“I think that’s probably what my mother said about being self-destructive: that I go until it breaks. I probably could start to find this balance much before but I’m just pushing it, pushing it, pushing it until it’s too late and then, like, ‘OK, or I die, or I need to change.’ And it goes up to that point. I hope that all these chapters are closed and that now the balance is here.”
Kilian Jornet is one of the greatest endurance athletes of all-time. The 32-year-old Catalonian has won major ultramarathons like Western States, UTMB, Hardrock and others, he’s captured multiple world titles in ski mountaineering, and he holds fastest known times up and down Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali, Everest, and other mountains.
In this conversation we talked about how he’s changed his training focus during the pandemic and the biggest lessons he’s learned from taking a new approach, his relationship with competition and how it’s changed over the years, and how he thinks about risk now versus when he was a younger athlete. We also dissected his propensity toward self-destruction and pushing the boundaries of pain and suffering, experimentation and fear of failure, becoming a climate advocate who is working to protect the environment and mountains he loves so dearly through his new foundation, and a LOT more.
“Running isn’t always comfortable. It’s not always like some sort of nirvana that you’re jumping out of bed and clicking your heels to do. But having those kind of whys really kind of reframed me rather than having one why of, ‘it must be about the medal, it must be about the time.’ You have different whys…you need a pocket full of whys basically depending on the day to achieve your goals, really.”
We covered a lot of ground in this episode. Marcus told me about his journey into running, how his relationship with it has evolved over the years, and why he views the marathon as a metaphor for life. We also discussed his relationship to anxiety, learning to be happy within yourself, and why it’s important to have a pocket full of whys. He also told me about growing up black in the UK and why he had chip on his shoulder as a kid, launching Black Trail Runners and the fight for intentional inclusion in the sport, and the importance of opening up access to running and creating positive change in our local communities. We also geeked out about podcasting, talked about Marcus’ relationship with Instagram, where he has a sizable following, and much more.
“If you go into the race knowing it’s going to hurt and you’re OK with it, you’re stronger than most of the people out there—and I just latched onto that: this idea that if I knew it was going to hurt and I was ready for it and I could revel in it and embrace it and be like ‘OK, lets do this’ type of deal with the pain or with the discomfort, that made racing so much easier, and that makes a lot of things in life so much easier.”
I had an awesome conversation with Corrine Malcolm for this week’s episode of the podcast. Malcolm is a San Francisco-based trail and ultra runner for adidas TERREX and she’s also been coaching athletes for CTS since 2016.
A self-confessed science nerd with a degree in Health and Human Performance, the 29-year-old Malcolm was a collegiate cross-country skier and then raced on the U.S. national biathlon team before finding her way into trail and ultrarunning in her early 20s. She’s finished in the top-10 at the last two Western States Endurance Runs, including a tenth-place finish at this year’s race. Malcolm was also fifth at last year’s TDS in Chamonix, France and has shown some pretty damn good range in ultra-distance races over the past few years.
We covered a lot of good ground in this one: what she’s planning on doing the rest of the year since her fall goal race was cancelled, why she’s not planning to go back to Western States next year even though she has a guaranteed entry, developing a healthier relationship with exercise and overtraining and how that’s informed her perspective as a coach, embracing the suck and how she got good at it, and a lot more. (more…)
“There was definitely a time in my life where I had to tell myself, ‘It’s OK to be broken.’ That’s OK. The goal in life isn’t to be perfect—nobody’s perfect. There’s no one in history that we can point to that’s lived a perfect life. So, the reality is—and you said this so wonderfully when I was at UTMB and I was like, ‘I know this,’ when I was so disappointed in my performance, I was so down—and you said, ‘It isn’t about how you finish, it’s about how you respond to this journey and how you continue on.’ And I’m like, ‘I know this, I know this,’ and that is just a great reminder for everything in life because life, when it comes down to it, it’s the journey that’s the most fulfilling part.”
This week I sat down with one of my most requested guests: Sally McRae. The 40-year-old mom of two is a professional ultrarunner living in Southern California and—in the interest of full disclosure—I’ve been her coach for a little over two years now.
Earlier this year she won her first race on the Ultra Trail World Tour, the Mozart 100, and more recently she finished 23rd at the UTMB, her highest ever finish at that event, in what was one of the grittiest races I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness firsthand.
