David Bertrand

David Bertrand admits there are times when his exercise program can seem, well, a little bit nuts.

Like when he’s in training. He doesn’t have time to run the distances he should, so he wears a 65-pound, lead-filled vest and carries a Goodyear tire across his shoulders to make his training runs around Dunwoody harder.

“It looks odd,” Bertrand admitted. “People think I’m very weird carrying that tire.”

Some drivers have even stopped and asked if he needs a ride to the nearest gas station to get his flat fixed.

He doesn’t. Running to the corner gas station would be nothing for Bertrand. Heck, these days, running marathons doesn’t mean all that much. He’s run marathons – a dozen of them, by his count. He’s taking part in Iron Man competitions, which mix swimming, bicycling and running. Those events weren’t challenging enough. These days he runs “ultramarathons” that stretch out for 50 kilometers, or 50 miles, or even 100 miles.

Yes, he has run a 100-mile race. And he plans to do it again.

“I just like to challenge myself,” he said one recent morning as he took a break from his day job as a Sandy Springs police major. “I just like to live. I like to challenge myself physically and mentally.”

And he likes running. “Other than my children, I love running better than anything in the world,” he said. “I run every chance I get.”

He’s run for much of his life. He ran distance races for his high school track team, he said, but says he wasn’t very good. “I was terrible at it. I took last in every race.”

Now age 48, he can run farther in a day than many people drive. Not that it’s easy to jog the distance, from say, Sandy Springs to Macon. When he was running the 100-mile race from Key Largo to Key West in the Florida Keys, he found out just how tough it can be. For one thing, it took him more than 26 hours, which is a long time to go without sleep, even under normal conditions.

Some of David Bertrand’s tattoos

At about mile 88, he said, things started going wrong. He suddenly thought the woman running in front of him had risen off the ground. She appeared to be levitating and running in the air. “I thought, ‘That’s not normal,’” he said.

He sat down for a moment and downed a soft drink. “I thought, ‘That can’t be right, so let me drink a Coke,’” he said.

Soon, he was back on track. After all, he still had 12 miles to go.

Now he’s planning another 100-miler. The course crosses the mountains of Alabama.

“I love challenges,” he said. “I love to see how far I can push my body. I just love life.”

Besides, it will give him a reason to add another tattoo. He has 22 now, he said. They date back to when he was in high school. Five mark his runs, including a rectangular green one that looks like a roadside mile marker and says simply “Mile 100.”

Soon, he may need room for an even larger number. He has his eyes on a race in which runners travel from one side of the state of Georgia to the other. Runners get 4 ½ days to run the 260 miles, he said.

Why would anyone do that? “It’s kind of like the Iron Man [races]. You cross the finish line,” he said, “and say, ‘Damn, now what? It’s a good feeling running across the finish line, but now what am I going to do?’”

Know an interesting person or place in your neighborhood? Contact Joe Earle at joeearle@reporternewspapers.net.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.