By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Darren Wald was back at it last Friday. The 50-year-old from the Alphabet Streets is all about pushing himself to the absolute limit. For him, there is no better feeling than setting challenging goals and accomplishing them.
This time, he completed the Backbone Trail run through the Santa Monica Mountains. Out of 18 starters, only four finished the 67.79-mile route from Point Mugu State Park north of Malibu to Will Rogers Park in the Palisades.
“I’m still exhaused,” Wald said several days later. “All of the guys invited to do it were ultra endurance athletes and I was the oldest. I’ve never run that distance before and what made it so tough was the terrain, weather and the elevation gain. You start and finish in the dark, it goes from cold to really hot to cold again. I climbed over 15,000 feet. We started at 5 a.m. and I finished at midnight.”
Wald confesses he could not have done it without the help of fellow Palisadians Adrian Maizey and Sean Whitely, who joined him for the last 26 miles: “I ran the first 36 miles with a guy who ended up going ahead of me, then I was by myself until Mile 43 when my two buddies showed up late at night to run with me. That was huge. I’m so thankful they did that.”
Three months of training, which included runs of up to 30 miles a day, could hardly prepare him for what he was about to endure.
“It becomes a question of how much agony you’re willing to put yourself through,” Wald said. “I told myself I had a task and I was not stopping until it was done. I was last of the four who finished, but I’m a 185-pound guy so my body isn’t built for 100-milers.”
Wald is accustomed to making the near-impossible look routine, like in August of 2019 when he did back-to-back Ironman triathlons. He finished the first swim, bike and run event in Sweden in just over 10 hours, then hopped in an RV and drove across the border to Denmark for Ironman Copenhagen, which he finished in just under 11 hours. In all, he stroked, pedaled and legged 280 miles in less than 36 hours.
However, his latest torture test was higher on the pain meter.
“This was even harder because I was on my feet moving for 19 hours straight—it’s not exactly the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “By the end, every part of me wanted to quit. Somewhere around the 52-mile mark I got lost because it was dark and some of the trails weren’t well-marked. It was one of those things where I didn’t know if I could do it. I was feeling dizzy. You get ligh-headed. Your mind starts playing tricks on you and you’re tripping everywhere. The last 6.5 miles you hit Will Rogers but the sign might as well say 100 miles to go. The next day felt like I was in a car wreck.”
Perhaps an even more remarkable feat than braving the Backbone was that Wald made his son Ryder’s baseball practice at 10 the next morning (he is coaching the Pinto Dodgers this year). The full-time financial advisor and father of three is an active PPBA board member and founder of Pali Riptide, a local youth program
In all, Wald has raced 10 Ironmans since his first in 2008. He is still chasing his first win. Competitive as he is, he will not quit until he gets it.
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