This is a long episode folks, coming in right at about 90 minutes, and it does not disappoint. So much to take away from this one about relationships, communication, competitiveness, learning to give yourself grace, recognizing our victories, remembering what’s important in life, and so much more. (more…)
“One of the really cool things about trail and ultrarunning in particular is people go so far into the unknown and I think that, as an element of humanity, doing something where there’s a legitimate chance that you’re going to utterly fail and get taken off by a helicopter—right, that’s going to happen tomorrow, people are going to get flown out by helicopters—the fact that there’s a sport that people can participate in that has these neat elements to it, I think it’s good for everybody. It’s obviously good for me because I’m in the sport, I’m in it professionally and I earn a living doing it, but I just think it’s good for society to have those things that can really test you, so I just hope that the sport continues to maintain its edge, attract new people, be viable, and be fun to come out and do these types of events.”
Really enjoyed sitting down with a coaching colleague of mine, Jason Koop, for this week’s episode of the podcast.
Koop is one of the most highly respected and successful coaches in ultrarunning. He’s the head ultrarunning coach for Carmichael Training Systems, a company he’s been working for since 2001. Koop ran collegiately at Texas A&M and he’s coached athletes of all ages and ability levels over the course of his career, including some notable ones such as Western States champion Kaci Lickteig, Dylan Bowman, Dakota Jones, Stephanie Howe, and others.
We caught up a couple weeks ago in Chamonix, France, where we were both supporting athletes during the UTMB festival of races, and a few days before he was about to set off for the Tor des Géants, a 330K trail race through Italy’s Aosta Valley. (Ed. note: Koop finished 27th overall in 97 hours and 6 minutes.)
We got into a lot of coaching nerdery in this one, including the path Koop has traveled to get where he is today, the importance of education, experience, and observation as it pertains to coaching, how his mentors and colleagues have made him a better coach, balancing volume and intensity in training, how he responds to criticisms of his employer and why he doesn’t just start his own coaching company, the growth of the competitive side of ultrarunning in recent years, and much more. (more…)
“The way I approach running, it’s totally a joyous pursuit for me—which doesn’t mean that every day is happy, but I do it because I love it and I feel good when I run, and the racing is just a fraction of it. I had run all summer training on the happiness principle, where if I’m training happy and not stressed and I’m enjoying it, then I’m training strong and I’ll be healthy. And so that was just a reminder to let it come from within and to tap into that deep pleasure I take in running that really has nothing to do with competition.”
Excited to welcome Katie Arnold to the podcast this week! The 47-year-old Arnold is one heck of an ultrarunner—she won the Leadville Trail 100 last year in 19 hours, 53 minutes and 40 seconds, which, incredibly, was her debut at the distance—and earlier this year she was second at the Ultra Race of Champions 100K. She’s won numerous other races throughout her career, and is hoping is to run the CCC—a 101K race that goes from Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France—as part of the weeklong UTMB festival of races in late August.
Arnold is also an incredible writer: She’s a contributing editor and former managing editor at Outside magazine, where she worked on staff for 12 years, and currently writes the Raising Rippers column about bringing up adventurous kids—of which she has two of her own—for that publication. Arnold has also written for the The New York Times, Men’s Journal, ESPN the Magazine, and numerous other publications. She recently wrote her first book, Running Home, a memoir about her relationship with her father, grief and resilience, adventure and obsession, and the power of running to change your life.
We covered a wide range of topics in this conversation: “smile” and “flow,” what those words mean to her, and why they’re important when she races; reverse goal-setting and how this strategy sets her up for success; balancing competitive running with the rest of her life; her “real life training plan” and how that helps prepare her for races; the importance of observation and paying attention to what’s going on around her in life; how death can wake us up to the powerful realization that everything is changing all the time; her new book, how it came to be, and what she hopes readers take away from it; and a lot more. (more…)
“As long as I’m true to myself then hopefully that benefits other people and ideally it’s a symbiotic relationship and it’s something I want to keep doing—and again, I’ve got to find ways to tweak it, it’s all about tweaking that and finding things that keep me fueled to push boundaries that are still left there for me to explore and then other times just be content. It’s a funky balance, for sure. It’s hard to not have that drive, have that competitive spirit, but at the same time it’s still there once in a while—and appreciating it and fueling it a little bit—but overwhelmingly there’s not going to be as much drive, and that’s OK.”
This week’s guest is Scott Jurek and he hardly needs an introduction, especially if you’re a fan of trail and ultrarunning, so I’m going to keep it as short as I possibly can: Jurek has won pretty much every major ultra race there is to win, including the Spartathalon, the Hardrock 100, the Badwater 135, and the Western States Endurance Run a record seven straight times. He also set the speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2015, completing it in a little over 46 days, and in 2010 he set a U.S. record for the 24-hour run, covering 165.7 miles. Both of those records have since been broken but Jurek’s overall running resume is one that isn’t likely to be matched anytime soon.
