Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Racing at "Badwater"--3 weeks until the world's toughest non-stop road race!

Dear friends and family:

Many of you know about my next athletic challenge, running in the 31st edition of the “Badwater Ultramarathon” (
www.Badwater.com) on July 14-15 in Death Valley. Badwater is named after the location where the race begins. “Badwater, California” is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. 135 miles and more than a day and a half later, the finish line is reached at the Mount Whitney portal at 8,500 feet. Two mountain ranges are also crossed en route, with a race total of 14,000 feet of elevation gain. Air temperature highs range from 120-130 degrees. Badwater is run on paved black-top roads, which themselves can reach nearly 200 degrees F. Due to the extreme nature of the race, each of the 90 competitors is assisted by a crew that provides the physical and emotional support required to keep the runner focused, hydrated and fed, and core body temperature under control. This team is also vital in dealing with the physical and stress-related issues that inevitably arise during this 40+ hour challenge. Note that I’ll be one of the oldest runners at 63 to ever start this race, and certainly one of the few prostate cancer survivors. Thanks to advancements in prostate cancer treatment that weren’t available when my father suffered with the disease, I am physically able to make the choice to participate in an athletic event like this. I will be competing against some of the most elite ultra-distance runners in the world. This will be an incredible experience, actually fun in its own way, not to mention an enormous personal challenge.

A year ago I committed to run this race if I could get in, and have been planning and training for it ever since. Death Valley National Park will only grant 90 permits each year to run the Badwater Ultramarathon, and you have to be chosen by Race Committee to participate. I was selected for 2008. During this past year, the real estate markets and my own employment situation have changed dramatically, but my family and I agreed that I shouldn’t give up my slot. There just might not be another opportunity to achieve this important personal goal. Direct costs of participation in Badwater are significant, however. Commercial sponsors in this market have been impossible to find. As in my previous major races, I will be raising money to benefit prostate cancer research, and once again I am asking for your help. 1 in 6 American men will develop prostate cancer; it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men. Real improvements have been made in treatment, but we are nowhere near a cure, still have not isolated the gene(s) that is (are) connected to the disease and have not developed a reliable test to definitively identify early-stage prostate cancer. If you or people you know are willing and able, fully tax deductible donations may be made to “The Richard J. Fox Foundation”, with whom I have worked since 2005 (
www.fox-foundation.org). For this race event, fifty percent of donated dollars will apply to offset my actual race costs until met, then 100% will fund the cause. The Fox Foundation has raised over $2 million to date to fight prostate cancer. Much of its funding has been donated to The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University for research and to local hospitals and clinics for educational outreach and free prostate cancer screenings. Checks payable to “The Richard J. Fox Foundation” should be mailed to: P.O. Box 2065, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33303. Thanks a lot for your consideration.

Some highlights of my “late-in-life” racing career:

2002—age 57—ran first marathon (“Grandma’s”, Duluth, MN)
2003—age 58—Boston Marathon (PR at 3:28)
2005—age 60—Marathon des Sables, 150-mile stage race in Sahara Desert, Morocco. Fully self-supported race, carrying own food and gear for 6 days. Discovered after 115 miles that I’d been running, then walking, then hobbling with a fractured femur. Upon return to U.S., surgery performed to insert steel pin and plate in right hip. Raised $30,000 for prostate cancer screenings and research in honor of my Father who died of the disease
2006 (January)—discovered that I had developed prostate cancer, too. Surgery to remove prostate in March.
2006 (May)--Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,349 feet) at end of May, as planned with four others from Virginia
2006 (September)—completed first 50-mile trail race (Grand Tetons Ultramarathon)
2007—completed four separate 100-mile races (Texas, Florida Keys, Grand Targhee Resort (Tetons), Phoenix area); raised $40,000 for prostate cancer in connection with the Keys run
2007 (July)--crewed for friend at Badwater, then summitted Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, at 14,496 feet
2008 (February)—completed 100-mile race in Texas—second year in a row under 24 hours
2008 (May)—created and directed inaugural “Keys Ultras”—100 and 50-mile individual races and 100-mile, 6-person relay, in the Florida Keys. Raised $50,000 for prostate cancer screenings and research
2008 (July 14)—age 63—to race the “Badwater Ultramarathon” in Death Valley, CA

Thanks, again, and warmest regards to you-all,

Bob Becker

Cell: 954-439-2800

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