Clare Gallagher is more than just an up and coming ultra runner. She’s already proven herself to be a force in the trail running world, and she’s got a lot of personality. She’s young, passionate, and all about enjoying the experience of running ultras, keeping a smile on her face through the ups and downs. I had the opportunity to ask this 20-something world traveler several questions to learn a little more about what makes Clare tick.
How long have you been running? What first got you into running?
I started running track in middle school, specializing in the mile—as if a middle schooler could specialize in anything. In high school, I chose cross-country over field hockey, rather reluctantly, as all of my lacrosse buddies played field hockey. Cross country ended up being a life-changing sport, as it helped me get into college and is now the center of my life, whether I like to admit it or not.
What is your favorite thing about the sport, in general?
The freedom, especially with trail running.
Tell us a bit about your time running at Princeton.
I made some of my best friends in the world, my beloved tiger teammates, and learned what it means to burn the candle at both ends. Attempting to balance practice and meets—being a three-season athlete (fall, winter, and spring) is particularly draining—with academic deadlines and god forbid, an extracurricular outside of class and running, was close to impossible. But, when I’d look around on the start line of an interval at practice and realized that all of my teammates were going through the same grind, I learned to buck up and embrace it. Running-wise, I never reached my collegiate potential, constantly struggling with minor and major injuries (one particular knee problem had be out for 10 months), so I look back on my time running at Princeton for what it did give me: best friends and an appreciation for New England fall leaves.
You moved to Thailand post graduation. How did your new environment affect your running?
I moved to Thailand to teach English, three days after graduating—didn’t even have time to go home to Colorado—and June in Thailand is the monsoon season, which means a nonstop deluge. Even though I wanted to rediscover running in a new light that didn’t have me feeling burned out (as I felt in college), running quickly became my outlet again. I ran in the rain, in the heat, around feral barking dogs, through fish markets, through rising tides, up and down tsunami evacuation towers, amid rubber plantations, alongside domestic elephants giving tourists rides, and sometimes, with my students.
Why did you decide to “convert” to ultras?
I signed up for a 80km mountain ultra in Northern Thailand that would take place during my school’s break; why not? I needed a goal and a way to occupy my weekends when I wasn’t backpacking or diving.
What was your first ultra race like?
Mountainous, remote, wet, sticky jungle. Wrote my first race report about it, published in UltraRunning Magazine.
What is your go-to form of on-the-run nutrition?
Frosting, i.e. FROST’D., candy, and homemade sticky rice balls with more frosting and Sriracha. For cramps, HOTSHOT is the only option.
What is your favorite candy?
Sour Patch Kids.
What is your favorite shoe to run ultras in?
I ran Leadville in my Salomon S-lab Sonics. I’m a sucker for road shoes and prefer them to thick, chunky trail soles. I love The North Face Ultra Cardiac shoes for tougher, technical terrain.
Where does your mind go when the going gets tough?
My mind either goes blank, or I think about people suffering way worse than me, i.e. people forced to migrate due to climate change or conflict, my brother who is in the Army (currently training in Green Beret school), anyone in my family who has suffered through a Gallagher family trip that inevitably ends with a lightning storm and bailout.
Do you have a mantra?
“B.A.G.” (which stands for: Be a Gallagher.) Also, this isn’t exactly a mantra, but I say it all the time: “Okay, Clare, you’ve got this. This isn’t that hard.” Also, “What goes up must come down.”
What is your spirit animal, and why?
Coral. Because it’s my favorite animal in the world. And most people don’t realize coral is an animal. And it was the focus of all of my field research, specifically in Bermuda and Palau.
What was your mental approach before running the Leadville 100?
Keep on going.
How did you train for it?
Fast, shorter races, like the USA 30km Trail Champs and Aspen Power of Four 25km. Also, accompanying my triathlete friend, Abby Levene, on her triathlon running workouts, i.e. fast minute intervals. Keeping my leg speed honest was a foundational element to thinking that Leadville would be extremely slow. I also had a string of 90-100 mile weeks, which helped build my aerobic engine.
What was the hardest part of that race for you, mentally, emotionally, and physically? What got you through?
Mile 70. My one cry. I was sick of the decent pace, and unfairly annoyed at my sweet pacer, Len. I was completely distraught over the fact that I had run 70 miles. I wanted to know how big my lead was, and I wanted to walk. So I cried for 90 seconds while walking, then moved on. Oh, and I also wanted ibuprofen for my knee, which I had smashed at mile 15 on a section of flat trail.
What has been your favorite ultra race so far?
The North Face Endurance Challenge 50km Park City. The course is breathtakingly gorgeous, as the race is held every September at prime leaf-changing time.
Is there a race you are currently training for?
The Moab Trail Marathon, and also this year’s USA Marathon Champs. I’m also training for The North Face 50 mile in California this December. Although, I’m currently nursing 7-10 minor (and one major) knee injuries, so we shall see if I need to wait till 2017 to run again. I’m also planning on racing the qualifying races for the USA Skimo Team in December and January. Skimo is the best thing an ultra runner can do, barring injury, of course.
Do you have any long-term goals in this sport?
Western States is on the docket for 2017 and UTMB is a goal for 2018, but staying healthy is my number one goal, 24/7. I hope to do more philanthropic trips revolving around running, attempting to balance my self-indulgent races with more altruistic endeavors.
Thank you, Clare!
Rachel runs for fitness. It’s entirely about personal health and mental/emotional wellness for her. She’s one of those weirdos that finds proofreading to be thrilling. As manager and lead editor for the Running Warehouse Blog, THIS is her baby. She also recently started a graphic design business with her husband Ryan as a side hustle.