Jurek’s also a best-selling author—he’s written two books, Eat and Run and North, which chronicled his 2015 AT adventure—and he’s also a husband to his wife Jenny and a father of two young children, Raven and Evergreen.
We recorded this conversation a couple weeks back alongside a trail in in Boulder, Colorado, where he lives, and we covered all kinds of good stuff, from being back at Western States last month after 10 years away from the event, to how the sport of ultrarunning has evolved over the past several years, to using running as a way to give back to other people and organizations he cares about, making the sport accessible to more people and knocking down the barriers to entry, overtraining and the importance of rest, how long it took him to physically and emotionally recover from his Appalachian Trail FKT, and a lot more. (more…)
Self-care. In fact, it’s the good kind of grit. Don’t believe me? There’s research to prove it. “The kind of grit that comes with self-sacrifice and self-criticism actually leads to an inability to learn from one’s mistakes and to bounce back from trials,” Emma Seppälä PhD, write for Psychology Today. “It is linked to anxiety and depression and makes us feel beaten down when we mess up. However, there’s another kind of grit and mental toughness that will get you ahead over the long run–not to mention increase your happiness in the process. It’s the kind of grit that is linked to self-compassion.”
Check out the complete morning shakeout issue #191.
When last week’s newsletter arrived in your inbox, Michael Wardian was only halfway through what ended up being a pending Guinness World Record for running ten marathons in ten consecutive days. He covered 262 miles in 29 hours, 12 minutes, and 46 seconds, or 2:55:17 average, on about 20 total hours of sleep (that last fact alone makes me want to take a nap). Wardian ran the first seven on seven different continents as part of the World Marathon Challenge and completed the last three around a certified 5K loop at Hains Point near his home in Alexandria, Virginia, cheered on by local supporters. He covered the last three marathons in 2:50:00, 2:48:43, and 2:44:33, respectively, closing out the final mile under 6 minutes. Oh, and for shits and giggles, on the 11th day, Wardian did not rest. Why rest when you can race a 5K with your dog in 17:01? I’ll get the answer to this question—and many more—later today when I talk to Iron Mike for next week’s episode of the podcast. Stay tuned.
“There were days when I was just so exhausted and I didn’t even want to get up out of bed because I didn’t even see the point. There was so much time that I spent wishing that the accident would have killed me because it felt like it was easier than to have to face the pain and face the challenges of everyday life. But then I’d receive a message and some voice of encouragement, sometimes from a dear friend, sometimes from a complete stranger, and it just built this community that I felt that I had near and far and it again let me discover the strength that I had within me, whether or not it was still there. Trail running, I felt, I could experience it in a new way but talking with complete strangers or my friends supporting me, it also allowed me to dig deep and find that within me.”
It was a real treat to sit down with Hillary Allen for this week’s episode of the podcast. Every week on this show I try to glean as much insight and inspiration as possible from some of the top athletes, coaches, and personalities in the sport of running and this week’s guest has those two things in SPADES—and it really comes out in this conversation.
The 30-year-old Allen, a North Face-sponsored trail and ultra runner from Colorado, has made her biggest mark in sky running, which takes place in super gnarly, technical, high alpine environments. She was the U.S. Sky Running Ultra Champion in 2015, and has course records and podium finishes at races all over the world. The crazy thing is: she’s only been in the sport for a few years and rapidly ascended the ranks—quite literally—in a very short amount of time.
But there’s so much more to this special human. Allen has a Masters degree in neuroscience, she’s got a thing for bugs and grew up wanting to be an entomologist, she was a collegiate tennis player, she coaches other runners, and is just one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Allen also has an incredible story about survival—she fell 150 feet off the side of a mountain while racing in Norway a couple years ago—which we covered from a few different angles in this conversation, amongst a slew of other interesting topics, including using running and races as a way to explore places she’s never gone, the issue of burnout in ultrarunning, how she got her nickname, “Hillygoat,” the craziest wildlife encounters she’s had on the trails, running a 2:50 self-supported marathon to see if she could go faster than she did in her first, her love of science and the outdoors and how that’s impacted her life, and much, much more.
Postscript: Allen broke her ankle in late January, just a couple weeks after we recorded this conversation, an injury that required yet another surgery. “Things happen for a reason—if you chose to let them,” she wrote on her blog. “I’m reminded to take a deep breath, feel what I’m feeling and believe. BELIEVE. That this too, will create, reignite and provide an opportunity for growth.” (more…)