very few athletes have the ongoing insight to recognize the marvels of their personal achievements. Abilities, too often, are taken for granted. Not ‘bragging-rights,” nor egos. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until AFTER my neck injury that I became aware of my “loss,” so I use my own experience to stress this issue. It seems only like yesterday, but 30+ years ago I was invincible, not the best, but still invincible. In a matter of seconds, in a surfing accident, my life changed, not for the worse, but it did change … forever. I had severed half of my spinal cord. But, my determination has increased tremendously, helping individuals recognize the value and beauty of your God-given mind and body.

I wonder how many of you can do the following? Standing on one foot, change your socks/shoes or put on a pair of slacks? How about scratching your ear with your little finger? Have you ever had the fear that you won’t be able to get off the toilet seat? How about falling down, you’re not hurt, BUT unable to get up? Have you ever given thought to the beauty of just being able to stand? These are simple basics of motor-skills that few of us acknowledge. Now, we discuses the super-human achievements just as a matter of course.

60 years ago, July 1949, I jogged, solo, from Manitu Springs Colo. to the Pike’s Peak Summit. Of course, by today’s standard, you guys would consider that an easy training run:)) I was at 50km and 14,000 feet elevation. The rangers at the summit, not believing I had gotten there on foot by myself, said that I probably got a ride, most of the way:))

I mention these personal vignettes because they are the source of my strength. This is not a woeful tale of Al Arnold, the “old man of bygone years,” but a determined Ultra Athlete who continues to express little tolerance for wimps! I remind all of you: before you quit, think about the time, the money and the “media-BS” just to get to the Badwater starting line. And, what about all that awaits your return after finishing the race? My feeling is: YOU START, YOU FINISH!!!!! Nothing else!

40 years ago I would do long distance ocean swimming until I was tired, then I would return to shore. It was not a smart way to train but it was a mental exercise. I knew that if I couldn’t make it back, I would die! You too, can die. Know your limits, stay hydrated and LISTEN to your support team. It’s going to be tough on everyone, so do not become argumentative. And, as you venture forth, veteran and novice alike: respect and appreciate each and every step. From start to finish, I would gladly trade places with any of you, even if what you may feel is the “end-of-the-line” And as you may have guessed, I’m not giving up on any of you: “If there is a will, there is a way!”

Most importantly, as guests of Death Valley National Park, please obey all regulations! Finally, please consider Chris Kostman’s position as in trying to be your friend and the Director of the race. For 72 hours he is, in fact, running an “Adult Day-Care-center”!!!!!!! Give Chris a break:)) So, put your fame and egos aside! Don’t be difficult. Thank you, God bless you and good luck. And, as Monica says: “HAPPY FEET”. AL