FC: Running a race like Leadville is, I assume, a mix of incredible physical stamina and mental toughness. Was there anything — a mantra, a phrase, a song lyric — that you internalized to help you push it out when things got tough?
CG: “B.A.G.” — Stands for Be A Gallagher (a favorite of mine that was born during my first ultra in Northern Thailand in 2014)
“The fear of suffering is worse than fear itself.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I also thought about climate change and human rights issues, especially the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar right now. Thinking about people suffering infinitely worse than a silly race puts my temporary pain into perspective.
FC: Do you look to any particular athletes (or even non-athletes), as role models, whether in terms of their achievements, their outlook, etc?
CG: Paul Farmer, the focus of the bestseller “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” His humanitarian work as a doctor in Haiti and elsewhere makes him a true modern day martyr. I like looking up to people with practically unattainable standards of achievement.
I like looking up to people with practically unattainable standards of achievement.
–Rory Bosio, TNF ultrarunner. She’s the baddest ultrarunner out there (two-time UTMB winner and CR holder). She trains without a watch like a boss. She’s a pediatric intensive-care nurse. She’s also unabashedly ridiculous and hilarious, never taking herself too seriously. I’ve looked up to her for years!
FC: What’s your weekly mileage like?
CG: Really depends on the week. If I’m skiing three-times that week and am healthy, it would cap out at 70 miles. If it’s summer and I’m rocking and rolling, during peak milage, I’d cap at 90–100 miles. If I sprain my ankle, have a down week or am doing an excessive amount of skiing and/or resting, it could be as low as 30 miles, still in an actual training block.
FC: Do you listen to music or podcasts while you run?
CG: I used to stray from them entirely after repeatedly spraining my ankle too much. During the winter, however, when I’m running more on roads than rooted trails, I’ll choose a podcast like The Diane Rehm Show or NYTimes Modern Love column (LOVE it).
FC: Any tips for those looking to make the transition from “regular” distances to ultras?
Don’t switch entirely to technical trails. So many ultras are now seen synonymously with “technical trail running.” That is a great way to get slow. Mix your training with trail and road (if you road run to begin with) and practice eating and hydrating on the run.
Mix your training with trail and road (if you road run to begin with) and practice eating and hydrating on the run.
I think eating is the hardest difference between shorter distances and ultras.
FC: Most interviews describe you as very determined, yet also visibly light-spirited and optimistic. Do you feel that that mix (of “grit and grins”) is what has propelled you to success?
CG: Thanks for that! I refuse to take running too seriously when at the end of the day, I know it’s an astronomical privilege to be able to spend as much time as I do training, racing and traveling for events related to running. So if can’t be optimistic and positive, then I need to check myself! I think my grit is both practiced and innate, and I prefer to let that part of myself speak for itself when I toe the line. Really for most ultrarunners’ success, I think grit and grins is surely part of the recipe. 🙂