Clare Gallagher is an ultra runner who lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado. Clare ran track for Princeton University before converting to endurance races. She recently won the prestigious Leadville 100 mile trail race. Clare shares how she got involved in Ultras and how she trains for them!
- We Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
No successful ultra runner can afford to be OCD or anal-retentive when training and racing. If I got mad at every fly that annoyed me on a 3-hour training run, or if I yelled at every car that’s buzzed me, or scowled at every off-leash dog that’s almost tripped me, I would be in a mental home.
There is not enough energy in the universe to sweat this small stuff, which includes falls and scrapped extremities. It’s inevitable. Accept blood, accept crap, accept everything. An ultra is about dealing with annoying and uncomfortable issues. We are pros at ignoring minutiae.
- We Can ALWAYS Eat
Every successful ultrarunner is a skilled consumer of calories, whether it’s a pleasant experience or not. Most of the time, eating is far from pleasant. But we are good at swallowing when we don’t want to. Often during a training run or race, eating a Snickers or gel is the last thing I want to do. But, if I want to finish the run, I know that’s it’s absolutely imperative.
The amount of times I’ve shoved food down my trap, with tears trickling out of my eyes, trying with all of my might to swallow even though I have no aiding saliva left, are innumerable. We are successful because we eat when we don’t want to.
- We Train Creatively
Successful ultrarunners train innovatively. Having the mentality that we must stick to a 6-month training plan, day-to-day, is a recipe for disaster. We are able to train on the fly. My best training is when I make a week plan on a Sunday, change it again on a Tuesday and then by the time Friday rolls around, I’ve planned my weekend based on which friends I want to run with in the mountains. It’s organic. But, full disclosure, some ultrarunners would disagree with me on this one (many think rigorous training plans are keys to success).
Yet, I believe that if want to thrive in the sport long-term, being flexible and creative with training is imperative. Doing 4-hour training runs every weekend in the same neighborhoods or same mountains will lead to burnout. To be successful, we have the balls to skip a workout in lieu of running easy with friends. Alternatively, we have the balls to do workouts back-to-back because a friend asks for company. If our bodies are primed to deal with surprises, we’re destined for success.
- We Can Suffer
Past a certain threshold of fitness, ultraunning is a mental sport. It’s about our ability to endure suffering. About our mental capacity to go to another place, to muster through soreness and banality, through chaffing and nausea, through fear and thoughts of giving up, through bloody palms and empty water flasks.
To be successful, we are comfortable with being uncomfortable. We are also good at making fun of ourselves and good at sandbagging. We are low-key about our ability to suffer. No successful utlrarunner tries to show off. It’d be a waste of energy.
- We Exude Positivity
There is no time in the day to be negative. We don’t care if we’ve been releasing gallons of liquid out of our bowels during a 50k; there is always a silver lining. We may be sobbing and swearing, but deep down, our core is an orb of glowing positivity. We learn to smile when everything feels like death.
There’s no point in ultrarunning if we can’t find something positive out of complete despair. After all, ultrarunning is a privilege and we never forget that.