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For Jesse Itzler, nothing's impossible, not even 100 miles in 24 hours

MANHATTAN-JANUARY 2, 2007: Jesse Itzler recently ran his

MANHATTAN-JANUARY 2, 2007: Jesse Itzler recently ran his first 100 mile race in Texas to benefit charity. He warms up in Riverside Park at 72nd street. NEWSDAY PHOTO/BRUCE GILBERT Credit: Newsday/Bruce Gilbert

For someone with a mental stopwatch in his head, who is always dashing from one appointment to the next, Jesse Itzler would name boredom as his chief nemesis during the 100-mile road race.

The event, the UltraCentric National 24-Hour Run Championship, took place in Grapevine Texas on November 18-19. For approximately 24 hours, Itzler went round and round a 2.4 mile loop, battling the elements and serious boredom.

To keep from losing interest, Itzler, a former lacrosse captain at Roslyn High School, invited around 40 guests to attend the race. Some ran next to him.

Others read cheerful messages as he passed them by.

Matt Damon, the movie star, and Elton Brand of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, e-mailed Itzler's BlackBerry to find out how he was doing.

Films such as "Rocky" and "Rudy" were shown on a portable movie screen. A pool table and Ping-Pong table, all part of Itzler's base camp, were stationed next to the course.

The tailgate party helped break up the monotony, but Itzler, 38, did all the running himself. His goal was to reach 100 miles.

He finished in 23 hours, 35 minutes and 36 seconds and completed 42 laps, or 100.8 miles, good enough for 25th place among the 79 runners. The person with the most mileage after 24 hours was declared the winner.

"If I didn't go through with this race, I would have been like David Blaine," he said of the stunt performer who once submerged himself in water.

"He holds his breath for six minutes, not eight? He failed. I couldn't come back and do 80 miles and not a hundred. I was prepared to take it as far as I could."

He stopped only once to change his shoes after completing 30 miles.

Probably the easiest way to describe Itzler is that he is a marketing genius with a heart of gold. Beyond the glory of finishing the race, Itzler raised $1,021,250 for 10 charities, drawing money from friends and anonymous donors. He agreed to match the first $500,000 donated with his own money.

His Web site, the100mileman.com, generated 735,000 hits during his training, he said.

Itzler is a former rapper-turned-businessman-turned-thrill seeker, whose life story is so incredible it seems too good to be true. Itzler, as his bio proves, is just crazy enough to run 100 miles.

According to Itzler, in 1991, he signed with the music label Delicious Vinyl under the rap name Jesse Jaymes, and came out with the song: "Shake it (Like a White Girl)." The song cracked the Billboard Hot 100, said Itzler, who is white.

At the age of 23, he wrote the Knicks rally song: "Go New York Go!" and later won a Sports Emmy for helping create the "I Love This Game" music campaign for the NBA.

In 2001, he co-founded Marquis Jet Partners with Kenny Dichter, who is from Merrick. The company leases private jets to well-heeled customers, which include Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Brand and Damon.

Itzler is a fitness fanatic who has done around 20 marathons, but completing 100 miles in 24 hours was a challenge more in line with his personality.

"I'm an extremist," he said. "If I go to a sneaker store, I buy 20 pairs of sneakers, not one. If I'm ordering power bars online, I'll order 480. Everything is times-10 in my life."

After completing 90 miles, the 6-2, 201-pound Itzler's body began to fail him. His hips and knees started to give out and by the 97th mile he had finally hit the wall. To keep moving, he had to literally pick up one leg and move it in front of the other. The last three miles took over 90 minutes to complete.

"I couldn't move," he said. "I had huge blisters on my feet. I lost three toenails. A lot of people who drop out can't deal with the boredom, and they can't deal with the pain, but I was going to finish that race no matter what."

He did, and spent the next day in a wheelchair. His friend and running partner, Lance Aldridge, finished in 28th place and did 41 laps.

Alex Swenson, 42, of Vashon, Wash., won the race in '.4 miles in a time of 23:59:00.50.

Itzler's next challenge is a bike ride from Los Angeles to New York.

"I can't run right now because of my knee, but I can still ride my bike," he said last week from a coffee shop in Manhattan a few blocks from his home.

He was on his way to a recording studio and then to Aqueduct to root on a horse he and Brady own. Later that night, he traveled to Atlantic City to meet with clients.

Dressed in basketball shorts and running shoes, his eyes wide and words spilling from his mouth in quick bursts, Itzler had the look of someone who believes in the impossible. That even 100 miles is within reach.

"This is my life everyday," he said as he got up to leave. "Pretty crazy, huh?"

 

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