At a spry 70 years old, Bob Becker refuses to give in to Father Time.
While his contemporaries were content to sit back and relax on their 70th birthday, Becker was pushing through 110 degrees and blistered feet to set an age record in the Badwater 135 ultramarathon, which covers 135 miles.
Then he continued on.
Another 11 miles up a mountain — Mount Whitney — to be exact. And then he retraced his route, making for a 292-mile round trip that is referred to as a Badwater Double.
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“I figured on my 70th birthday I wanted to do something challenging,” Becker said. “Only 20-something competitors have ever run the course faster. The oldest one was 58. I said if I can train and stay healthy, I could try to break that record by a dozen years. It is the toughest thing I have ever done.”
Outside of perhaps the most strenuous training regimen he has put his body through, Becker, a marathon veteran, gave credit to a personal coach and support crew for helping him complete the 292-mile trek, both by walking and running in seven days and nine hours for a double loop from Death Valley National Park in Death Valley, California.
Becker etched his name in the Badwater record books by running from California’s Badwater Basin, regarded as the lowest point in the continental United States to the Whitney Portal and back to the Basin in the wee hours on Aug. 6.
During that time, Becker’s seven-person crew provided food, liquids and whatever medical care was needed along the course.
Becker recuperated after the first leg before embarking on an ambitious 20-hour climb of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and culminating the 22-mile trek to Kings Canyon National Park. Following a day-and-a-half respite to get re-energized, Becker returned to the Basin.
Becker put himself through an intense workout program to conquer the climb from Badwater Basin to Mount Whitney that included spin classes, pulling a tire for five to six miles at a time and 25-mile jaunts over the 17th Street bridge in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
Through it all, the uber-competitive Becker said the prospect of beating younger runners helped him get through the rigors of the race.
“I am a Type A personality like most competitive athletes are,” Becker said. “In part, I like the idea of going out there but not just to complete the race but to beat the younger guys. It is quite a sense of accomplishment to set the age record and to know that doing the toughest thing was possible. That at any age you can continue to set goals and do things that is not ordinary. And not to let a number suggest you can’t do big things.”
Becker, race director for the Keys 100, said he has no such grand plans for his 71st birthday, but that could change.
“At this point I am halfway between looking for the next adventure or hanging up my spikes,” Becker said. “I have nothing on my bucket list at the moment.”