Endurance Athlete Wants to Test Himself--and No One Else--on Those Long-Distance Runs

Amid modern-day marathon, triathlon and other endurance race athletes, there stands a man who would rather do it the old-fashioned way--by himself.

For John Rosendahl, 32, of Irvine, there are no people to pass him those little cups of water, no support vehicles with beds for a quick respite, no observers to urge him on.

“A lot of the unknown has been taken out of the challenge in endurance races,” said Rosendahl, who directs the undergraduate physics teaching laboratory at UC Irvine. “I’m interested in preserving a lot of the fairness of the challenge.”

To emphasize his point, Rosendahl recently ran the 220.1 miles of the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada in five days--by himself.


He started from Mt. Whitney at 3:30 a.m., wearing a headlamp to light his way and carrying a 17-pound backpack with all the food, clothing and shelter required for the five days.

Along the way, he had hikers sign and mail addressed postcards showing the time, date and location to verify his accomplishment.

It’s not that Rosendahl thinks finely tuned endurance runners are wimps. He just believes today’s athletes are not in the ideal of self-reliance and simplicity exhibited by earlier-day mountain men, trappers and naturalists.

He also admits that not many athletes agree with his thinking. “I had to settle those questions for myself,” he said, “to find how much commitment, discipline and concentration I could muster for my own purposes.”


Rosendahl prepared by running between 100 and 130 miles a week, including a shakedown run through sections of the actual course. He also practiced running straight through the night “to adapt to the mental stress of sleep deprivation.”

But he said his survival skills are more the culmination of years of rock climbing, winter mountaineering and other wilderness adventures, which include ascents of Peru’s 20,000-foot peaks and cycling 200 miles in one day.

“It’s simply more rewarding for me to be able to not just perform athletically, but to be uncertain and make decisions on my own degree of knowledge,” he said. “Some of the most important things in life are where you have to improvise and face the risk involved in it.”

Rosendahl said he covered 43 miles a day during the Sierra run. Adding to the challenge were two days and nights of bad weather, which produced snow and flooded some trails and creek crossings.

The run took 127 hours and 50 minutes, which he claims is a full two days faster than any reported self-sufficient run on the course. He noted that another runner covered the John Muir Trail in just under five days in 1982. But that man, Rosendahl emphasized, used a support crew at each day’s end to provide food, shelter and other supplies.

The recent adventure took a great deal of time away from his wife and young son, Rosendahl said, adding that now he has to “return to a certain amount of normalcy.”

To many cancer patients, the hair loss they experience from chemotherapy becomes another difficulty in their lives, especially when they have to shop for wigs. “It’s embarrassing for the cancer patient who goes to a department store to buy a wig,” said David Russo, who opened a beauty salon in Brea called Salon Russo and outfitted it with a private booth mainly for cancer patients to try on wigs.

“It’s becoming a good part of the business,” said Russo. “It’s starting to mushroom and other beauty shops are sending me their clients.”


He started the private wig service seven months ago and said he already has 100 clients. A wig and styling runs about $300, he said.

When the Orange County Fair opens its 97th edition in Costa Mesa next July, it will pay tribute to plants, flowers and small animals, according to spokeswoman Tina Arana. A mascot has already been chosen to promote the fair. It’s a rabbit named “Blossom.”

James Faith, drug awareness chairman for the Mission Viejo Elks Lodge, will head up a group of service club members in South Orange County to distribute red ribbons for the Oct. 23-30 Red Ribbon Week--Say No to Drugs campaign. The ribbons should be tied to car radio antennas or pinned on clothing to remind others to fight and say ‘No’ to drugs, Faith said.

A more dramatic reminder will be made when a mock cemetery is formed on the front lawn of the Mission Viejo Elks Lodge on Marguerite Parkway. Faith said it will have headstones inscribed with the names of people who have died of drug abuse.