Ashland ultra-marathon runner Skaggs back to work

A woman tried out a new pair of running shoes at Rogue Valley Runners on Friday, explaining to the tall, wavy-haired salesman that it was important she find the perfect fit because, "I get shin splints really easily."

She was talking to the right guy. Erik Skaggs knows a little about running. And pain, too.

One of the best ultra-marathon runners in the country finally returned to work Friday, 20 days after winning the 100-kilometer Where's Waldo race east of Eugene and 10 days after being released from the hospital. Skaggs, 27, spent six days in local hospitals recovering from acute renal failure, but improved dramatically late last week, shedding approximately 35 pounds in a matter of days as his blood enzyme level started to drop.

He looked healthy and energetic while helping Rogue Valley Runners customers Friday, but said he still has a ways to go.

"It's nice to see people again — I've just been mostly at home," he said. "I'm definitely not back to full strength as far as energy. Normal things which previously didn't really tire me out definitely make me more tired."

Skaggs won the 62-mile race, the longest he's ever competed in, in nine hours, 11 minutes to smash the course record by more than 56 minutes. It was a costly victory. He became nauseated on the ride home, endured symptoms of kidney shutdown over the next few days and eventually checked himself into Ashland Community Hospital.

Watching his body break down was a new experience for Skaggs, who didn't run in college but has quickly become a force on the ultra-marathon circuit.

"I was pretty concerned when I first went to the hospital because I was pretty much vomiting up everything," he said. "I just felt horrible — totally noxious, couldn't keep anything down, and that's just something I've never experienced. I've never even thrown up from running until this whole thing happened, and I've run quite a bit.

"It's definitely been tough. Luckily when I was feeling really bad I didn't have the desire to run at all. Not a bit."

Skaggs' plight gained attention from the local and regional running community, the net result of which is the Birds of a Feather race. Set for Oct. 24 in Ashland, the "Run for Erik Skaggs" was organized by Rogue Valley Runners and Southern Oregon Runners, a Web site, in an effort to help pay for Skaggs' hefty medial bill.

"It's just amazing," Skaggs said. "So many people came and visited me in the hospital and called me and a couple local folks started a medical fund. Of course it surprises you because it's just nice to know that there are so many good people out there. I'm still in shock from how much support I've received."

Skaggs isn't sure when he'll run competitively again, but he's hoping doctors will clear him for noncompetitive running by Monday. After spending most of the past month lounging around Skaggs is starting to get the itch, but he doesn't want to rush it either.

"I'm going to kind of just see how I feel," he said. "I'm already three weeks out from not having run a step so I'm just going to play it by how my body feels."

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