Written by Susan Kendrick. Susan is the American Trail Running Association (ATRA) board vice president, a Wisconsin trail runner and the Director of Brand Relationships for UltraSignup. Athlete comments derived from audio recording transcripts. Photo Above: Jamil Coury/Salomon.
Top takeaways from 5 amazing trail runners – Check out their books, blogs, podcasts, inspiration, and support for you as a trail runner and a whole person.
What do you have in common with a trail running superstar? How about five of them? As it turns out, a lot. If you didn’t make it to the 2021 Broken Arrow Skyrace on October 1-3, you can still soak in some wisdom from the “Women’s Panel” on Saturday. These elite runners love to cook, camp, bake, sing, eat Sour Patch Kids by the fistful and, oh yeah, take it to the top as world-class trail runners.
Job number one? Bring other women along. Encourage you in your pursuit of the freedom and joy of being a trail runner.
Women know we all have so much in common, and it doesn’t stop just because someone is faster to the top of a mountain than the rest of us. This conversation, like trail running, includes all of us. It is about freedom, fun, and oh, so much more.
This celebration of women in our sport was moderated by Courtney Dauwalter, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) champion and course record holder and all around smiling badass-next-door. She was on site all weekend, not running this time, but supporting and cheering on other runners and leading a couple of sessions like this one. She covered a great set of questions that each woman answered in turn.
Below is a sampling of thoughts from Hillary Allen, Alysia Montaño, Bailey Kowalczyk, and Corrine Malcolm. Courtney noted that this panel of women is incredible in their life experiences and off-the-charts backgrounds as whole people who besides being champion runners are also authors, coaches, scientists, activists, mothers, and podcasters.
This women’s panel was part of the Broken Arrow Skyrace festival was held outside in front of a crowd of trail runners soaking up the sun. Pull up your own chair for a slice of the experience.
QUESTION from Courtney Dauwalter: “Do you have any tips on how to avoid overtraining or getting burned out, and what wisdom could you have dropped on your younger self that would have stopped it from happening?”
Hillary Allen – “Hillygoat” – Mountain ultrarunner, author of Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds, co-host of “Trail Society” Podcast
The one thing I wish that someone would have told me is that you’re stronger than you think you are. I had to find this out the hard way, as I normally do. I always learn the hard way. But everyone, every person, is so incredibly resilient. I think trail running is an example of that opportunity to push yourself. A climb might seem like it’s never going to end, but you put one foot in front of the other. You’re incredibly resilient.
My body healed from an accident that should have killed me, and I’m here today in these races. It’s something that brings tears to my eyes every time I say it. That’s what I hope that I can tell you, that you’re stronger than you think you are, and if you’re going through a hard time or an injury, or just anything in general, you have the strength within yourself to do it. What you tell yourself is so important. Recognize that hardships are an opportunity to push past and push through and to learn even more about ourselves. I would like to build community specifically around injury and recovery, the whole idea of resilience.
Alysia Montaño – Professional runner, Olympic athlete , author of Feel-Good Fitness: Fun Workout Challenges to Inspire Your Fitness Streak
You are the captain of your ship, and your happiness lies within yourself. For me, this is part of being a woman athlete. I exist, regardless of who everybody else thinks I am. It’s about having that ownership of self and redirecting how you pursue the rest of your pursuits and sports.
I feel like the running world is very open and very welcoming, but it’s still really easy to be on Strava and to see what other athletes are doing and feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re not fast enough. I joke pretty openly that I think that I’m the slowest professional runner on Strava. Maybe that’s just me being self-critical, but I think it’s about recognizing that there isn’t this ideal pace or this ideal training volume, that it’s super individual. There’s no reason to compare yourself to anyone else that you’re competing with or that you’re running with in your community, or even a past version of yourself. You really just need to take what your body is giving you and understand that there’s no one way to run your personal fastest 50K or your personal fastest trail race, whatever it might be.
Bailey Kowalczyk – Professional athlete and coach
I grew up in the track world and idolizing Alysia. I ran track in high school and part of college and ended up burning out a little bit, a very classic story, sadly. But I’m kind of glad because it brought me to trails quicker. In 2019, I fell headfirst in love with trail running in Boulder. It’s really easy to do in Boulder, and I love it so much. With COVID, this is my first full season racing and it’s been so exciting. The community is amazing. It’s really different than track and roads. I love the vibe, and it’s been super fun.
Something I wish I had known is that fueling is your friend. It’s so important. I learned the hard way too many times. And I think that that’s been something that’s been pivotal in developing as an athlete. I think that it’s not intuitive to fuel while you’re exercising. It seems really weird, especially coming from the track world. We are not told that we’re supposed to eat while we’re running. But the minute I started doing longer races, my recovery was better, and my performances were better. I just feel better overall. Fueling will mean a lot to my longevity and just a better career and a better me.
Corrine Malcolm – Endurance coach for CTS, professional runner, co-host of “Trail Society” Podcast
You’re a whole human. If you miss a run and it stresses you out, that’s probably a bad sign. I felt like I was a bad person to my friends and to my partner If I missed a workout. That should have been a clear indicator that like my obsession with exercise was a little bit too extreme. So, I don’t want any of you to be over trained to have to go through that process of evaluating your relationship with the sport. I think COVID did that for a lot of us. Racing got canceled, and so we had to reevaluate our relationship with, “why do we run?” Is it to compete? Is it to move our bodies? It was a really good year for many of us.
I had good role models in the sport. I got very fortunate in that sense. But the coaching staff that I was working with didn’t have open communication. Having open communication with a coach or someone about how you’re feeling–maybe a psychologist or psychiatrist–having that person that you can communicate with and that you can trust and listen to is so important. It would have saved me, and it might save you, too. Have someone that you can bounce this stuff off of.
QUESTION from Courtney Dauwalter: “On the future of trail running, how do you hope to impact the sport.”
Again, the same spirit of encouragement and rocking the trail running world as women and whole people flowed. Here are a few highlights based on answers from Hillary, Alysia, Bailey, and Corrine:
- Be a role model for other women trail runners
- Support women supporting women
- Help make inclusive policies
- Mentor and inspire young girls to get into the sport
- Lead by example in our personal communities
- Volunteer and sit on more boards to help grow the future of our sport
- Be a force that leads our larger society
- Be a fully active participant in our sport, not just a passenger—we each have something to offer
- Keep getting this whole idea out there of we’re stronger together
Connect with each of these women to check out their unique voice in our community.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/courtneydauwalter/
Website – https://hillaryallen.com/about/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hillygoat_climbs/
Book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Out-Back-Hillary-Allen-ebook/dp/B08VVWSS94/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/alysiamontano/
Book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Feel-Good-Fitness-Workout-Challenges-Inspire/dp/1948007037/
[Editor’s Note: The next Broken Arrow Skyrace takes place June 17-19, 2022 in Olympic Valley, California. Registration opens December 6, 2021.]