When Dr. Russell Reinbolt turned 52 this month, he celebrated in a way true to his competitive spirit — he did 52 chin-ups, 52 push-ups, 52 crunches and then went out and ran 52 miles (55, actually; he rounded up).
Dr. Reinbolt, an emergency doctor at Sharp Memorial Hospital, will need this kind of grit when he competes next month in the Badwater Ultramarathon. Known as “the world’s toughest footrace,” this grueling 135-mile course takes runners from the depths of Death Valley to the summit at Mt. Whitney. Participants must finish the race in 48 hours and often run in scorching 125-degree heat.
This is the fourth time Dr. Reinbolt has competed in the race to support a charity. This year, he’s hoping to raise $25,000 for DS Action, a San Diego organization that provides resources and support for adults and children with Down syndrome.
A longtime runner, Dr. Reinbolt began competing in ultramarathons — races longer than 26.2 miles — eight years ago. Last fall, he finished the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run Ultra, a 205.5-mile race around Lake Tahoe. The event took him 87 hours to finish; he only slept for 6 1/2 hours.
Dr. Reinbolt, a dad to two daughters, says he enjoys ultramarathons because they allow him to challenge himself to the extreme, both physically and mentally.
“When the body wants to stop, it’s the mind that must take over,” Dr. Reinbolt says. “To me, mental toughness is much harder to master than physical toughness. A true champion puts mind over body.”
Only the toughest competitors finish Badwater, which Dr. Reinbolt compares to “having two hair dryers blow in your face constantly.” Dr. Reinbolt will rely on a three-member team to support him throughout the race, ensuring he remains hydrated, fed and energized. Naps are not possible, but Dr. Reinbolt can take short rests on the bumper of his crew’s van. To keep cool, he will keep ice cubes under his hat.
“It’s a demanding race, but running through the desert — especially in the middle of the night — is otherworldly,” Dr. Reinbolt says. “You’re completely alone. There are shooting stars. You can actually hear your heart beat. Everything is stripped away but your senses.”
To train for the event, Dr. Reinbolt does more than work out. For 30 minutes each day, he sits inside a 120-degree sauna to acclimate his body to the intense heat. Once a month leading up to the race, he also runs from Los Angeles to San Diego, nonstop. The 125-mile trip takes him about 29 hours.
“To anyone who wants to challenge themselves, set a goal and don’t put limits on yourself,” Dr. Reinbolt says. “The most common thing that limits success is one’s own self-limitations.”
The Badwater Ultramarathon will be held July 10-12. Dr. Reinbolt is hoping to raise $25,000 to support DS Action. To learn more, visit Dr. Reinbolt’s fundraising page at https://give.classy.org/reinbolt4dsaction.
Update: Dr. Reinbolt was among the top 25 finishers of the 2017 Badwater Ultra Marathon, completing 135 miles in just under 36 hours. He'll run it again in 2018, raising funds for Down Syndrome Action.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Reinbolt about his ultramarathon training for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.