*Lindsay’s Note: The below is an interview with Ultrarunner and Race Director, Keira Henninger. Keira wins 100 mile races and places in top finishes on some of the toughest ultra marathons in the country. She is the coach of the Dirt Divas, a women’s trail running group here in Southern California and is an overall badass. Keira is known in the beloved trail running community as someone who really cares about her races, the people, and is an advocate for GIRL POWER. Keira iWs also a coach and welcomes all runners to the world of trail running. You might even hear her say, “Embrace the suck.” Apparently it’s an ultra runner thing. Check out her interview below and learn more about how you can win a FREE entry to the Griffith Park Trail Marathon & Half Marathon on March 28th.
How did you get into trail running?
In 2002 I was training for my first marathon and started running on the trail near my house just to get off the busy roads. I instantly fell in love with the trails and have not really run much on the road since then.
What does it mean to be sponsored by Patagonia and UltrAspire and what do you like about them as a companies?
The sport is growing very fast and lots of apparel and endurance sport companies have entered the sport. I feel very lucky and blessed that I have sponsorship from these wonderful companies. They make the best quality products on the market and what an honor it is to be able to represent them in the trail running community. They are companies with integrity and they genuinely care about their athletes. It’s awesome!
What do you find the hardest about 100 mile races and what do you find the easiest?
I love running hundreds. I hope to do many more in the years to come. 50k’s and 50Milers are much harder for me personally because you have to run so much faster. Running 100 miles is more of a journey and just so fun. You can take your time a little more, soak in the beauty of the trails, and just be in the moment. That’s the best part about running 100 miles. The hardest? I would have to say the stomach issues that can arise and pushing through that. Terrible tummy issues like throwing up are common at some point during a 100 mile race. It’s all about enduring and embracing the suck and just getting to the finish.
The HURT 100 is one of the hardest ultra races on the planet and was on your bucket list. You came in fourth place in a very stacked professional field. How was the race and what makes it so different and special? Why does it HURT so much?
Oh, how I LOVED the HURT100! I love to push my body and mind to a place that most people would never think of as fun. We get such a short amount of time on this planet. I feel very lucky that I have done things that most people will never do in their lifetime. I feel like I am living 100 lives in one lifetime. The HURT100 challenged me more than I ever thought possible. It put me in a mental space that was so dark and in the end I pushed through it all and got it done. It’s amazing to go to such a tough mental and emotional spot for 30+ hours and then pulling through it and accomplishing the goal. My fiancé Jesse Haynes (who is also an ultrarunner) was my incredible support and crew for the race. He now wants to do it next year. The roles will be reversed.
What are some of the races you are the Race Director? How did you become a race director and what does it entail?
Currently I am the Race Director for the following races that take place all over the Los Angeles area:
- Sean O’Brien – February 7, 2015 – Marathon, 50K, 50 Miles, 100K
- Griffith Park– March 28, 2015 – Half and Full marathon and another half in the Fall
- Leona Divide – April 18, 2015 – 50K and 50 Miles all on the Pacific Crest Trail – same trail as in the book and film, Wild
- Mt. Baldy Run to the Top – Summer 2015 – 7 mile tough altitude race
- Paramount Ranch Haunted Hills 10K and Paramount Ranch Half – October and November 2015
I got into being a Race Director when I saw the races and knew I could put on better races and make sure to have the best routes and aid stations. I wanted it to be competitive, but also for the runners to have everything they needed to have the best day ever on the trails. Glenda Kimmerly was the Race Director for Leona Divide and she was soon going to retire. I shadowed her one year to learn everything she did for the race and then a year later I took over as the Race Director.
Being a Race Director is one of the busiest jobs on the planet. There are so many things that come up. Because the races are run on trails, sometimes mother nature intervenes. I used to be the Race Director for a race called Ray Miller 50Mile/50K. It was a very popular race, but unfortunately most of the route got burned by a terrible fire and we had to cancel it. I always say being a Race Director is kind of like being a wedding planner except you have 600 brides to cater to in one day and loads of emergencies to handle within a race. It’s incredible physical work and exhausting. I love it though! I am doing exactly what I was meant to be doing.
What makes Griffith Park half marathon and marathon a good race to enter? Can beginners do this race?
This race is an excellent introduction to trail running. The half marathon is a relatively flat course with beautiful scenery and fantastic aid stations. The full marathon is the perfect gateway to running a first 50k. It’s the perfect distance to run before attempting to run a full ultra on the trails and the Griffith Park Trail Marathon is very well supported. The course is beautiful and the volunteers are amazing!
What are some of your overall health and fitness tips for eating and running?
I believe it’s very important to eat real food 100% of the time. That means zero preservatives and nothing fake ever. Loads and loads of veggies, fruits, avocados, coconut oil, coconut, wild caught fish, lentils, lots of quinoa, raw nuts, and so on. I also swear by taking in maca root powder, Vitamineral Green, and two tablespoons of ground flaxseed everyday. All of these products are great to supplement into the diet. If you fuel your body with great stuff, it will give back to you and perform well.
You are the coach of the Dirt Divas (an all level and age women’s trail running team) and host special trail running trips for women. Can you tell us a little something about these and for anyone interested how to sign up? Also, what is it you like so much about women and trail running?
I believe that women should empower other women. If we all just loved and encouraged each other a little more it would be so awesome. I love helping other women realize their own greatness. We all have so much greatness in us, but we just don’t realize it. Sometimes all it takes is for someone else to believe in us and then the doors open up. Coaching the Dirt Divas and doing my women’s nutrition and running camps has helped me to pass this along to so many strong ladies.
My Dirt Divas trail running team is based here in Southern CA and we practice every Saturday together on the trails. They are all levels of women and all ages and sizes. They blow me away each week with their stories and progress. They follow my week to week- day to day training plan on our team calendar for 20 weeks and then they run an Ultra. This season we are training for the Leona Divide 50Mile or 50K. I am so proud of them! My women’s nutrition and running camps are held in various spots throughout the West Coast. My next trip is in Mill Valley, CA in the Muir Woods. After that I have a trip in Bend, Oregon. Both trips are sold out with 18 ladies going on each trip. They sell out very, very fast. They are such a blast!
Keira is the Race Director for the upcoming Griffith Park Trail Marathon on March 28, 2015 and will be giving away TWO FREE ENTRIES to this race to two lucky Fit & Awesome readers. Enter below for your chance to win and made the odds be ever in your favor!