Like a lot of us, Traci Falbo used running as a tool to lose, and later, manage weight. After losing 80 pounds, she set her sights on running her first marathon.
Since that time, Traci has gone on to win 19 marathons, finish the Grand Slam of Ultra Running, run for the US 24 Hour Team, break the 48 Hour Indoor Track World Record, and most recently, she broke the women's American 100 mile trail record by finishing the Tunnel Hill 100 in 14:45:26.
She did all of this after taking up running in her mid 30's, and didn't start running ultras until her 40's.
So maybe Traci isn't like a lot of us after all.
Traci Falbo is an emerging force in the sport of ultra running and she's an athlete that I admire and respect for many reasons. Most of which, is for her ability to illustrate to the world what a working Mother can do when she sets goals, remains focused and is willing to fearlessly follow her dreams and aspirations.
In a world where our young women are looking up to Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus, I find myself grateful, that as a community, we can turn to women like Traci Falbo as a true example of what a powerful woman really is.
And this is why I wanted to interview her. The world needs more Traci.
What attracted you to ultra running?
I started running to lose weight and had always wanted to run a marathon (bucket list). So, I lost 80 pounds and ran my first marathon. Gradually, marathons led me to the 50 States Club, the 50 Sub 4:00, 50 and DC, and the Marathon Maniacs groups. I started doing a lot of races in a year and started doing back to back marathons (Saturday/Sunday). Eventually, frequent marathon racing led to ultras. I ran my second 100 miler at Umstead in 17:02 and won. That's when I realized I was good at running far. I had never really been considered a good runner. After that, I caught the ultra bug.
You're crushing long standing records in timed events AND on the trails. Which type of racing do you prefer?
I like fixed distance events better. Timed events are so mentally challenging because no matter what you do, the race ends at some point. You can go take a nap, go out to eat, see a movie, and then come back to the timed event...well, nobody does that, but you could, so it's a lot more tempting to take breaks. A fixed distance forces you to run until you get to the finish, so it's more concrete and less tempting to be wimpy. I'm better on less technical surfaces. I can do technical, I just fall frequently.
It's unusual for an ultra runner to excel in both types of events the way you do. Do you train differently for timed races versus trail races?
I really train mostly on road and just run a certain volume per week. If I feel good that day, I just run harder. I know I should do speed work and hill work, but I don't like it, so I rarely do. When I train for something specific (the Slam), I make sure I get more trails and more hills, but I don't do them regularly.
When you race, what motivates you?
Goals. I set goals for just about every race. I set multiple goals and rarely hit every one, but I always go for it.
What attracts you to certain races?
I really do what looks fun to me. For my 50 states goal, I picked races that were in a cool place, scenic, and even a couple of times because I thought the medals were cool. I want to run Spartathon and Comrades, and redeem myself at Western States. I want to run in Italy for the US 24 Hour Team.
Do you maintain any special diet to enhance your endurance running?
No. I just carb load before big events.
You have a full time career, you're raising children, and you still have time to train and race at this high level. How do you manage all that?
It's a juggle! Thankfully, my family is very supportive. I can't run as many miles as many of the people I compete with because I simply don't have the time.
Considering your adaptability in this sport, is there any type of race that intimidates you?
Mountain Courses. I don't have terrain near me that's good for training, so I'm not good at climbing.
Who are the runners that have inspired you the most?
Ann Trason, Meghan Arbogast, Pam Smith, Connie Gardner and Ellie Greenwood to name just a few.
What's your most memorable moment from running or racing?
At 6 Days in the Dome, when I broke the American Record, they announced it on the microphone and most people stopped running and applauded me as I crossed the timing mat. I started to cry because I had just accomplished my dream goal of an AR. It was the only time I've been truly choked up while running. I had to push back the tears so I could keep running.
What advice would you give somebody just getting into ultra running?
You have to BELIEVE that you can do it! Ultras require stubbornness. You sometimes hit lows and have to will yourself through it. If you can mentally stay strong, you can do anything.
You own some of the most significant records in ultra running. Do you have your eye on other goals?
Wow. I don't think that, but I still want to break 3 hours in a marathon. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but I need to stop racing and do some speed work. I'm just not motivated to try it right now. Ultras are my passion.
What's coming up next?
I'm going to Desert Solstice to do 24 hours. I'm afraid if I don't, I won't be on the US 24 Hour Team this year. Three talented ladies have run a bunch of miles in the last two weekends, so I'm going there to increase my mileage number. Also, at the end of January, I'm running across the island of Puerto Rico with Joe Fejas, Valmir Nunes, and Charlie Engle. It's called Puerto Rico 150 (actually 180 miles) and will be for a charity, The San Jorge Children's Foundation. The race is open to everybody and also has a 50k and 50 mile race. If you want to donate, heres a link:
And you can follow Traci here:
The achievements of female ultra runners are frequently overshadowed by those of their male counterparts. As a running community, we need to celebrate the accomplishments of these women and serve them up as role models for the young, aspiring female (and male) athletes around the world.
Congratulations, Traci! You inspire me and many others. Keep up the great work!