Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen – Ultrarunner Runs 200 100-Mile Races

There is a new member of the 200 club, and we’re not talking about marathons.

Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen completed his 200th official race of 100 miles or longer on April, becoming only the second person in history to do so. If you’ve toed the line of a 100-plus miler or timed 24-hour-plus races in the last decade, there’s a good chance you saw Ettinghausen, a colorful—both literally and figuratively—character who runs every race in a red, blue, or green suit and a jester hat.

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“That was my intro to the ultra scene, and I was not bit by the 100-mile bug,” Ettinghausen told Runner’s World. “It was a traumatic experience. It wasn’t for another year that I did another 100 at the same race. It wasn’t until I met someone else doing Badwater who I asked if they needed a crew. I had done that second race in a walking boot, and he said sure. In July 2010, as a crew member, I got bit by the bug.”

Ettinghausen’s running career has been filled with countless races with distances ranging from marathons to 324 miles. In 2011, he broke the record for most marathons in a 365-day period with 135—yes, you read that right—and in 2014, he ran the most 100-milers in a year—41, a record which was broken in 2019 by Walter Handloser. Doing some sloppy math, Ettinghausen has spent 35 percent of his weekends over nearly 11 years running 100-milers.

He hasn’t done as ambitious of efforts like that since 2014, though clearly he’s still moving a big clip. That was especially true for his 200th milestone race, which came in the middle of three 100-milers in a five-day span.

Ettinghausen started race number 199 in Las Vegas at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival on Wednesday, April 21, jumped into a second race at the same event on Friday, and then hightailed it back home to California where he ran the Born to Run Ultramarathon on Saturday. The middle run was what earned him the record—and a cake celebrating the occasion at the finish line.

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With 200 100-milers to his name, Ettinghausen has amassed plenty of wisdom about ultrarunning. Here, he shares that with us.

Adjust your mindset

There are peaks and valleys in any marathon or ultra race. The temptation to be on the couch instead of running farther always lingers. Ettinghausen has been there, but his strategy is to remove a keyword often heard in races.

“I’m never suffering in a 100-mile race because the discomfort is inevitable but suffering is optional,” he said. “I was with a young woman doing her first Badwater, and she had had some tough miles there. Bad blisters, and the heat got to her. She said, ‘I’m suffering.’ No, you’re not, you have discomfort. A person I had passed who was writhing in pain, his legs locked up, that’s suffering. You’re still walking. It’s painful, but you can keep going. Framing it as discomfort goes a long way over suffering.”

Find someone who might be struggling and help them get to the finish

Ettinghausen says helping others gives him a task and a focus that’s not related to the actual race. “In a way, if I’m helping them, I’m helping me. Plus, those shared experiences are the memories I have the most of.”

Slow down

Don’t go out in an ultra at marathon pace because that will catch up to you. Trust him, he’s seen it over a hundred times.

“You have no business going out at a 10-minute pace if that’s what you do marathons at,” Ettinghausen said. “The wheels fall off eventually. Run your own race. It’s a tortoise and the hare situation. I’ve won 55 100-milers and finished on the podium 121 times in a comical suit and jester hat. I caught people in many of those races going the same pace the whole race. I pace myself according to my fitness. If it’s warm, I slow down.”

Find your support

A bonus tip he wanted to add was having his wife’s support. She is his crew chief through races that have overlapped with her birthday, Mother’s Day, wedding anniversaries, and other occasions. Having her pick him up at races is his biggest asset, but he wanted to make it clear he’s not willing to share because he needs her.

What’s next for the Jester?

Ettinghausen is trying to catch the current world record holder for most 100-mile or longer races, Sandra Brown. The 72-year-old from England is at 207, and Ettinghausen hopes to pass that number at Badwater 135 in July, a race he has done every year the race has run since 2011.

But his ultimate goal is running 60 100-milers in a year starting in August 2022 when he turns 60 to recapture the record of most 100-milers run in a year. It’s a logistical nightmare and a costly enterprise when you consider the travel, lodging, race entries, fuel, and gear required for such an endeavor. For this, he’s looking for sponsors and also doing runs on top of others like he did for the trio in five days to prove he can still recover quickly and get back out there.

He also wants to continue to inspire other. No matter the race, he always goes back out and runs people to the finish, especially the person in last, or DFL (dead f—ing last). He knows what that means to people, and he knows the lasting impact it can have.

“It’s my way of paying it forward to this sport,” he said. “One time, I came in with a woman, and she was bummed about her first marathon not going as well as she wanted. I told she still finished and she should even try an ultra. This was maybe 10 years ago. Well, at the end of the Jackpot 72-hour race, a woman came up to me with a trophy in hand. She was the same woman and she had won her race and she told me it was because I told her to run an ultra years ago. Knowing I made a difference and helped someone is why I run.”

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