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A few of Magda Boulet’s best competitors is roughly half her age. Boulet (who’s 46) and Cat Bradley (who’s 27) are each skilled ultrarunners who go at it race after race, chasing one another down and buying and selling prime podium spots at a few of the greatest 100-mile occasions on the earth. But solely one in all them has to fret about making certain her exercises don’t intrude along with her 14-year-old son’s schedule. “It hit me simply the opposite day that I’m racing ladies who’re 20 years youthful than me,” Boulet says from her dwelling in San Francisco. “I didn’t even know what ultrarunning was once I was 27.”

Boulet grew up in Jastrzebie-Zdroj, Poland, and immigrated along with her mother and father to the U.S. when she was in highschool, changing into a citizen in 2001. She ran observe on the College of California at Berkley, specializing in the 1,500-to-5,000-meter occasions, however switched to marathons after faculty. Working with legendary distance coach Jack Daniels, she got here to dominate the gap, racing for the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After virtually a decade operating the marathon, Boulet began to grow to be stressed. “I felt I used to be getting probably the most out of my thoughts and physique that I might within the marathon distance,” Boulet says. “I bought invited to a neighborhood half marathon path race, and it was charming. I ended up strolling for the primary time in a race—I couldn’t run up a sure hill. As a substitute of being discouraged by it, I immediately realized there was a lot I nonetheless needed to study. Recognizing that there’s room for enchancment is a good looking factor.” In 2013, Boulet transitioned once more, this time to ultramarathons. 

To arrange for her swap, Boulet retooled her coaching, focusing extra on hill work and perfecting the artwork of energy climbing. She spent two years working her means up the extremely ladder, tackling 50Okay’s, then 100Okay’s, and had numerous early success. In 2015, Boulet received six extremely path races, together with the primary 100-miler she entered—the enduring Western States Endurance Run.

Since then, Boulet has grow to be one of many prime feminine ultrarunners within the nation. Final yr she received the Marathon des Sables, a grueling six-day 155-mile race in Morocco. In February she received the 9 Dragons Extremely in China, and in September she topped the rostrum on the legendary Leadville 100. However profitable is actually only a comfortable facet impact for Boulet, who says her evolution from marathons to ultras isn’t about staying on the rostrum, it’s about staying engaged within the sport she loves. “I believe what has allowed me to maintain going and keep within the sport for so long as I’ve at this stage is the variability I apply to coaching and racing,” she says. “It’s important to feed your soul and thoughts as a lot as you’re feeding your physique.”

Boulet explains that operating marathons at an elite stage required inflexible and exact coaching: pace work countered with lengthy miles at precisely the correct time and a finely-tuned vitamin plan. However with ultras, there’s a couple of means to achieve the ultimate purpose, permitting for extra selection and creativity in terms of coaching. Boulet does power coaching twice every week, utilizing a mix of body weight workout routines and free weights to construct her core and legs. She’s additionally gotten into the behavior of carrying a 20-pound weighted vest round her home and the Gu Vitality Labs workplace—the place she works as the corporate’s vice chairman of innovation—to assist squeeze in additional exercises through the day. 

Boulet additionally likes that every race presents a distinct “venture” for her to plan for and resolve. “You have got an countless bucket of choices with ultras—distances and elevation and terrain. It forces you to adapt your coaching to particular races, and that retains it contemporary and fascinating,” she says. For instance, Western States usually begins out chilly however forces runners to climb by way of desert canyons in 100-degree afternoon warmth. Boulet spent numerous time coaching for this race in an altitude chamber that she transformed to a warmth room set to 105 levels, knocking out 60 minutes of step-ups on a field. If a race has an distinctive quantity of climbing, she’ll run hill repeats or carry out 2,000 step-ups to construct her quads. If it’s a flat race, Boulet heads to the observe for pace work.

She continues to evolve as a runner. Her subsequent venture isn’t technically a race—it’s an try at breaking the quickest recognized time on the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Path, which is at the moment held by ultramarathoner Krissy Moehl. It’s Boulet’s first go at an FKT, and he or she says she’s unsure if she’ll set a brand new file or come up brief. “With ultradistance runs, you by no means know,” she says. “You present up with the instruments, and hopefully you pull it off. However typically it goes from a record-breaking run to only hoping to complete. It’s important to renegotiate in your head on the fly.”

Not realizing the end result is a part of what evokes Boulet to maintain pushing ahead into new terrain, new distances, and new challenges. If she needed the identical factor, she’d nonetheless be operating marathons. She says that uncertainty and selection will hold her within the sport for years to return, and for Boulet, longevity is a sweeter prize than any podium end. “Whenever you do what you’re keen on, you wish to hold doing it for the remainder of your life,” she says. 

Lead Picture: Myke Hermsmeyer