Posted by: Admin | September 25, 2010

Death Valley Jack just keeps on running

Jack Denness in action

Anyone heard of Death Valley Jack? School caretaker, Jack Denness from Rochester in Kent, earned his Hollywood Western-style moniker by pounding the route of the road race billed as the world’s toughest – the Badwater Ultramarathon. Imagine running a marathon. Now imagine running five in a row, non stop – 135 miles in temperatures that reach up to 55c.

Jack became the oldest man to complete the course, which runs from Badwater, Nevada to Whitney Portal in California in 2005. This July he completed it again, for the fourteenth time, at the grand old age of 75.

Jack has been described as Kent’s answer to Forrest Gump

Speaking to the Independent on 7th July, Jack admits you have to be mad to even attempt the race. “The road temperature gets up to 140 degrees farenheit sometimes,” he says, and hallucinations are a common, and a welcome, distraction as, in Jack’s words, “they break the race up a bit”.

So what motivates a pensioner like Jack to compete in ultra marathons alongside some of the toughest athletes on the planet? And how does he do it?

Sponsored by Seven Seas, the supplement company, he raises money for Cerebal Palsy Care in Kent and puts his fitness down to his slim build and the fact that he’s taken cod liver oil all his life. It’s certainly not down to diet – to celebrate the end of an ultra, Jack cracks open a cold beer.

On 3rd October Jack will be at the start line of the 2010 Sahara Race. And just in case my husband is reading this, here’s a copy of the itinerary to un-whet his appetite:

– Sunday, 3 October 2010 : Start, Stage 1 (8am): 40 kms
– Monday, 4 October 2010 : Stage 2 (8am): 40 kms
– Tuesday, 5 October 2010 : Stage 3 (8am): 40 kms
– Wednesday, 6 October 2010 : Stage 4 (8am): 40 kms
– Thursday, 7 October 2010 : Stage 5 (8am): 90 kms
– Friday, 8 October 2010 : Stage 5, continued
– Saturday, 9 October 2010 : Stage 6 (10am): 10 kms, Finish at the Pyramids of Giza
– Sunday, 10 October 2010 : Departure

The next challenge for Death Valley Jack

Bonkers! But what an inspiration. If you’re reading this, Jack, I’d love to feature you on here after the race. I’d also like to talk to your wife, Mags – does she ever wish you’d just potter about for a bit? 😉

Good luck in Egypt.

I’ve made a small donation on behalf of the project50 community. If you’d like to follow Jacks’ progress, or donate to the charity he supports, you can click through to Jack’s Facebook page here: “Help Death Valley Jack get more fans that Usain Bolt”


  1. He’s mad as a hatter you know. I know the area, I know the age, at least nearly, and I can’t imagine that I would even go there again much less get out of my air conditioned car. I spent a lot of time out west in my younger days and a lot of it in that desert.
    As for causes I feel about the same as W. C. Fields did about feeding the orphans. I keep my causes close to home were I can see the difference I make.
    When a man gets into his 70’s he might be a loose cannon.
    John McCain is a good example. I speak from experience.
    Yawl have a nice day now. 50 ain’t so bad.

  2. I’d love to read your autobiography, Old Fool. As for Jack Denness being mad as a hatter, I guess it takes one to know one 😉

    He’s been in touch and I’m hoping to talk to him after the Sahara race (when he catches his breath!) By the way, I thought “mad as a hatter” was very English expression, originating in Luton where the girls in the hat industry would be poisoned by the chemicals they used in hat making (arsenic, maybe? I can’t remember) Interesting – have you spent time in the UK?

  3. No time in the UK I’m sorry to say but I read. I learned about the hatter thing from Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t just read the book I studied the book. The Mad Hatter was a victim of those chemicals. I think it was the mercury. Lethal stuff.

  4. […] recently, we featured Death Valley Jack and his preparations to run the 2010 Sahara Race. Sadly, Jack is currently in a Cairo hospital, […]

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