By Rachael Huether
For many, the mere thought of running causes cringing. Not for Anna Shadbolt, who has been running competitively for a large portion of her life, including track and cross country through high school. “I’ve liked running since I was a kid. I really liked being active and outside and that’s definitely carried into my adulthood,” Shadbolt stated. She also ran through college sporadically, and competed in her first half marathon in 2014. After no training, though, she found herself unable to walk the next day.
“About two years ago, I started to run 1.5 miles out, stop, and then run home. This was a reminder that I really loved it,” Anna said. With her re-discovered love of running, she set a goal in 2018 to run 1,000 miles in the year. “I came out around 950 (miles), and it’s kind of snowballed from there.” Really snowballed. Shadbolt has set her sights to Ultra Marathons, which are any distance over that of a marathon (26.2 miles). They start at 50K, or 31.1 miles, and can go on for hundreds of miles over several days. These intense marathons are also usually in rugged terrain, at high elevations, in extreme temperatures, and/or difficult trails with steep inclines.
Recently, Shadbolt completed a 15 hour race, coming out of it running 50 miles, and is on track to compete in a 100K marathon in April. “Ultras also take a certain amount of preparation and support. Races will supply aid stations, but having a crew (mine is my parents, and a couple really good friends) to be there with different clothes, medical kit, food, and support is pretty important.”
Preparation includes a training regimen, along with upping caloric intake and getting plenty of rest to allow your body to recover. Most training plans are 12 weeks, and Shadbolt likes to mix speed workouts, body weight exercises, weights, and “active rest” days (such as bike rides and long walks) in an average training week. “At the peak of my training, I’ll be doing around 60 miles/week, that feels good for me. And I’ll build up to that; as I’m writing this my week is 56 miles,” she added.
These long distance runs allow for hours of alone time, time that Anna uses to think, listen to music and podcasts, and even make phone calls to family and friends. “I’ve had some of my biggest life realizations on runs, but I also think about my Instagram captions, so it varies a lot.” During races, Shadbolt uses this thinking time to strategize her route, mileage, pace, and what she will eat when she is done. “I’ve also found that during races I think about when I’m going to see my parents and friends next a lot. I also will sing and talk out loud a lot, which along with laughing out loud probably makes me look even more insane.”
Shadbolt grew up eating healthy, and tries to eat whole foods and minimize the amount of processed foods she eats. Having a nutritionist as a mom helped instill these healthy eating habits in her life growing up. “What I eat before and after races is kind of boring. Before I get up really early (4 a.m.) and start eating something like a banana peanut butter sandwich, hard boiled egg, pickle, half an avocado, or I make these really awesome muffins and I’ll have one of those. After is also pretty mellow, a big chicken salad and a lot of liquids. I don’t get really hungry until the next day and then I usually crave a hamburger or red meat and vegetables.”
Along with training your body, a fair amount of mental preparation comes into play in marathon running, especially at these distances. “It’s important to be ready for whatever, so if something goes “wrong” during training I look at it as an opportunity, not a mistake. Like the other day my headlamp light started dying on a night trail run, instead of panicking I slowed down, found some other runners and got down safe. Situations like that prepare you for when things don’t go as planned in a race and in real life too. Luck is when an opportunity presents itself and you’re ready for it. Trusting in yourself and everything you’ve done to get to that point is important. Over-thinking it or worrying doesn’t really do much good.”
Every runner has bad days, when it seems everything is working against you. “What I find the most rewarding is when I don’t want to go on a run, or the whole run is hard and things aren’t clicking or the weather is really bad, but getting through it and finishing your workout is really the goal and getting it done with your best effort is a really good feeling.”
Shadbolt has a schedule for the upcoming year including the Stories 15 Hour Ultra she competed in on February 9. Coming up, she has the Zion 100k on April 12, Yosemite Half on May 1, Glacier Half on June 22, Aspen Valley Marathon on July 13, Chicago Marathon on October 1, and will finish off her year with the Sawmill Ultra 50k Dec 14. “The ultra field is new to me so as far as those races go I want to learn as much as I can and just run solid, fun races this year. The half marathons I do will be for fun and practicing in the race atmosphere. I did Aspen Valley last summer and have some beef with that race because I didn’t preform like I wanted, so I’m going back for vengeance I suppose. I would also like to qualify for Boston at that race, which means I need to run it in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Last year I did it in 4 hours and 7 minutes; this is also the race I CRASHED at. [I] went from 7:30 minute miles to 11:30 minute miles around mile 15.”
The Chicago Marathon in October will be Anna’s first “big race”, and is a charity bid. This means she doesn’t have to qualify for the race, and she was able to choose a charity to raise $1,500 for, a dog rescue a friend of hers volunteers at. “There are also some big ultras that I would eventually like to do but haven’t set a solid goal about them yet. I really hope running is a lifelong thing for me, that’s overall the biggest goal. If racing ever becomes not fun I’ll stop, running is hard and there are hard days, but I don’t ever want it to become a chore or to consume me. Skiing, hiking, cooking, baking, reading, these are all things I really love to do as well, anything that gets me outside or that I can be fully engulfed in is appealing to me.”
Anna also stresses the importance of finding something to do that you love. “Even if it’s not running, just finding something you like to do and that is good for you is so important. I’m a better person when I run, it makes me better not only to myself but the people around me. Also, don’t be intimidated to start, or of other people that run. We all started somewhere and are all still learning. If you run and you are a human, you are a RUNNER, don’t let other people’s times or distances tell you differently.”