5 questions for David Goggins, Navy SEAL, ultrarunner and pullup world record holder


David Goggins with his pacer, Carter Hawke, during the 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif. Goggins finished the 135-mile race in 32 hours, 44 minutes and 10 seconds.

Chief Special Operator (SEAL) David Goggins probably doesn’t get a lot of rest.

In January, the 38-year-old became the Guinness world record holder for most pullups in 24 hours — 4,030 in 17 hours, beating the previous record of 4,020.

In July, he earned another buckle — his third — at the Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif.

In between athletic feats, he finds time to do his regular job — as a Navy SEAL.

Goggins says he does these physical challenges to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which supports the families of fallen spec ops personnel.

“I got into this thing just for that reason. It was never about me; it was about that great foundation,” Goggins said. “That’s why I do runs and do these pullups and do these crazy events, just to hopefully raise awareness and raise some money for that great foundation.”

How much money?

“We estimate the financial impact he has had, both directly and indirectly since he began supporting the Warrior Foundation in 2006, at $400,000,” said retired Navy chief petty officer Wendy Bourland, communications and events manager for the nonprofit.

Goggins during his successful pullup attempt

Q. How was Badwater?

A. It was my best and worst race ever. I had some severe cramping going on at Mile 30, and it kind of changed the whole dynamics of my race. I was about five minutes off the lead … running a pretty good race. I heat-trained so well that it actually made me think I didn’t need to drink as much water. Just because the heat doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it’s not bothering your body. You need to drink as much water as you can out there. I just made a mistake — didn’t drink enough water, had a lot of cramps — ended up finishing pretty well.

Q. What does it take to do pullups for 17 hours? Was it tougher than Badwater? 

A. I had third-degree burns. People don’t understand how much pain you go through when you have one contact point on the bar for 17 hours. It’s just absolutely horrific, the amount of pain your body goes through. When you run 100 or 135 miles, whatever, you can walk. You have these big gigantic leg muscles that can handle your body.When you’re doing pullups, your contact point is your hands. Legs, you can walk. You can have a torn quad, torn calves. I’ve walked 70 miles on a torn quad, you just can’t do that in pullups. It’s just a lot of pain … a lot of pain.

Q. Can you talk a little about your two heart surgeries?

A. I was born with a hole in my heart and didn’t know anything about it until a few years ago when I was training really hard, I started feeling really horrible … and went to the doctor and they discovered a hole in my heart. The hole became the size of a poker chip. It took several years for me to get back to where I’m at today. One surgery takes seven or eight months to heal; having two surgeries, my heart really had to go through an awful lot to heal. I did Ranger school, I went through 2.5 hell weeks, … I ran 2,700-odd mile races … all that with a hole in my heart.

Q. You haven’t always been the fit guy you are now. How’d you get to this point?

A. I actually weighed over 300 pounds twice in my life. I hate doing the stuff I do, but I find enjoyment through the hatred, if that makes any sense at all. It took me 59 days to lose 105 pounds. … I had about 60 days to drop it, so I just went to work and dropped it.

Q. You’re hugely popular in the athletic community, but you’re silent on social media. Why no Facebook page?

A. I’m not much about kissing my own ass. I like helping people, I love helping people, [but] I’m a pretty private guy. I don’t have any of that stuff. I don’t engage in too much needless conversation and too much time-wasting things like Facebook. I’d rather be out trying to better myself than being stuck behind the computer Facebooking.

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .