The Amelia Boone Interview with Tips4Running

In the summer of 2011, Amelia Boone ran the Wisconsin Tough Mudder. When she finished that race, she stopped running road races and turned her sites towards obstacle and mud races of the most extreme nature. She finished The 2012 Spartan Ultra Beast in second, the 2011 World's Toughest Mudder in second, and the 2012 World's Toughest Mudder as the first female and second overall. Amelia also participates in events like the Death Race, and S. E. R. E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) where places aren't counted, and finishing is the only reward. I was intrigued on why she turned away from running and embraces these newer endurance challenges.

David Tiefenthaler - Congrats on your last race, the World's Toughest Mudder. So you ran 90 miles and traversed a ridiculous amount of obstacles in just over 25 hours. How is your body doing?

Amelia Boone - The body is slowly returning to normal. My feet were swollen up like melons for a few days after, but have gone down. Right now I'm dealing with some tendonitis in the top of my foot, but pretty much back to normal (knock on wood). I've never covered this kind of distance in that short of time frame, so I had no idea how much havoc it could cause with the body. Luckily, I think I came away pretty unscathed.

DT - I ran my first obstacle race, The Tough Mudder in Wisconsin this summer and was surprised at how much fun I had. It really is a different type of race compared to a road race which I am much more familiar with. Why do you like these events better than a road race?

AB - Obstacle races are great because they engage all the muscles in your body as well as your brain: many obstacles have an element of strategy and are as mental as they are physical. While I love to run, the repetitive stress of pounding on concrete can be incredibly damaging to the body, and one that has sidelined before in the past. I love that obstacle races require upper body strength, which is typically ignored by competitive runners. In essence, these races require you to be a well-rounded athlete.

DT - One thing my competitive mind had a hard time understanding was the no finishing times. You just challenge yourself. Is this part of why you are drawn to these endurance and obstacle challenges?

AB - It's funny--I originally ran a Tough Mudder instead of a Spartan Race because there were no finishing times. I was worried about becoming overly competitive (as has been a previous pattern), and I loved the freedom of just going out and running a race and having fun. Since then, I've started running competitive heats at Spartan Races, which are timed and give you that competition that many of us crave. With other races I've done, such as the Spartan Death Race, there are no chips and times, but it's a race to just even finish the multi-day event. Sometimes 60 hours of torture all for a plastic skull, in fact. But I think that's unique, and those are the times where you really dig deep and learn how to break down your limits. You race because you are proving something to yourself, not for the time on the clock.

Amelia Boone DT - I know you are an attorney, but have you considered a career in the military? You seem to have some of the qualities they would like!

AB - If only I was interested in all of this 10 years ago...missed career opportunity, for sure. I have the utmost respect and admiration for my friends and family that serve, and they all tell me I missed my chance on a daily basis.

DT - I see you struggle with the "labels" people try to give themselves after doing different obstacle races, such as calling themselves "elites." As the first finisher in the World's Toughest Mudder, you probably carry some influence. What would you like the people who do these events go with? I just like the word "competitor" for everyone.

AB - I mean, perhaps several years down the road when obstacle racing has passed its infancy, the use of the term "elite" can be legitimate. But my problem with it lies mostly in what it conveys: a sort of superiority above all other competitors, coupled with a sense of entitlement.

As this world gains in popularity, we are going to see more and more skilled endurance athletes with backgrounds in Ironmans and road races venture into the obstacle racing world, and competition is going to reach a new level. It's similar to what has happened over the past few years with Crossfit. I frankly just prefer to call every "racers" or "competitors" without a title.

DT - You've done the Spartan Death Race, S.E.R.E. Events (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) and the Worlds Toughest Mudder. Do you have a favorite event?

AB - It's hard to compare these events because they are so different, and present varying challenges. That's probably why I keep doing all of them: mix it up and keep a bit of variety. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Death Race though. It's such a tight knit group of competitors who trek up to Pittsfield, VT twice a year and endure days of suffering and randomness all for a plastic skull and the chance to say they finished. No money, no ulterior motives. It attracts a type of person in it for the right reasons, and I'm blessed to call fellow Death Racers by friends and my inspiration.

DT - Would you ever go back to just doing the regular version of one of these races? I really liked the Tough Mudder, but after 12 miles, that's enough for me. Also, I lost my wedding ring during the race, so that was a big buzz kill.

AB - Yikes! The real question is why you were wearing your wedding ring in the first place. Shouldn't you even take that off to run regular races? Kidding (kind of). I joke that races less than 24 hours seem rather short and boring to me, but they are tons of fun to run with friends. So I plan on doing Tough Mudders and Spartan Races during the year. Spartan Races are great since there is the competitive aspect to them.

DT - A lot of these events are like Ultra-Running, but with obstacles. Have you ran in any ultra-running events?

