Picture of Sheri Burns

Want to sign up for free e-mail notification of Sherri's column or to see past columns? Click here!

Back in the early ’90s -- the way early ’90s -- I was just starting my career here at American Way.  (You can stop doing the math right now. I’m old.) One of the first writers I got to know was Martin Dugard, who wrote the story on page 50 about the crazy extreme race outside London called Tough Guy. Even a decade ago, he was into crazy, extreme everything. In 1996, he wrote a story for us -- his very first story for us, in fact -- on the Raid Gauloises, known at that time as one of the toughest races on earth. But he didn’t just report on the race; he actually competed in the race.

It seemed that every time I talked to him, he was heading out to challenge his body and/ or mind in some intense way. And he was a 30-something guy with a wife and three young sons. Where did he find the time to train for that sort of stuff?

Marty ended up writing a book on the competition, called Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth. I remember reading it and wondering if I could ever do something like it (which was nuts, considering I could barely make myself run three miles).

Then he got an assignment to cover the first Survivor and to write a book on it. When he returned, I flew to L.A. to have dinner, or maybe just margaritas, with him and his wife, Calene, and I peppered him with as many questions as he would answer (he was hampered by a little thing called nondisclosure, courtesy of CBS). I was fascinated to learn what the people went through, who succumbed to hunger and heat, and who persevered.

I’m still fascinated by extreme competitions . So when Marty suggested he write a piece for us on the Tough Guy race, my interest was piqued. So was our design director J.R. Arebalo’s. When he found out Marty was going to do the race, J.R. thought seriously about joining him.

Me? Not so much. When I found out Marty was going to do the race, I thought, He’s still married; he still has three boys, who are older and may be more demanding now; and he’s on the downhill slide to 50! (Sorry, Marty.)

Meanwhile, I’ve spent the better part of the year lamenting the fact that ever since I hit my 40s three years ago (I know; I’m not far from the downhill slide), exercise and weight gain have been the bane of my existence. Yet here is a friend who is older than I am and bears many more responsibilities than I do (after all, I’m single and kidless), yet he’s in good enough shape to not only compete in this race but also to actually finish it.

As I read Marty’s story, I found myself thinking about how I would do under the circumstances he describes. And I can’t decide whether I’m morose, inspired, or simply impressed by his feat . I would love to be able to push myself the way Marty and so many other people do. But when I dig deep down and take a close look at who I am, I realize it’s just not ever going to happen.

Sure, I enjoy running for exercise and short races for camaraderie, but I’m basically content with being slothlike.

So, when this race comes around again, I’ll bid J.R. adieu -- he swears he’s doing it -- and wait to hear his stories when he returns. Tough girl? Apparently, only in my mind.

Signature of Sheri Burns


Sherri Gulczynski Burns