In terms of ultrarunning milestones, Sandra Brown and Ed Ettinghausen are a few 100 milers ahead of the pack.
Brown, a 72-year-old woman from England, said she knew long-distance events were for her as soon as she completed her first 100-mile event, a linear cross-country course on an old pilgrimage route in Southern England finishing in Canterbury.
“I heard about the Centurions — those who have race walked 100 miles in under 24 hours — and I wanted to be a Centurion, perhaps all the more as these events had only recently been opened to women. So I entered and successfully completed that year’s UK 100 Miles Race Walking Championship, a Centurion qualifying event. I was on the slippery slope familiar to all ultra-distance athletes,” said Brown.
Not only did she join the Centurions, but she later went on to complete her own record-setting accomplishment. On March 30, 2019, Brown became the first person to join the “Two Hundred 100 Milers Club,” tallying her 200th 100-mile finish at the Dublin 2 Belfast 107-mile race.
“My 200th 100-mile plus event was a friendly event that [my husband] Richard [Brown] and I did together, and that felt very special. It was a milestone. But at the same time, when I finish every event, I’m also looking forward to future events,” said Brown.
She didn’t stop there. Brown most recently completed her 208th 100 miler on July 23, finishing the Kennet & Avon Canal 145-Mile Race which ran from London to Bristol. Brown, who does a mix of race walking and running, finished the event in a time of 43 hours and 55 minutes, which averages out to an 18:10-minutes-per-mile pace.
Not to be left behind, 59-year-old Ed Ettinghausen, who lives in Murietta, California and is known as the Jester for his colorful race-day attire, completed his 209th 100 miler on August 1 at the Southern Discomfort 30-hour race, edging into the lead over Brown for the time being. Ettinghausen was not far behind Brown in breaking the 200-mark, with his 200th 100-mile finish coming at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival on April 23, 2021.
Ettinghausen, who said he got bit by the ultrarunning bug when he crewed for a friend at the Badwater 135 in 2010, has been chasing records since finishing his first Badwater in 2011. As he looked into the records, Ettinghausen set his sights on racking up one hundred and forty-five 100-mile finishes to beat the record which, at the time, he thought was held by German doctor Hans-Dieter Weisshaar.
“I reached that and thought I’d broken some record till someone said, ‘Wait, no, have you heard of Sandra Brown? She’s done so many more!’ I found out through [ultrarunning historian] Davy [Crockett] she’d done 180 or so at that point, so I had my sights set on catching her,” said Ettinghausen. “When I found out she had done 205 in 2019, that became my goal.”
As to who is keeping track and how all these 100 milers are tallied, Brown and Ettinghausen are in a league all their own where the numbers are so astronomical that keeping tabs falls largely to them and their fan base in the ultrarunning community. However, one major resource that tracks these endurance legends is the Ultrarunning History website, run by Davy Crockett.
Brown said that for her, keeping tally is more about personal achievement than holding the top place.
“I wish Ed, and all ultra athletes, all the very best in their personal quests and goals. I don’t feel and have never felt that this is rivalry or competition. For me, it’s a personal interest, and I do events for fun and the great satisfaction they give.” said Brown. “The challenge is a personal one – seeing what you can do. I was well over 100 completions of 100 miles or more, and so was Richard, before we even knew that Davy Crockett was keeping records of such completions. Davy does a fantastic job with his ultra-distance history website, which I love reading.”
Only 19 ultrarunners including Brown and Ettinghausen have joined the “100×100 club” with the achievement of running 100 or more 100 milers. Brown’s husband, Richard, is also part of this elite group.
And don’t think that the total mileage Brown and Ettinghausen have accrued is “only” 20,800 and 20,900 miles, respectively. Many of the events they are completing are over 100 miles, as evidenced by Brown’s 145 miler in July and Ettinghausen’s 105 miles at the Southern Discomfort.
When asked how their spirits (and knees) are holding up to the mileage, they had this to share:
“My knees are perfect, in better shape than ever, I did the right training and took care of myself,” said Ettinghausen. “I have a whole bunch of goals. To have 70 wins before I hit 60 years old. Then I have a whole ‘nother goal list.”
“I love every event and confess to complete addiction. I have been very lucky in avoiding significant injuries. I think that mixing race walking and running helps,” said Brown.
At present, both ultrarunners are the only two to break into the “Two Hundred 100 Milers Club,” though up-and-coming ultrarunners are sure to be inspired to chase after their achievement. Apparently, neither one is eyeing retirement after this milestone either, with Ettinghausen aiming at the Angry Owl Ultramarathons 24-hour race next.
“I have the Angry Owl 24-hour race coming up. Last year I took second at the race and hoping to take the win. It will be my 61st 100-mile win,” said Ettinghausen.
Brown, who noted her local events calendars is still recovering from COVID-19 cancelations, hopes to find one or two more events in the fall. “[I] look forward to what 2022 will bring,” said Brown.
Undoubtedly, 2022 will see both Brown and Ettinghausen adding a few more 100-mile finishes to their collection.