In this series of articles, the American Trail Running Association recognizes and celebrates trail runners like Flo Zurkinden who have dedicated themselves as everyday athletes to grow trail running in their community. “View from the Pack” is supported by ATRA corporate member RaidLight.
Nominator Adam Isovitsch writes, “Flo Zurkinden constantly strives to help others through her nutrition, exercise and mindset coaching and also has her own rigorous training schedule as an ultrarunner. She is the first female athlete ambassador for the Stay the Course Foundation, an organization dedicated to the continuing education of veterans when they return from their deployments. She will be sponsored by Stay the Course at Cloud City, a 6-day, high altitude stage race in Leadville, Colorado. This is the first event chosen by the foundation for its new ambassador to raise awareness for veterans.”
Flo is an active member in her local running community, promoting health and wellness wherever she goes. She also has her own local radio show in the Easton area to continually strive for a healthier community. Last and most importantly, she raises her two beautiful children, Adrien, 13 and Jasmine, 11, constantly instilling her kindness and never quit attitude so they can be the best at whatever adventures they choose.
An interview with Flo Zurkinden by Nancy Hobbs
Hometown: Fribourg, Switzerland, but now residing in Easton, PA
Years running: 4
Miles run per week: 50-60 miles per week
Approximate number of trail races run each year: 2 to 3
Longest trail race completed: 250 miles at Infinitus 888K
What got you into trail running?
I ran roads competitively for five years, and started to feel burned out. I was introduced to trail running by some friends in my community, gave it a try, and never looked back.
What motivates you to keep running?
There are so many beautiful trails to discover, people to meet and stories to hear. Trail running is the gift that keeps on giving.
Have you witnessed any differences between trail running and road running?
There are definitely differences. Running on trails can be more demanding than road running, especially if the terrain is technical with rocks and roots, but there’s no greater feeling to be one with nature, whereas road running will allow you to get a faster turnover especially on flat or moderately hilly roads. Road running can become dangerous with more people texting and driving or not paying attention to runners. The harder surface on roads is often hard on the body too, whereas trail running offers softer surfaces. For me personally, trail running has given me a new sense of, “slowing down and smelling the flowers” …literally!
Trail running is a sport where you can line up at the start with some of the best trail runners in the world. Does this intimidate you, foster a sense of inclusion, or fall somewhere in between?
I am definitely inspired by other runners, and the culture is very inclusive.
What is your opinion of the camaraderie you’ve witnessed in trail racing?
The trail running community is one incredibly supportive one! I’ve often found myself racing and talking to strangers or sharing support and encouragement along the way.
What advice would you give to a fellow runner who may be hesitant about entering a trail race?
I’d probably ask them what they are hesitant about before offering any advice. Trail running can be intimidating, many races are longer and slower than the typical road race, and there is more potential to get lost. I’d probably recommend a shorter distance to begin with and offer to tag along, or crew/pace them for support!
People often reward themselves after a hard trail race. What is your post-race indulgence?
Bread, cheese and a glass of wine! You can take the girl out of Switzerland but you can’t take Switzerland out of the girl.
Do you have a favorite motivational trail race story to share?
Running is a very mental sport. Sometimes it is intimidating to sign up for a long distance race. In the beginning I’d sometimes ask myself, “Can I do this?’ Trail running offers the opportunity to test yourself, learn and grow, and to really get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. A great way to feel inspired to stay the course during training – I have a really busy life, run two businesses and have two kids – is to run for a charity or a cause.
During my longest race to date, Infinitus 888K, I chose to run each day for children with rare diseases. This race lasted 10 days, so every day I would run for a different child. During the race I started feeling really sick. It slowed me down, I often had low energy and terrible stomach upsets. At one point I even threw up blood without knowing it, because it was digested and looked like coffee grounds.
Long story short, I had a really difficult time but I kept thinking… this is nothing compared to what these kids have to go through. I did take two out of the ten days to rest, but there was no quit in me. When you find yourself wanting to throw the towel, think how fortunate you are to be able to be out there and find a way to get it done.