Jamshid Khajavi runs with ghosts.

Posted on March 3, 2007 by

Here is a nice story from the Bellevue Reporter about Seattle-area’s=20
Jamshid Khajavi and his quest for running 100’s:


See how he runs
by Shawn Skager
Jamshid Khajavi runs with ghosts.

Their footsteps echo his as he pushes himself through
grueling 100-mile ultramarathons.

They are why he runs.

Not all his ghosts are dead.

His cousin, Heda, is battling a brain tumor. One of
his best friends, Gary Suttle =97 also a runner is
fighting liver cancer in Florida as he awaits a transplant.

However, one of them is dead.

“My best friend, Mike Devlin, passed away in 2005 from
a brain tumor,” Khajavi said. “He was a runner and a
lovely best friend. These people have worked so hard,
they’ve been wonderful, wonderful people and they
wanted to do a lot more than they could. And they’re
not able to do it now.”

For his ghosts, his love of running and his own need
to push himself while enjoying his brief time on the
planet, Khajavi hopes to break the world record for
ultramarathons completed in a 12 month span.

Canadian Monica Scholz holds the current record of 23.

“I’m hoping to do 24,” he said. “And I’ve done the
first three. I’m not getting younger and there are so
many things that have happened in my life. I think
that life is too short. So what the heck, I’m going to
see if I can do it.”

Khajavi, 53, first moved to America from Iran in 1977.

Before moving here, he played soccer in the streets
and alleys in Iran, but said that excelling at the
sport wasn’t encouraged and he didn’t put much into

Swimming was more his speed anyway.

Getting hooked

Running, especially long-distance running, was
definitely not.

“I never liked running,” he says. “I was never a
runner, I was a swimmer for a long time.”

Khajavi soon found himself in San Diego attending
college. It was there that running sunk its claws into

While preparing to swim the 21-mile wide Catalina
Channel between Catalina Island and Long Beach, Calif.
he started training with Devlin.

Along the way, Devlin talked Khajavi into helping him
with the Wasatch Front 100-mile run.

“He had signed up to do and he wanted me to go walk or
run the last 20 miles with him,” Khajavi said.

Wary at first Khajavi, relented and was soon training
in the Laguna Mountains outside of San Diego with

“I loved the mountains,” he said. “I really loved the
feeling and the camaraderie. It was like an outing. A
bunch of people would get together, go out, and enjoy
the nature. It was like kids playing in the woods. So
I got hooked.”

Before long he was entering races on his own, soon
doing better than many of the friends he had made
while training.

His first race was a 28.5-mile trail run in Northern
California. He beat all six of the runners he traveled
there with.

Three months later, after a successful 15-mile run in
San Diego, Khajavi decided to run a 100-mile
ultramarathon, the Western States 100 in 1993.

It was just the first of many ultras for Khajavi, who
will run in his 10th Western States 100 this year,
hopefully on his way to a world record.

Three down

This year, Khajavi has already completed three of his 24 races.

“I did three races in one month, very hard races,” he
said. “The first one was in Hawaii, very hilly and hot
and humid. The next one was in Texas, and it’s flat,
cold and hot. And then the next one was extremely cold
and all ice.”

The most recent, the Susitna 100, is one of the most
demanding endurance races in the world.

Participants make their way, in freezing cold, across
the frozen tundra of Alaska, winding through frozen
lakes, rivers and along parts of the Iditarod Trail.

For Khajavi, it started at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17
and ended more than 29 hours later.

“I ran all night,” he said. “I didn’t sit down. Every
20 to 25 miles they had lodges with water, that is not
frozen, and you don’t have to melt it. I would fill my
Camelback, and I had food on my sled. Pretty much, I
eat liquids. And I kept going. They said it was
minus-20 degrees on the Susitna River that we ran on.
It’s extremely cold. I had on gloves, hand warmers,
balaclava, hat, mask, and still cold. It has potential
to be dangerous race. This year was my ninth time.”

With more than a decade of experience running ultras,
Khajavi said he usually knows when he is going to have
a hard time during a race.

“Just before the dusk, because I go to bed early, and
until about 1 a.m. I have a hard time. It’s usually
the hardest time for me in every race. My body just
seems to be feeling apart.

“After 1 a.m. I usually start to feel better,” he
continued. “I think the dopamine and endorphins kick
in. At the end of a race, I feel better than at the
beginning of the race. Almost every race is like that.
So, because I know that I feel good at the end, I keep

Eventually, Khajavi said, it gets better.

“It’s like life. These races are just like life. It’s
ups and downs and ups and downs all through the day.
You go through all the emotions. You go through so
many different stages. But at the end when you finish,
you overcame something that seemed impossible.”

Now he just has to overcome the impossible 21 more
times this year.

Life lessons

Away from the ultramarathon circuit, Khajavi’s life is
no less athletic.

A counselor at Seattle’s Bailey Gatzert Elementary
School for the past 15 years, he not only guides the
academic lives of his students, he also contributes to
their physical well being. Despite devoted up to three
hours a day training, Khajavi still has time to run
and train with his students.

For the past 13 years, he has led a group of kids in
the Big Climb for Leukemia, conducted annually at the
Columbia Center in Seattle.=20

The climb features participants running up the 69
flights of Seattle’s tallest building to raise money
for leukemia and lymphoma research.

“I have 31 kids doing it, so every Tuesday and
Thursday we practice,” he said. “I walk them from our
school to downtown and they run on stairs just outside
of Pioneer Square.”

He also conducts a running club before classes and
organizes ultimate Frisbee contests for the children.

Khajavi said that he believes the lessons he has
learned in his running career are lessons for

“I believe that anybody could do these things if they
put their energy into them,” he said. “We could do
anything, but our minds stop us. It’s all in the mind.
I tell the kids you could do so much more if you don’t
limit yourself.”

“Some of my goals are 20 years old,” he added. “It’s
taken me 20 years to do them. I would sacrifice for

Khajavi said that since 1979 he’s harbored the dream
of swimming all three channels, the Catalina, English
and Strait of Gibraltar in a single year.

“Nobody has ever done it,” he said. “I’m hoping to do
it in 2008.”

He has already completed the Strait of Gibraltar, more
than eight miles, twice, and the Catalina Channel four

Although he has yet to swim the 21-mile English
Channel=97=96 yet alone all three in the same year there
is not doubt in his mind that he’ll achieve his goals.

It’s a lesson he’s learned from the ultras.

“You’ve got to be constantly positive,” he said. “It’s
all mind. You’ve go to constantly tell yourself that
you’re feeling good. There is a never a time that I
have any doubt about going on. You can’t have any
doubt, if you have any you’re not going to start. I
never go to races that I’m not going to finish.”

Shawn Skager can be reached at shawn.skager@reporter=20
newspapers.com or (253) 872-6607.

Posted in: USA