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“You have to really want it” – Pam Reed on ultramarathon success

When you’ve run over a hundred 100-mile races, new challenges are hard to find. Ultramarathon legend Pam Reed found her next test at the 2018 Ultra Tour Monte Rosa. She shares her advice on pushing the distance.

Q&A with ultramarathon legend Pam Reed 


Pam Reed was the first female overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon –“the world’s toughest foot race”. She is the women’s record holder for the 24-hour track run and once ran 300 miles without sleep. Now 57, Pam is still pushing the limit. Known for extreme road running, she’ll pit herself against alpine trails at the 2018 170km Ultra Tour Monte Rosa(UTMR). So what does it take to push the limits of ultra-endurance? We spoke to Pam before the race to find out.


Pam, you’re a resident of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, US – a trail runner’s paradise. What’s it like to live and train here?

We’ve had a home in Jackson Hole for 25 years and moved her fully 11 years ago. It's really helped my running because you can tackle a lot more when you’re altitude trained. I can go out the door and up a mountain, so I get a lot of hill training. That’s important for taking on something like the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (UTMR) as your quads have got to be prepared to go up- and downhill for thousands and thousands of feet. I can do that. I can run anything here. I can run flat hills, it can be hot, it can be cold. It's a great place to live and train.


How did you first hear about the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa?

I first heard about the UTMR from a friend of mine here in Jackson. Lately I decided I wanted to try different things. I've done many hundred mile runs and I wanted to try something outside my comfort zone, so I decided to go for it.

How do you expect the UTMR to compare some of your many previous challenges? 

I think the UTMR will be comparable to the Hardrock 100 race here in the US, which I did a couple of years ago. It's supposed to be the hardest 100 miler here. I've also done some sled-pulling races which have taken me over 60 hours. I'm hoping the experience from those two events will help me finish UTMR. And the Swiss Alps are so beautiful. I've done the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) and it's not like anything in the United States. It's just so amazing, with the high peaks and beautiful scenery.


What does a typical training day look like for you in lead up to the race? 

I don't really call it training. I love running – it’s just part of who I am. I'm really lucky because of my lifestyle. I get to run two to three times a day. I swim and I do hot yoga every day. So typically for three to five hours every day I am doing something, so I don't necessarily train for a special event, it's just my lifestyle. 


Where does your mind go during a long race? What do you tend to think about? 

I've been really working on the mental aspects of ultrarunning. I’ve done over a hundred 100-milers now, but a couple years ago my mind would get negative. In one event all I could think about was how hard it was. I started asking myself ‘why am I doing this?’ I left that race and said, "you know what, if I'm going to do these things, I'm going to have fun.” I try to focus on the positives and how lucky I am that I'm able do this when a lot of people aren’t physically able to run.

What are your tips and tricks for those that are preparing to take on an ultra for the first time?


The number one requirement for doing an ultra is that you have to want it. You have to really want it.



In my opinion that’s way more important than if your body is actually ready to do it. Running a distance like 100 miles is so mentally challenging. You become distraught, tired, achy. But if you really want it, you can move past that and get through the pain.

You also need to study the different equipment needed. You have to figure out what works for you. Soft water bottle or hard water bottle, for example. Then what’s going in the bottle? And what food will you take with you? Luckily there’s now lots of information online that you can use to start experimenting.


How does the sensation of trail running differ from running on the road?

I'm known for road running because I was the overall winner of the Badwater 135 – a 135-mile road run from the lowest point in the US in Death Valley to halfway up Mount Whitney – the highest point in the US. Running on a road is kind of easy to me. I like the simplicity of the road because you don't have to look down.

Trail running is a whole different story. You’re going over rocks and climbing over things, watching not to fall and trip. So road running is maybe easier, but trail running is really beautiful and you get to reach places that others don’t. That's why I'm excited about UTMR – we're going to be in some of the most beautiful trails that you can’t reach by car.


How has running shaped your life?

Running to me is everything. I've suffered with depression and it's really helped put me in a better mood and to calm me down. When my kids were young, I would take them running in a stroller and it was really nice to interact with them like that. I love being outside in all kinds of weather. Sometimes when it's raining you don't want to get out, but if you do it feels so good. In the heat it feels good too. For me, running is like brushing my teeth. I do it every single day – it’s just who I am.

On is title sponsor of the 2018 Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (UTMR), taking place 5–8 September. Said to be one of the most beautiful ultramarathons in the world, the trail winds through the Swiss and Italian Alps, encircling one of the biggest mountain massifs in Europe. With three race options: The four-day stage race, the 100km Ultra 3Passes or the full 170km Ultra Tour - the UTMR has something to offer every experienced trail runner.

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