A Questionnaire with the Runner Who Just Claimed Second at Western States

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Magda Boulet lives it up

Last weekend, Magda Boulet (43) crossed the finish line of America’s oldest 100-mile race in 19 hours, 49 minutes and 15 seconds—not far behind Cat Bradley, who claimed first less than 20 minutes ahead of her. Last year, Magda got a DNF, but in 2015, she took women’s first.

Knocking off 100 miles of some of the country’s most rugged terrain, where average high temperatures push 90 degrees and portions of the California trail’s higher elevations often still have snow, is no easy feat. Finish in under 30 hours and you receive a bronze belt buckle. Finish in less than 24 and you receive a silver one. But finish in under 20 and you’re one of the greatest ultrarunners in the world.

Magda is just that. In addition to her Western States prowess, she’s placed first in iconic road races like the San Francisco and Pittsburgh Marathons. The Oakland-based runner competed in the 2008 Olympics (but dropped out halfway through when an old knee injury flared up). Last year, she came in fifth at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, whose 30,000 feet of ascent make it one of Europe’s most difficult races. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more persistent and respected ultrarunner—male or female—out there today.

We caught up with Magda to learn more about her running habits and her performance at this year’s Western States.

What draws you to ultra distances? The challenge of the distance itself: testing my mind and body during the most difficult situations—and the amazing people I get to meet along the way.

One weird running habit you have that most people don’t know about. When I’m running side by side with someone, I tend to slowly invade their space, and eventually either run them off the road or bump into them.

What attracted you to Western States? The incredible history of the event, and the fact that it is such a difficult challenge to complete.

What was the hardest part of the race? El Dorado Canyon was the hardest part for me. It was so hot at that point, and my quads were a little shot from the early miles in the snow and mud.

What was the best part? When I picked up my pacer Fernando and we started off together with a big smile on my face.

How many hours do you train a week? 15 hours per week.

Any cross-training? I meet with trainer Mark Jellison. He puts me through some very dynamic kettlebell exercises and helps not only make me a stronger athlete but a healthier one.

What do you eat before you race? I keep my pre-race meal two hours before the start of the race. It is always high in easily digestible carbohydrates, moderate in fat and very low in fiber. This year, that meant 2 GU Gingerade Stroopwafels with a little almond butter and a cup of tea.

Favorite recovery meal?  I always start with a recovery drink immediately post race to kick start the rebuilding process: two servings of a chocolate recovery smoothie, which means a combination of protein, essential amino acids and carbohydrates. Then, an hour later I’m ready for a wholesome meal.  This year, my husband made me multiple rounds of sourdough toast with avocado and a hard boiled egg. It was two in the morning

What running means to you in less than 10 words. Running is freedom, exploration and meditation.

Who inspires you? My son, Owen. He makes me want to be the best person that I can possibly be every day.

Words to live by.  Live it up.

[Photos courtesy of HOKA ONE ONE]

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