Ashland runner Erik Skaggs faces hefty medical bills

An Ashland ultra-marathoner who fell gravely ill after winning the 100-kilometer Where's Waldo race east of Eugene faces another daunting challenge: $25,000 to $30,000 in medical bills.

Erik Skaggs, 27, spent six days in local hospitals recovering from acute renal failure, apparently caused by a combination of dehydration and taking ibuprofen after a demanding race.

“I'm pretty excited to be out,” Skaggs said while recovering at home Tuesday. “My renal and blood tests are still not good. It was rough. It takes you out of everything … I might have been in trouble if I hadn't gotten to the hospital.”

Skaggs won the 62-mile race Aug. 22 in nine hours, 11 minutes, smashing the USA Track & Field national championship course record by more than 56 minutes.

But he became nauseated on the ride home and felt progressively worse over the next two days. When he came to work last week at Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland, he was showing symptoms of kidney shutdown — vomiting, lack of urination, dehydration and flu-like symptoms, said his boss, manager Ian Torrence.

Skaggs was taken to Ashland Community Hospital for a day, then to RVMC for five days. He was released Monday.

“Erik is up and walking but is still very fatigued,” a Tuesday posting on said.

“He still has a lot of water weight gain and his blood enzyme levels are still far from normal. He will be reporting back to the hospital for daily blood tests.
“His life is still far from normal.”

Skaggs is insured for $9,000 through his membership in USA Track & Field, the governing body for long-distance running, but otherwise lacks medical insurance, said Rob Cain, a fellow ultra-marathoner. Members of the USATF have already donated almost $1,000, he added.

Cain is organizing a 2-mile and 5-mile fundraising race in Ashland in October to help Skaggs pay his medical bills. Other ultra-marathon groups around the country are also holding benefit runs, said Cain.

An Erik Skaggs Medical Fund has been set up at Umpqua Bank, 250 Pioneer St., Ashland OR 97520.

Skaggs said he's grateful for the support of the local and national running community.

“It's amazing, so many good people visited and called me — and Rob set up the fund. It's really nice,” said Skaggs.

Several factors can conspire to set up renal failure, including temperature, fatigue and dehydration. But Skaggs believes his use of ibuprofen, an analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug, seems to have been the major culprit.
Cain noted, “It was a combination of dehydration and ibuprofen. I researched it. The doctors said runners have to be really careful and not take it at all, because it interferes with blood flow to kidneys and that's exactly what you need to avoid.

“Runners take it because they're hurting. But you've got to go through a certain amount of pain. The running community doesn't understand the effect of ibuprofen.”

The Where's Waldo race, which includes two peaks of more than 7,300 feet, has water and “ultra food” at aid stations spaced 5 to 7.5 miles apart, according to its Web site,

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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