Retracing the history of Nikola Tesla on 74-mile ultra-run to Shoreham

01/11/2019 3:00 PM |

“Everywhere is energy,” Nikola Tesla, the brilliant scientist and inventor, once said. His dream, his mission in life, was to harness that energy.

Todd Aydelotte captured some of that energy as he embarked on a grueling 74-mile, two-day “ultra-run” Wednesday that took him on a journey to numerous sites once related to Tesla. Leaving from his home in New York City in the afternoon, Mr. Aydelotte pushed through freezing temperatures to complete his journey Thursday afternoon by arriving in Shoreham at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, the former laboratory that was designated a historic site in 2016 by the American Physical Society.

Wearing a neon green ski cap and sunglasses, Mr. Aydelotte jogged into the parking lot at Wardenclyffe around 3 p.m., flanked by a videographer recording the moment on a cell phone, where members of the nonprofit Tesla Science Center, his wife and media members greeted him. Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center board, and former assemblyman Marc Alessi, the executive director of the board, were the first to shake his hand as he arrived at the historic site.

“Preserving this remarkable man’s legacy here is vital to the spirit of innovation,” Mr. Aydelotte, 50, said in between deep breaths as he thanked those who came out to greet him. “It really kept me going for 74 miles, so thank you for everyone who came out to support.”

Mr. Aydelotte, a noted history buff, named this run the Tesla Ultra Run. It was the longest of a series of runs he’s undertaken over the past two years that are tied to a historical event or person. In August, he ran “The Run of Sam,” a 54-mile journey that retraced the history of David Berkowitz’s 1977 crime spree in New York City.

Ultrarunning is considered any race longer than a traditional 26.2-mile marathon. Mr. Aydelotte doesn’t consider himself in the same category as the top ultrarunners who race competitively. He uses the history tie-in as a motivator on the long runs, in a similar way how ultrarunners describe the meditative power of scenic routes they often take. Living in New York City, he doesn’t have the same quiet, tranquil backdrop for his runs. So that’s where the history comes in.

“It’s a remarkable way to approach running and long distances,” he said.

About a month ago, he began studying the history of Tesla in greater detail.

“It’s extraordinary what this man achieved,” he said. “And the spirit of the man. He was relentless in his work ethic, in his values. He was a great man.”

Todd Aydelotte and Marc Alessi stand in front of the historic laboratory of Nikola Tesla. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Mr. Aydelotte stopped at numerous Tesla-themed sites during his journey. He visited the former site of Columbia College in New York where Tesla gave three historic lectures and demonstrations. He stopped by the former site of the Gerlach Hotel, where Tesla once lived and tested his transmission equipment on the roof. Many of the locations have since become something different, including the former site of Tesla’s lab on South Fifth Avenue where Mark Twain visited to see his experiments.

The ultimate destination was Wardenclyffe, the site of Tesla’s last remaining laboratory, where he built his famous wireless transmitting tower.

“It’s just an extraordinary legacy and what the Tesla Science Center has done is to preserve an extraordinary tapestry of history,” Mr. Aydelotte said.

Mr. Alessi presented him a certificate of appreciation to recognize his run.

“You don’t know the impact this has on us,” Mr. Alessi said. “You have a small staff here and a board that’s been working for a really long time to preserve this place and then get it open to the public. For us it’s been a bit of a marathon. So you’re embodying what we feel.”

A managing director at the communications firm Allison + Partners in New York, Mr. Aydelotte never stopped for sleep on the trip. But he did rest at diners to eat. And he eyed any laundromat he passed so he could stop and warm up his clothes, which would be become wet during the runs, making him even colder once he stopped for a break.

“The winds in the middle of the night were just cutting through me,” he said.

His journey took him across the Brooklyn Bridge and onto Jamaica Avenue, then to Route 25. He maintained that path into Suffolk County, where he crossed onto Route 347 at some points.

Todd Aydelotte arrives at the Shoreham site at about 3 p.m. Thursday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

At around 6 a.m. Thursday he arrived at a diner in Commack where he rested for a while. He documented the journey on social media. He posted early Thursday morning as he hit mile 50 in Commack: “Time for pancakes then I’m off again.”

Ms. Alcorn said the Tesla Science Center first learned of Mr. Aydelotte’s planned trip a few weeks earlier. She said it’s not the first time someone’s made a trip to Shoreham. Two summers ago, a group of cyclists rode out from Brooklyn.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” she said. “Now we have someone running even further.”

Tesla, she said, was someone who had an altruistic outlook and his goals were geared toward helping humanity.

“I think that touches people,” she said.

Top photo caption: Todd Aydelotte stands in front of the Tesla statue on the Shoreham property of the historic laboratory. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

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