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Running Towards Altitude Success in Sun Valley
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Monday, March 4, 2024
 

By KEITH WILSON

Emily Hawgood may not be a household name compared to other figures in our valley, but she is a celebrity in the world of ultra-running, which entails running distances longer than a standard marathon of 26.2 miles.

Part of her success may have to do with her connection to this special place, and she encourages others to make the challenges of its terrain and altitude our advantages.

Hawgood has won numerous races and is a multiple-time veteran of the Western States 100-miler. Arguably, her greatest accomplishment to date is last September’s 2nd place finish in the Ultra Tour Mont Blanc Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix race that spans 100 kilometers (that’s 62 miles) in the Alps.

The trails there, she said, have a striking resemblance to some of those in the Wood River Valley.

The natural beauty and vibrant community the Sun Valley area has to offer is no secret. With the semi-nomadic lifestyle of a professional runner who excels at high elevation and rugged terrain, it makes perfect sense that Hawthorn so frequently finds herself here.

“Center of a gold mine,” she said, enumerating the local trail systems, mountain ranges, and incredible variety of beautiful nature to go run and explore. Most notable, she says, are the Quigley Trails, the route to Hyndman Peak and the trail network up Greenhorn Gulch.

The Wood River Valley has the normal challenges of any area, Hawgood said. She is quick, however, to make the word challenge synonymous with advantage, and the advantage she most appreciates is the altitude.

“It causes an individual to struggle with training and performance, but over time at altitude, adaptation occurs and the improvement in the bodies efficiency to perform is seen both at altitude and especially when you then go down to perform at a lower altitude,” she explained.

It’s an area of expertise. Hawgood earned a master’s degree in High Altitude Exercise Physiology from Western Colorado University. It’s the human element, however, on which she elaborates for anyone working on their fitness in this environment.

“Be kind to yourself and give your body the best chance to adjust to the altitude before you demand too much from it,” she said. “It’s easy to do this in the area because it is so beautiful, at all times of year!”

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