From the first moment you meet “Ultra Al”, you will immediately be mesmerized by his apparent passion for running and his incredible history with the sport. While he has been a friend of my husband’s family for many years, I only met him in person about a year ago. He was quick to share story after story about his experiences, trials, and triumphs, first with the marathon, and then ultra marathons, with me.
Since his running career began in the 70’s, Al has run 210 marathons and completed 35 ultra races, where his nickname, Ultra Al, is derived. He will run his 211th marathon this October when he toes the line of the Portland Marathon for the 36th time. You read that right! And not just his 36th over the course of his running career, but his 36th consecutive Portland Marathon!
Al told me that he was immediately hooked after his first event, which was a 5k in Bremerton, Washington. A buddy from high school invited him along on that hilly race and upon receiving his finishers t-shirt, well, the rest is history!
An Oregon-native, Al graduated from North Salem High School in 1972. He then went on to join the Navy and later was hired at Boise Cascade in St. Helens, Oregon. After 30 years at Boise, his position was cut in 2009 forcing him to reduce his marathon participation down to a few of his favorites each year due to rising registration fees. He has also been plagued with multiple ailments over the years, including severe leg pain attributed to sciatica issues and a herniated disk in his back. Despite it all, Al says “I have struggled to be the runner I used to be. Although I still find a way to finish in pain!”
His history is impressive. He ran his first marathon in Seaside, Oregon in 1977. He told me that the weather that day was typical Oregon Coast weather (any 2015 Hood to Coast participants feel his pain?) and that although the conditions proved challenging, he finished with a smile on his face. After a few years of healing his body, he was back at it 1980 when he ran a streak of three marathons over the course of three weeks!
Al continued to average about 8 marathons a year with his favorites including the Portland Marathon, San Francisco Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, Crater Lake Marathon, Pikes Peak Marathon, Grandma’s Marathon, Lone Pine Marathon, Vancouver BC Marathon, and the Seattle Marathon were he set his personal record with a time of 3:00:39 in 1985.
1985 was also the year that Al got bit by the ultra marathon running bug. His first, organized by the Oregon Road Runners Club, was also a personal record with a time of 7:10:23 and earned him a top 10 finish. He went on to run 34 more ultra marathons. While he did not finish all of them, he lists the Old Dominion (which was his first attempt at 100 miles but missed the cut at 75 miles), LA Crest in 1989, Western States in 1990, Wasatch Front in 1994, Pueblo Nuevo in 1996, Leadville, Elkhorn, American River 50-miler, Silver State 50-miler, Autumn leaves 50-miler, and the Pacific Rim 24-hour run, with a 72 miles personal record, among his most memorable.
Al say’s, “Now almost 62 years old, my life has seen many changes. (I) Would love to do more but I’m grateful for what I have accomplished and still can do.” He added that “with younger runners coming up the ladder with more than 200 marathons, my record is being blown out of the water. That being said, I’m proud to lay claim as an Oregon native to be running my 36th Portland Marathon in a row this year! As far as I know, only one other runner, Dick Anderson (76 yrs old) from Montana, is one up on me going for his 37th! Dick is as stubborn as “Ultra Al”. I hope to get a chance to meet Dick and shake his hand and congratulate him. He is much faster than me!”
Al told me that his long-term goal is to run 50 consecutive Portland Marathons and I have no doubt that he will achieve that!
Best of luck on your 36th Portland Marathon, Ultra Al!