Q&A with Pro Trail Runner Clare Gallagher
Our newest Ambassador, Clare Gallagher, embodies two important values—a desire to preserve and protect the environment she runs in coupled with the physical and mental toughness that helps her take on some of the most difficult endurance races on the planet.
She’s a trail runner and ultramarathon runner who’s won prestigious races like the CCC (the Courmayeur Champex Chamonix, the 101k part of Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race series) as well as winning the Leadville 100-mile trail run where she clocked the 2nd fastest women’s time ever, completing it in 19 hours. She gives her very best, and inspires us to be at ours. We spent a morning with Clare and learned about her unique mindset and her expeditions and races around the world, which you can read about below.
What drove you to start running ultramarathons and trail runs?
In one word—stupidity (kidding). I started running ultras when I was teaching English in Thailand. I found myself needing something to do on weekends for like 6 hours. I did a big run out there with crazy poisonous snakes in The Golden Triangle (where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet).
I ran cross country and outdoor track in college, and, to be honest, that experience was very difficult for me. It left me needing a new relationship with running. Unlike traditional running, trail running rewards people who can expect the unexpected. Every trail run, every ultra, the longer you go, things can get seriously messed up. Bad weather, injury, bad trail conditions—you name it, it can happen. But the mind-numbing beauty makes up for it. Once you start, how can you not fall in love?
What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve faced in your career, and what got you through it?
To this day, one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced was a 10-month knee injury in college. My patella was injured to the point where I couldn’t run at all, and I was hurt in the middle of my career. It forced me to detach my happiness from being fast (I was also 19-20 at the time). Since then, every day that I’m healthy and able to run is a total gift, and it’s helped me understand my relationship to the environment much better.
What’s some advice you live by?
I’ve had a really amazing mentor here in Boulder, Ryan Smith. Every piece of advice he gives is along the lines of “It’s going to be super terrible and you’re going to want to die, but you’re going to keep on wanting to come back too.” I think that really summarizes it for me. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Could you describe a little bit about what earthraging is, and why it’s important to you?
Earthraging is enjoying the environment while also committing to protecting it. It can be as simple as going on a walk to an urban park and not littering. Every sport that gets you super psyched to be outdoors is a part of earthraging, be it surfing, fly fishing, or mountain biking. Basically, leave the outdoors better than when you found it.
I try to make sure that I’m getting outside constantly, exploring and connecting to outdoor environments. Recharging your sense of place is important so you can care enough to protect it. Sometimes you forget when you spend all day in a cubicle.
What’s your big goal right now, what are you working toward?
I’m planning on racing in Livigno, Italy in June, and I’m also hoping to qualify for The UTMB, though I still need a few more points for that. I’m also super psyched in September to be supporting wilderness areas in Colorado by doing what I hope will be a 250-mile fastpack, with a big push of 100 miles each day. The goal is to draw attention to the area and focus efforts to preserve it.
Is there anything about yourself that you think people would be surprised to learn?
I enjoy being quiet and alone and reading. Even though I seem like I’m super high energy, I really do revel in having a little bit of quiet time.
If you don’t mind sharing, what’s your favorite place in the world to run?
Wherever I’m at? But, if you pressured me, I’d have to say that my favorite place is the backside of Buffalo Mountain in Silverthorne, CO. It’s great. You have skiing in the winter, phenomenal running in the summer. There’s wildflowers, mountain goats, it’s at 11,000 feet, and it’s 90 minutes from Denver and you feel like you’re on Jupiter. It’s a proper wilderness area, and it’s what keeps me alive.