Local ultra runner Reid Woolsey has broken the world record for the most elevation accrued in the span of a month.
On Monday, Oct. 31, the Barnardsville resident concluded his “Max Vert Challenge” attempt — in which he ran an average of 30 miles per day — for a total of 500,635 ft of elevation and 933 miles. This feat, certified by Strava and the Cirque Series, breaks Colorado resident Chris Fisher’s 2021 world record by over 100,000 ft.
“It’s so mind boggling, even for a seasoned ultra runner, to comprehend the output he’s doing. It’s truly superhuman,” said race director Julian Carr. “The ultra running community has their jaw on the ground over what he’s accomplished.”
Notably, Woolsey is the only North Carolina resident to place in the top 100 — as well as the only east coaster. The reason for this, Carr explains, is due to the sheer amount of elevation that’s more readily available in places like Alaska, Colorado, and Montana.
To compensate for WNC’s comparative lack of elevation, Woolsey identified two of the steepest trails in the region (Woody Ridge and Staire Creek) and ran them over and over again. Typically, Woolsey told us, this meant starting at 5:30 a.m. and running until about 9 p.m., stopping mainly to eat and soak his weary muscles in a cold trailside creek. On a typical day, he would run the same trail between 16-30 times and then get about four hours of sleep a night.
“It was a wild time,” shared Woolsey. “I was in my head a lot... dealing with boredom and the pain of minor muscle injuries. And there were times I went days without seeing another person, so the loneliness was a challenge too.”
Another big hurdle was caloric intake. Woolsey’s partner Alana Cloud, who worked with family members to support him for much of the journey, said that on average Woolsey would eat six sandwiches, three or four cups of ramen, four protein shakes, two breakfast burritos, four candy bars, five energy drinks, a handful of pastries, and then after that.... dinner.
“I was eating so much food. I almost wanted a feeding tube put in me,” Woolsey joked.
What kept Woolsey going, even after suffering a knee injury a few days into the competition, was sheer grit. He had set out to break the world record and was determined to push himself to the absolute limit.
“I wanted to see what I’m capable of,” he explained. “To see what I could do for an entire month if I was dedicated.”
Now that he’s finished with the Max Vert challenge, Woolsey says he’s looking forward to sitting on the couch, cuddling his dogs, and not moving for a bit — and then eventually planning his next adventure.
“I probably won’t do [the Max Vert] again next year... I’ll be shooting for other goals. But if someone gets my record, maybe I’ll come back and go again.”