Monday, January 22, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 22, 2001

After 35th, racer to quit 100-milers

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Alfred "Bogey" Bogenhuber, the man they call "the wolf" on the running trails, says he has chased his last prey.

Bogenhuber, who finished second yesterday in the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (HURT) 100-mile race through the Koolau, sat in the shade near the Hawaii Nature Center finish line, removed the duct tape from his toes and bunions and said he is ready to hang up his racing shoes.

It was his fifth second-place finish in 35 100-mile runs, and Bogenhuber said his body is telling him he can’t keep trying to beat the younger guys.

"I like to run up front, but as you get older the body doesn’t recover as quick, the rewards are not there," he said.

The winner, Luis Escobar of Santa Maria, Calif., is only 37.

Bogenhuber, a native of Austria who moved to San Francisco from Hawaii 13 years ago, is 61.

It took him 28 hours and 40 minutes to run the 100 miles over a root-and-rock-riddled course from Makiki to Manoa to Old Pali Road and back, five times.

Escobar came in at 28 hours and two minutes.

"But I was chasing him all day," Bogenhuber said. "At each aid station he was leaving, I was coming in. He was the hunted. I kind of felt sorry for him. It’s an awful feeling. You can’t eat — I wouldn’t let him eat, I wouldn’t let him doctor his blisters — they can’t do anything because as soon as he stops to do that, he’s done."

There is always a prey. "A lot of guys, they run just for that. They call me the wolf because I like to catch them late in the race and put the teeth in them."

It is, after all, a jungle out there.

"People are right if they say we are crazy. There is a certain amount of craziness in this. I’ve never been a bland guy — do everything right, take no risks."

Bogenhuber said he "felt pretty good" at the finish, "but while I was out there I died a thousand deaths. That course is so brutal, they got all these banyan tree roots that grow across, like snakes. And it was 27,000 feet of elevation gain over the course." That’s like running up Mauna Loa. Twice.

There was a little scrape below Bogey’s right knee. "That was the only time I really kissed the ground, but I fell about half a dozen times."

Bogey carries a water bottle in each hand, so it’s the bottles and not the hands that hits the ground when he falls.

One runner, Jim Benike, 51, of Rochester, Minn., fell down a 40-foot cliff into a riverbed, but neither he nor any of the other 29 entrants were reported injured.

"Pain is inevitable," Bogenhuber is fond of saying, "but suffering is optional."

His wife, Edith, joined him for the last 40 miles. "It’s good to have companionship out there," Bogey said. "Some runners get so disheartened by the distance, because after about 50 miles you get a glimpse of your soul, of what you’re made of. Can I take enough pain to have some accomplishment?’ I just turn my brain off, I try not to think about it."

Only one time in 35 has Bogey failed to finish 100 miles. He had heel spurs that hurt so badly he lay down, but when he got up he could hardly stand.

"Everybody prefers to do something where they are successful. I’ve been most successful at 100 miles. On a 10K, 9-year-old girls will beat me."

Bogey, 5 foot, 7 inches tall, 135 pounds, doesn’t appear muscular. He said distance runners soon lose their upper-body muscles, and the leg muscles for long distances are many but very thin.

He runs about 3,000 miles a year, with at least one 35-mile run a week when training for a 100-miler. During the Hawaii ultra, he sucked down a one-ounce pouch of energy goop every hour. He drank water and Gatorade.

He believes the races are bad for the body, that they will shorten a man’s life, that his immune system takes a beating every time he goes out.

There were 29 ultra runners who started the 100-mile run at 6 a.m. Saturday. Eight were expected to complete the full mileage before 6 p.m. yesterday, while six others contented themselves with 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, and others were DNF (did not finish) at fewer miles.

The median age of runners is in the mid-40s, said race director John Salmonson. "You have to have lived a little, experienced a few things, before you are ready for this."

"Yes," said Hans-Dieter Weisshaar of Germany. "They say that a 100-mile race is 90 percent mental, and the physical is the other 90 percent."

Weisshaar, who holds a record for running 20 100-milers in a single year, was content to stop at 100 kilometers on what he called the toughest course he has ever faced.

Bogenhuber said he would run only for pleasure now, and to stay in shape.

But his wife Edith isn’t so sure. "He’s quitting? I’ve heard that before."

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