Would Your Boss Survive This?
By Abrahm Lustgarten

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Marathons? Everyone's done one. Ironman? Hardly a real challenge. Hence, a growing number of hard-charging executives are taking up the painfully extreme sport of exotic ultramarathoning. Take the Marathon des Sables, which is run in 120-degree heat across the Sahara. Or the Jordan Cup, a 60-hour trek starting at the Petra ruins. At this year's Gobi March--six marathons run in seven days across China's Gobi desert--40% of competitors had business or finance jobs. Businesspeople say the races build character and leadership skills that apply back in the boardroom, and, for the truly driven, racing "is actually very relaxing," says Ken Kamler, MD, an Everest expedition doctor and president of the Explorers Club. Below, four executives who just can't get enough, uh, relaxation.

NAME Robert Byrne, 46

TITLE Vice president, nCircle Network Security

RESUME A marathon each month for seven years and more than 110 "ultramarathons"--races from 50 to 150 miles in locales ranging from China to Greece.

OUTLOOK "It's very self-centered and self-absorbing, but that's a luxury that's very rare in life."

NAME Alasdair Morrison, 55

TITLE CEO, Morgan Stanley Asia

RESUME Braved 136 miles of sand dunes in the Marathon des Sables; survived golf-ball-sized blisters in the Gobi March.

OUTLOOK "The races attract the quiet achievers. They aren't the people who are the most aggressive or competitive. They have depth in their character and can keep going in tough times."

NAME Lisanne Dorion, 37

TITLE Co-founder, the Gardner-Dorion Co., a legal consulting firm

RESUME Finished second in the women's field in China's Gobi March, despite swollen, waterlogged, and blistered feet. Raced Morocco's Marathon des Sables and ran Badwater, a race from Death Valley to Mount Whitney.

OUTLOOK "The races have been beautiful, but they haven't been without a fair amount of emotional toil and bodily torment."

NAME Vadim Khazatsky, 43

TITLE Managing director, Citigroup

RESUME Suffered a kidney stone in the Gobi March; ran the Jordan Cup; contracted a rare bacterial disease in Eco-Challenge Borneo.

OUTLOOK "My wife asks why I don't just go run 50 miles in Central Park, but that makes no sense to me. The fun is to get yourself in trouble, and then get out of it."