When I first decided to run ultras, I became obsessed with Pam Reed, ultrarunner extraordinaire. Pam was a housewife in Tucson who managed to balance being a mom and a top-level runner. Pam gave me hope that my dreams were not crazy or impossible. I started Google-stalking Pam – I wanted to know how she trained, what she ate, where she raced. I even wrote an article, “Stalking Pam Reed,” for Marathon and Beyond. Pam was the runner I wanted to be.
I patterned much of what I did after Pam because I really didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know any other ultrarunners and I couldn’t find any solid resources that laid out how to train step-by-step. But most importantly, I followed Pam because she trained in a way that fit my personality and lifestyle. I knew I couldn’t run for long hours on Saturday and Sunday, like most successful ultrarunners. I knew that I, like Pam, had to break it up into small bites and work it around my kids’ schedules. And, luckily, it worked! Just like Pam, I made the US National 24 Hour Team twice, and have enjoyed a really fun ultra life that blended well with being a stay-at-home mom.
I still stalk Pam, but I’ve expanded my list to include some other ultra women who rock the ultra world. While I think coaching can be an essential component to ultra success, I think we learn most from the women (and men) around us. So, these are the women I’m currently stalking:
1. Meghan Arbogast: Last year, Meghan qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon (for the 4th time!) and won a silver medal in the 100k World Championships (first American female) at age 50! This is a woman who blows two myths to smithereens: 1) that if you run ultras, you aren’t fast; and 2) that your running career is dead after 45. Go, Meghan go!
2. Lisa Bliss: Lisa, age 42, is a top-level ultrarunner AND a doctor. She served as the medical director for Badwater (a race she won in 2009), and then a few months later, went out and ran the course solo, and unsupported, for charity. She also ran 125+ miles at the 24 Hour National Championships last fall, putting her in contention for a spot on the US National Team. This woman can do it all!
3. Debbie Horn: Debbie, at age 52, qualified for the US 24 Hour National Team for the fourth time! A couple of months later, she set an American Age Group Record for 100 miles! And while Debbie is doing all this, she’s also a lawyer, and an elite curler (as in disks-on-ice kind of curling), and one of the nicest people I know!
4. Olga (Varlamova) King: Olga has won or placed at tons of races (Umstead, Grassland, Nueces), but she’s on this list for another reason – she moves and inpires the people around her, regardless of how she is running. It is easy to inspire people when all is going well in your life, and in your running. But it is a true gift when you can inspire when things aren’t going as well. Olga is always honest about what is going on in her life, and has probably inspired more runners to keep striving because of it. Thank you, Olga!
5. Anne Riddle-Lundblad: Anne, age 45, just keeps on going – and winning! When I first started running ultras in 2006, Anne was winning every race she entered. Then, she took some time off to have a baby. Things were quiet for awhile. And then Anne was back on the scene with a vengeance, showing that having a child didn’t have to mean the end of a runner’s career. Just 2 months ago, Anne racked up 140+ miles at the Freedom Park 24 Hour run (dang!), pretty much guaranteeing her a spot on the US National Team. But let’s not forget that Anne has already been on 6(!) US National 100k teams. You can pretty much bet that, regardless of the distance, she is going to dominate.
This list is, by no means, exhaustive. Sometime soon, I will tell you some more women I stalk! But first, I would love to hear who you follow.