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Published July 11 2011

Wagner: Fargo man in midst of challenging run


By the time most people read this column today, Ben Clark will already be running.

And when they leave work, go to bed and return to their jobs Tuesday morning, he’ll still be running. In fact, he hopes to finish running before most people start their jobs on Wednesday morning.

In the process, the 20-year-old Fargo man is attempting to finish the toughest footrace on the planet, the Badwater Ultramarathon, something no other North Dakotan has accomplished.

What makes it so tough, you ask?

For starters, it’s 135 miles through Death Valley, starting in Badwater, California, and finishing at the portals to Mount Whitney. That’s 135 miles stretching from the lowest elevation point in the Western Hemisphere, climbing three mountain ranges and ending at the portals to the highest peak in the continental U.S.

Runners climb 13,000 feet from start to finish, descend another 4,700 feet through the mountains and aim to finish in 48 hours or less so they can earn a buckle.

Typically, high temperatures often top 120 to 130 degrees, and that doesn’t measure how hot the sun feels reflecting off the blacktop.

Those conditions are enough to scare off most runners. For a select few, though, it serves as a magnet, a chance to earn a buckle as a badge of honor.

Ben, who grew up in Minot, N.D., is running on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a disease his mother was diagnosed with several years ago. After high school, Ben ran his first ultramarathon, moved to Fargo and enrolled at North Dakota State University.

At 20, he is the youngest of this year’s Badwater runners by six years. And far younger than the average 45 years of age for the 94-runner field.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t touch base with Ben before his trip, but his Facebook page, which includes a nice tribute to his parents, gives some insight into his love for ultrarunning.

“I see ultra-running as a way of testing yourself,” Ben wrote. “The distance strips everything away from you until you are only left with yourself; it forces you to rely on yourself – nothing else – to finish. In the process, you discover who you are.”

At 8 a.m. Central Standarad Time today, Ben begins his epic journey. To follow Ben’s progress during Badwater, go online to www.badwater.com/2011web.

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Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com