But that has been Heidi Perry’s dream since she was in high school in the late 1980s.
Perry, the North Thurston High School cross country coach since 2000 who also teaches science at the school, qualified and was accepted to run in the Badwater Ultramarathon, described as “the world’s toughest foot race.”
Runners gain almost 8,000 feet in elevation in the California desert’s most extreme temperatures.
The race will be Monday through Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to reach 118 degrees in Death Valley.
That’s just fine with the 41-year-old Perry, who grew up in Moses Lake.
“I always found I’m most at peace in the desert,” Perry said.
Perry’s path to becoming an endurance runner started in the late 1990s, when she started taking 5-kilometer runs for fitness. Cross country wasn’t her after-school activity during her days at Moses Lake High School; she was on the debate team. But that’s when she first heard about the grueling Badwater Ultramarathon.
Flash forward to three years ago when she took up ultramarathoning – running races longer than 26.2-mile marathons – and the grueling race she first heard of in high school came to mind again.
According to the event’s website, roughly 75 percent of runners finish the race in the allotted 48 hours. Perry, however, is determined to finish in less than 40 hours.
Last year, Oswaldo Lopez of California was the first to finish among 94 runners, completing 135 miles in 23 hours, 41 minutes.
“I wanted to be an adventurer,” Perry said. “I was intrigued about the run back then (in high school). I was becoming one of those people who could do that. It was a dream I had turned into a goal. … I wasn’t built to be a runner. I found something that brings me so much joy, and I feel really fortunate that I have found that.”
To qualify, an athlete must meet minimum qualifying standards, which include running in three 100-mile races. Perry’s most recent 100-mile race was the Javelina Jundred in November in Arizona.
Organizers receive hundreds of applications and select 100 or fewer participants, including Perry this year.
Training for a race of this magnitude is tough for Perry, who balances being a single mom to 11-year-old daughter Elena with teaching and coaching. She runs an average of about 40 miles a week, but in preparation for Badwater, she has ramped up to 70 to 100 miles a week.
Along with training, Perry is raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS). Her mother, Judy, and best friend, Sean, have both been diagnosed and treated for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Her mother also was recently diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.
Should Perry finish, the 135 miles will be the longest foot race of her life.
The final 13-mile segment is all uphill.
“The sooner I finish,” Perry said, “the sooner I can go to bed.”email@example.com 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick