Ultramarathon Champion Credits Successful Training to Rigors of Being a Parent

Arnold kept a sub-12 minute pace and finished the 100 mile race in under 20 hours

Leadville Trail 100
A Leadville Trail 100 winner used her daily life as a mom to train for the race. (Getty)
Getty Images

We’d imagine that just about the last thing most elite athletes would want to add to their intense training regiments is the pressure of dealing with kids who require all of your attention. For those who do, it must take incredible discipline and next-level organization skills — right?


“Mention to people you’re training for a 50- or 60-mile ultramarathon and the list of questions they’ll ask will be nearly as long as the race itself,” last year’s Leadville Trail 100 winner on the women’s side, Katie Arnold, wrote in The New York Times. “They assume that you have to be hyper-organized and methodical to juggle long-distance running, work and family life. I’m here to tell you that this is a fallacy. I don’t do it all, not even close.”

The Leadville Trail 100 is an ultramarathon that goes on and on — you guessed it — for 100 miles. Arnold, a “mid-40s” mother of two young girls, was able to keep up a sub-12 minute pace throughout the race and finished it in just under 20 hours. And she was able to do it with a metal plate in her knee and without really paying too much attention to the details of her training routine.

“I don’t keep spreadsheets or a digital calendar; I don’t tabulate my weekly miles,” she wrote in the Times. “Important forms frequently go missing, wadded up at the bottom of the ratty backpack I carry everywhere. I forget a lot of stuff. I’m always late.”

But she was able to turn her life into what she dubbed, the “custom-made just for me” plan to finish the mammoth race. The undertaking of parenthood, she said, helped her to be creative in her training because she already knew what mom’s and dad’s learn: how to “steal time from the edges of your day, teach yourself to eat on the fly, learn to function on suboptimal sleep, and keep going even when you want to lie down and cry.”

“Everything counted,” towards the “unconventional” way Arnold was preparing her body to race 100 miles. She considered walks with her daughters to school, coaching their lacrosse team and taking the family dog out all as different means of training; her “secret to endurance” was simply “staying in motion.”

Arnold said that she made “suffering my friend,” and mentally trained herself for the grueling Leadville by running in the middle of the day when it was hottest, in the early mornings and late evenings when she wished she was sleeping and on the low energy supply of a “piece of pizza and a few bites of my daughter’s ice cream cone.”

In true Super Mom form, she turned a day when she needed to get 30 miles in into two parts because one of her daughters was having a class party.

“I decided to run 18, swing by the barbecue for a quick lunch, then head out for another 12,” she wrote. “When I arrived at school, I was sweaty and my ankles were caked in dirt, but there was meat on the grill and a cooler filled with Gatorade. My very own aid station! I wolfed down a burger and a brownie, refilled my bottle, kissed Maisy goodbye and kept running.”

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