Eric Tadt had been a cross-country and distance runner at Janesville (Wis.) Parker when he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 2005. The quality of runners competing for the Badgers was well beyond his ability, so he became a hobbyist as a distance runner.
And then some.
On July 15, a Monday, Tadt left the starting line for the Badwater 135 at 9:30 p.m. in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin. The sun was down, so it was only 115 degrees.
Tadt was 279 feet below sea level and, over the next 38 hours, 41 minutes, 59 seconds he would climb to 8,360 feet and the finish at the portal to Mount Whitney.
There were 95 runners in the field, men and women, and 79 would finish the 135-mile ultramarathon. This included Tadt, officially the 45th overall finisher.
The Badwater 135 lists winners starting in 1987. The race became notorious from the 1999 documentary “Running on the Sun,” produced and directed by Mel Stuart.
“When I was training for my first 50-miler in 2008, I came across the documentary,” Tadt said. “And someday being able to run Badwater became a goal of mine.”
Tadt left Madison with a master’s degree in civil engineering in 2011. He was hired by Kimley-Horn and Associates and moved to the Twin Cities. He loves the running areas that he found here.
“I have a 25-mile loop of the Grand Rounds that’s great,” Tadt said. “I run six days a week. I also built a heat room at home. It’s very miserable in there. I do my hill training, on a treadmill.”
Tadt had 25 ultramarathons (from 50K to 100 miles) on his résumé before Badwater. All runners in this desert-to-mountain run have a team in a van: He had his dad, brother and two friends.
“I melted down at Mile 71 because I hadn’t been able to hold food,” Tadt said. “My team got me through that wall. After that, the three mountain passes — climbs of 18, 12 and 13 miles — were daunting.
“Eleven miles from the top, I felt good. That’s when I knew I was going to finish Badwater.”
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
• Laura Tadt is also a marathoner and usually attends her husband’s ultras. “Laura had another obligation, and avoided the 135-mile ride in a hot van,” Eric said.
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