A Legend Among Us

Jan Spalding News, Uncategorized 0 Comments

“The people who always win workouts don’t win races. With masters running especially, you have to balance strength with running as far as recovery goes.”

        It all happened organically, as you would expect from a 5-year-old who was fascinated watching her dad put on his running shoes.

        “What are you doing, Dad?” she asked.

        “Jogging,” he said, inviting her along.

        She jogged with him around the block—but it bugged her they didn’t go anywhere. She would take care of that issue later.

        She tolerated her first job out of college in engineering at Intel in California, but fell in love with being a triathlete, adventure racing and, after a trip to Italy, travel.

        “I had never traveled but became obsessed with the culture and food of Italy. When I came back from a vacation there, I called in sick to work, researched a little more and put in my notice.”

        Amie did what many threaten: Sold everything she owned and set out to travel the world. Finding pools and bikes to continue her triathlon training was a challenge but she figured, “If you have running shoes, you can run anywhere.”

        She joined in on running clubs around the world and reveled in the positive and welcoming communities that wanted to show her their cities and social events. Running marathons just sort of evolved from there.

        When she saw an ad for the Sahara Marathon in Tindouf, Algeria, she thought, “Who would be stupid enough to do that? But somehow the idea went from stupid to intriguing and I had to do it!”

        To be safe, she flew back to the States to do a trial marathon in Florida. That went well, but she caught the flu on her flight back to Africa. Although the event doctor advised against running, she told herself, “If I ran a half mile, I will have tried.” Moved by the experience and culture of the people who live in the dessert, she ran all 26.2 miles and collapsed 10 feet past the finish line with a time of 6:11:05, her slowest of the eventual seven.

        Powered by this new test of will, she jumped in on a marathon in the Netherlands, then took on a marathon trek in the Andes Mountains in South America. Within no time she had run four marathons on four continents. “You’re going to break a record for doing that,” a friend commented.

        She accepted the challenge. In 2002 the Internet wasn’t yet its reliable, wi-fi-at-every-café self yet. It wasn’t easy to locate marathons in the remaining three continents or even to track down race directors from her past races so she could document her case to Guinness Book of World Records.

        The Antarctica race may have been the most memorable. “When do you get to run a marathon on ice?” And an A-to-Z list of glitches from patellar tendonitis to a harrowing near miss of the flight that would get her to the final record-breaking Siberian International Marathon in Omsk (3:46:10) on time made the victory all the much sweeter.

        Amie’s 523-day competition of seven marathons in seven continents smashed the previous women’s record of 700 days. Her cumulative time of 34 hours, 24 minutes and 29 seconds (just one minute and 21 seconds behind Tim Rogers’ men’s record) earned her another women’s world record. And just for kicks, 30-year-old Amie made it a three-fer becoming the youngest person to complete the seven-continent challenge.

Stateside

        After two-and-a-half years and three unexpected world records, Amie realized traveling had become her normal. “And then I wanted to do something different.”

        Once stateside, she began work on her MBA in Bloomington, but then veered toward earning her Master’s in Journalism and started a second Master’s in Kinesiology. She just couldn’t shake the running bug and wanted to use her knowledge to help others. Two years ago, she committed to becoming a certified wellness and running coach. She tapped into her worldwide running community and launched a coaching business,  helping runners from the UK to New Zealand.

        This summer, she has given Michiana runners a special treat as coach of two trail running programs she developed with St. Joseph County Parks, something she has truly enjoyed.

        “I forgot how gratifying it is to work with beginners,” she said, noting how the participants have come together as a support group, overcome medical issues and savor every time drop in their 5K times.

Ultra dedicated

        It was inevitable Amie would discover ultra running.

        “I thought I would just start trying to do it. I knew I could do it well because I love to run and I run so much.” All true. She has placed in every ultra in which she has competed. Last year she broke the course record for the Hell Cat 50K in Green Cove Springs, FL. She was simply “on vacation” and had just paced the Jacksonville Marathon, “So I just ran the Hellcat as a long training run.”

        She placed second in the mountainous Phoenix Cold Water Rumble. “I do get surprised, because I just run for fun.”

        But that’s her free spirit talking—essential for jumping in and trying the things she does. It’s her more analytical side that gets her prepared for the accomplishments. “The more specific you are with your goals, the more specific you have to be in your training,” she said.

        In-season, she does a 25-minute warm-up on the treadmill before heading out on her morning run. She will walk the warm-up if it is a two-run day. Strength work in the wrong dose is too much wear and tear on her legs, so she saves most of that for the off-season.

        ““The people who always win workouts don’t win races,” she said. “With masters running especially, you have to balance strength with running as far as recovery goes.”

        Amie always runs, but chooses races wisely. “If you race too much, your legs are never fresh.” When a race goal is on the horizon, “I take a four-month window where I will only focus on that goal. With ultras, you need to train for the course as much as you train for the race.”

        As a trainer, Amie likes to go through what her clients do, so she ran Sunburst in June and is considering a Tough Mudder. Maybe someday her clients will like to do what she does. Perhaps the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon? The grueling event is a 43-mile round-trip race where competitors bike, run, backcountry ski then snowshoe to 11,400 feet and return in reverse order. On Amie’s attempt, it was the steep ski downhill where a fall dislocated her shoulder. Painful as it was, she popped it back in place and continued on. In the last leg, the chain fell off her bike. It was doubly challenging “and extremely painful” to fix it with one arm.

        “I did finish. ” she said, reflecting on not just that feat, but the extreme heat and flu of the Sahara, the mountains of the Andes, the ice of Antarctica, the extremes of running up the 14,000-foot elevation for Pikes Peak Marathon. She confides: “There is something strange with endurance athletes.”

Head to Amie’s RunningWithLife.com website to learn more and find out about current training programs in the area.

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