Ultrarunning Magazine, October 2000
URProfile: Mike Modzelewski
Author, Model, Television Host, and Adventure Seeker
Mike Modzelewski is not your typical ultrarunner. From his youth as the son of a pro football player, to years of traveling the world, followed by simultaneous careers as a model, a motivational speaker, the host of a television show, and a noted author, Mike has just about done and seen it all.
Somehow he has managed to fit many ultras into his life, including several of the tough trail 100s in the West. One of those, the Angeles Crest 100, is the subject of his book, Angeles Crest: A Memoir. A review of the book ran in the September UltraRunning. Here is a profile of an accomplished and eclectic ultrarunner.
Name: Michael Modzelewski
Place of Birth: Third Rock from the Sun
Current Address: Alaska and Florida
Jobs: Author, TV Host, Motivational Speaker
Marital Status: Wedded bliss
Children: My books are my “babies”
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 178 pounds
Shoe Size: 10A
Best feature (physical): Blue Eyes
Worst feature: Black toenails
Educational Background: Graduate of Indiana University with a B.A. in English Literature, minor in Art History.
Favorite Author: Homer
Favorite Book: The Odyssey
Favorite non-running magazine: The New Yorker
Favorite movie: Jeremiah Johnson
Favorite television show: Animal Planet
Favorite actor/actress: Marcello Mastrianni
Favorite music: The song “Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd. It’s my anthem.
Favorite musical performer: U2 (Bono’s heroic voice, and no better songs than on Joshua Tree album!)
Book you are currently reading: The Stars. The Snow. The Fire: 25 Years in the Alaskan Wilderness by John Haines.
Favorite Artist: Rockwell Kent
Hobbies: Mountain climbing, sea kayaking, horseback riding, trekking through remote, wild places.
Collections: Signed, first edition books; Native American, African and Mexican folk art.
Make of car you drive: Mustang convertible
Make of car you would like to drive: Ferrari – just once, all out on the Autobahn
Greatest adventure: Living for two years on a wilderness island in the Inside Passage to Alaska studying killer whales.
Favorite spectator sport: Olympic downhill skiing (when they push it right to and over the edge of disaster yet win the gold, ala Franz Klammer).
Favorite Game: Scrabble
Favorite vacation destination: Foreign marathons in Dublin, Paris, and Amsterdam — followed by slow, sore-legged sightseeing.
Favorite time of day: Dusk — when the day turns golden.
Favorite item of clothing you own: Armani Jacket (that I share with my brother Scott).
Most prized possession: My health
Political Affiliation: Independent
Personal Hero: My father
Favorite Famous Quote: “I dwell in possibility.” Emily Dickinson
Personal Philosophy: (1) We lead lives inferior to ourselves, only living a small part of the colossal life and abilities we’ve been given. (2) We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience — we’re spiritual beings having a human experience.
Short-term goal: Striving for peak performance every day, in every way.
Long-term goal: Completing 100 marathons and ultras.
Achievement of which you are most proud: Motivating others, after first conquering and transcending the self.
Favorite subject in school: English
Least-liked subject: Math
Least-liked household chore: Laundry
Pets: None currently
Pet peeve: Litter in pristine places
Favorite non-running leisure activity: Reading
Greatest Fear: That man is polluting the planet beyond repair.
Happiest Memory: Crossing the finish line of Angeles Crest, 23:47:20, with my brother Scott — with our ex-NFL football player father leading us across the final 50 yards.
Secret ambition/fantasy: To communicate with dolphins: decode their sonic language. If we open our minds to animal intelligence, the next century will be an “Age of Enlightenment: and it will be we, humans, who are enlightened. I believe that the only difference between much of our life and theirs is external form.
Personal strengths: Extremist
Personal weakness: Extremist
Running Years running ultras: 12
Number of ultras finished: 15
Best ultra performances: Buckling at Angeles Crest, despite running final 30 miles on bloody, blistered feet.
Most memorable ultra performance and why: Finishing first in “Great Wall of China Run.” It was incredibly steep and overwhelming with history. My prize was a camel ride out into the fabled Gobi Desert, where Genghis Kahn and his Thundering Horde were palpable presence!
Typical training week a month or two before a major race: Weekends pushing hard at altitude: 35 miles on the Western States Trail (out and back from Squaw Valley), then next day cycling two consecutive “laps” 144 miles around mountainous Lake Tahoe; then five to fourteen-mile runs during the week on rolling hills. One day of speed, interval work. Also two days of lifting weights, concentrating on arms and shoulders — much needed in late stages of ultras.
Injuries: None (thanks to the gods and genetics for good running form).
Favorite running Shoe: Nike Pegasus
Favorite food/drink during an ultra: Exceed and bananas
Favorite handler: My sister Nancy
Favorite pacer: Rich Carp
Favorite place to run: Mountains
Favorite type of running surface: Pine needle trails in a cathedral forest
Ultrarunning idol: Doug Latimer
Why do you run ultras: To transcend the everyday self, shatter the comfort zone, and in so doing I’ve learned that “fixed” limits/boundaries around other realities are elastic as well. We are limited by our beliefs and we attract what we are. Ultrarunning helps keep us at our best, highest selves.
Any advice you would give to other ultrarunners: Vince Lombardi said it best: “The body can stand almost anything — it’s the mind you have to convince!” As surely as fluid water carves through solid rock, so too, do our thoughts shape our beings and the very reality around us. Our thoughts are not intangible, ethereal. They are the most powerful force in the universe, creating very solid effects.