Please welcome the ninth of our 2017 American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassadors presented by CamelBak. We’re proud to introduce you to Carol Tatom, a trail runner who builds community by sharing her passion for the sport with others. She offers advice, encouragement and support which extends well beyond her training partners. This busy 40-year-old mom of four is also the co-founder of Endurance Beast, a company whose line of products is specifically geared to the trail and ultra trail runner.
Tatom did aerobics, but never participated in organized sports until she started running after the birth of her fourth child seven years ago. “I’ve always loved fitness and nutrition, but never actually competed until my adult years,” said Tatom. “I started running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, but felt it was too easy. I really wanted to see what I could do, so I trained for a marathon. I did that and I wanted to do more. I got interested in ultra running. I got a coach.”
Tatom ran her first 100-mile race at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in 2015. She considers that effort as a life-changing event. “It was a celebration of six months’ worth of training. Those last few miles, I was crying happy tears. I had wondered if I could do it and I was able to overcome every obstacle in my way. When I crossed that finish line, I was euphoric. I couldn’t wait to do it again.”
And so she did. Later that same year, she completed the Pumpkin Holler Hundred. “I’m so hooked,” said Tatom. “I just love ultra running, it’s a beast in itself, plus, I’m stubborn and too dumb to know when to stop, so I just keep going.”
With four children ages seven to 16, the youngest with special needs, her time running hundred milers is a welcome break. “It’s a 30-hour vacation for me,” said Tatom, a stay-at-home Mom, who volunteers at her children’s school, and works in the business she co-founded with her husband David in 2015.
Endurance Beast went public in 2016. The company has created a line of natural products for runners including Chafing Shield, Stink Beater, and Laundry Wash. “I try to sponsor as many events as I can and will often box up samples for runners in races all over the United States hoping to spread my love of trail running to as many people as I can,” says Tatom.
Sharing the joy of trail running with others is paramount to Tatom. “A lot of people say that running is lonely. I feel that it is a team sport – not in terms of passing a baton, but we’re all a team working together to get to the finish line.”
Tatom, who trains about 50 miles a week – and between 55-60 miles a week before her big races, shares her experiences with other moms about juggling training as well as family life. “I can only get up so early and I can only stay up so late,” says Tatom, who encourages people to create a positive balance in their home life as well.
People like Wendy Henley, who writes in her nomination letter, “Carol is an absolute gem and the reason I jumped into Ultra running when I did. I had already done a marathon and was training for my next one when she convinced me that I had what it took to do a 50k. She was so encouraging to me as a mom, that if she could do it with four kids at home, I could do it with just two.
“She trained with me every weekend driving an hour one way to ensure I felt comfortable making the jump on trails. I was able to finish with a huge smile on my face because of Carol’s encouragement and dedication to see me succeed.”
Writes Liz Baker, who has been running with Tatom for over a year, “Carol has been helping me prepare for my first 100 miler. She has been running with me as early as 4 a.m., and also has taken the time to run a few all-nighters with me. With four children, Carol has still found the time to work with me on my running and preparing me mentally for what I will go through in my 100 miler.”
Tatom offers suggestions for others getting into the sport. “I would say to reach out to a local running group (Tatom, who lives in Plano, Texas, has run with the Dallas Dirt Runners since 2014), or someone who has done ultras before and train with them. It helps to hear other people’s experiences and stories. Had I tried to do it on my own without talking to anyone, I don’t think I’d be as successful.
“I love that excitement and energy associated with a 100 miler,” says Tatom. “It is such a special sport. One of my favorite things is to look toward the back (at the start of a race), and see the ones who are nervous or doing their first race. I go up to talk to them and often I hang with a newbie to help them focus on having fun. I want them to have such an amazing experience so they come back and do it again.”
Tatom is gearing up for her next race, the Pumpkin Holler 100k in October. She also has a bucket list event in the Zumbro 100. “I saw that this race has such a high drop rate. The weather, terrain, everything would be a challenge and I love a good challenge,” said Tatom. “I want that owl, I want that buckle.”
You can meet Tatom and also learn more about Endurance Beast at the US Trail Running Conference next month. Tatom will be one of the vendors on Saturday, October 13.