Meet the 60-Year-Old Professor Running 100 Miles to Help Law-School Grads

Bob Adler, the dean of the University of Utah law school, wants to put his legs where his mouth is to help law students.

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Bob Adler, the dean of the University of Utah law school, has been a trail runner for 15 years. So when the school embarked on its “100-100” initiative—100-percent bar passage and 100-percent professional employment for new graduates—he thought he thought he could help by adding another 100: 100 miles.

Adler, 60, of Salt Lake City, has been at the University of Utah since 1994 and served as dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law for almost two years. On September 1, Quinney announced the 100-100 initiative, which aims to make law school more affordable by raising money for personal tutors and scholarships and getting alumni more involved with the school.

Why do lawyers need help? “The national average law-student debt on graduation is now well over $150,000,” says Adler, “which prevents graduates from accepting lower-income jobs in sectors where they feel they will make a real difference and which need help, such as public interest.” The school hopes to make it more feasible for graduates to accept lower-paying jobs at legal-aid groups, nonprofits and other organizations that they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Adler started running trails in the early 2000s, and has since accumulated dozens of ultra finishes. He runs trails mostly for fun and usually ends up in the middle of the pack.

The idea to raise money by racing a 100-miler came to him (where else?) on a run. It was a way to “put my legs where my mouth is and show concrete support for my students,” he says. Donors will pledge money for each mile he runs—which means he “absolutely must finish the race.”

Adler chose the Zion 100, on April 8, as his target race. It will be his first 100-miler since becoming dean at Quinney. He knew that training through the Utah winter wouldn’t be ideal, but wanted to race before the end of the school year.

Sure enough, training has been a challenge during this “awful, snowy” winter. Fortunately, Adler lives five minutes away from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, accessible in the winter, and only a few hours from the desert. He runs 25 to 30 miles each weekend, and takes whatever training he can get during his busy work week. (He blogs about his training here.) He plans to run the Moab 55K this weekend and the Buffalo 50-miler on March 18 as tune-up races to dial in his pacing and nutrition for the Zion 100.

A finish is never guaranteed during a 100-mile race, and Adler knows it. “I could easily go out too fast and blow up later,” he says, “but I have so many people depending on me that I want to be conservative and just finish.”

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