AB - I haven't. It's in the cards, but I'm worried it may be a bit boring without the obstacles. And after being sidelined for the past two Chicago marathons with stress fractures, I've realized that I may never be able to run marathon+ length road races anymore--the concrete is just too much. I don't have the problems with trails though, so I'm leaning towards some trail marathons and some 50milers/100milers this upcoming year.

DT - Did you run track or cross country in high school or college? If not, what sports did you participate in?

AB - I didn't. Oddly enough, I am SUPER slow. Like, my 100meter dash time is just pitiful. I would have been fine at cross-country though, but I stuck with soccer and softball throughout high school, and focused on academics in college. It wasn't until after college and law school that my desire to get back into some type of competitive sport came back.

DT - I love your blog - Race Ipsa Loquitur. My only problem is understanding what the name really means to you. I looked up the Latin phrase "Ipsa Loquitur" and was probably even more confused after I read about it. "The thing speaks for itself" or if someone gets hurt from your stuff even though you didn't see it, you are negligent? I'm confused! Can you explain.

AB - Thanks! And it's a horrible legal pun, actually. I'd rename it if I could go back and do it over again. 'Res Ipsa Loquitur" in the law means "the thing speaks for itself," and is used in negligence cases to infer duty and breach of duty on the part of the defendant. So, let's say a scalpel is left in you after surgery. It wouldn't be there unless someone was negligent, so "the thing speaks for itself" and you'll get a fat payday.

So I just use it as "the race speaks for itself" and ignore that it doesn't really make sense in the context of the legal world. Except that I'm totally negligent in subjecting my body to this stuff.

DT - Can you describe a typical week of training? What do you do throughout the week to make yourself physically and mentally ready for all these brutal races?

AB - I'm a lawyer. That trains me well enough.

Kidding. I surprise a lot of people when I tell them that I rarely run as training. I Crossfit 5-6 days a week, and the giant rotating stepmill is also my best friend. I love to run, but concrete is not my friend, and finding trails in Chicago is a bit of a challenge. I try to get at least one or two 2-3 hour workout in per week, but it usually has to be split up into some type of daily double. I've found that since switching to more of a short, high-intensity type of training routine with Crossfit, my endurance has actually increased.

DT - You're not far from me in Chicago, as I'm near Milwaukee, but I live in a rural area around near Milwaukee. I have a lot more natural surroundings to train in for endurance and obstacle races. How do you simulate some of these outdoor type challenges in the urban jungle? PS - I hope you live near your work, because Chicago traffic is BRUTAL!

AB - It is, which is why I pay out the nose to live close enough to walk to work. Simulating it is near impossible, which is why I'm relegated to climbing lots of stairs and running up parking ramps for hills.

DT - You grew up in Oregon, but now you're in Chicago? Why did you move to the Midwest? Most people leave here for the coasts.

AB - You know, I ask myself this every single day.

DT - Where do you hope these endurance and obstacle races go? Do you see some kind of championship series, or an Olympic style event in the future? Are you happy with the way things are?

AB - I was pretty lucky in getting into obstacle racing in its fledgling state, and being able to see how it has changed over the past year or two. Tons of different race series have popped up (as with any fitness wave/trend), but I think when the dust settles, you see perhaps two or three obstacle race series that survive. I like the options, and the fact that different series have their own championships, such as World's Toughest Mudder, or the Spartan Race Vermont Beast Championship this past September in Killington. Perhaps we'll have like a WWE/WCW situation and a cage match to see who buys what, but I don't really see a unified obstacle racing league. Not to say I wouldn't welcome it. And I've been wrong about many things. At least a dozen things today alone.

DT - What's your best advice for someone who has never ran a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder, but are going to do one soon?

AB - Just sign up and do it. Don't worry whether or not you are in good enough shape or have trained enough. Gather some friends and go out and run one. I see people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels out there. Obstacle racers are ideal for team situations, and tons of fun. Do some research beforehand on what to wear, what to bring, etc., but don't worry about the training. The beauty of obstacle races (to me at least) is that you can't really train for them well. It's not like an Ironman or a marathon where you have a set number of miles you are supposed to run or swim or bike on a certain day.

DT - You've done team events and raced as an individual. I've only raced as an individual. What's the benefit of being on a team? From what I have seen, it looks more fun, but I'm afraid I'd slow someone down, or be frustrated with someone who is slowing me down.

AB - While teams are way more fun, you also deal with that exact issue of only being able to move as fast as the weakest link on your team. I love the camraderie built by team situations, and the ability to take on leadership roles, but I'm learning that I probably function better as an individual at this type of stuff. Though, to be honest, at obstacle races, you are never really without the help of others. Even though WTM was a race, the amount of help people were offering and giving out on the course was just like any other TM that wasn't timed.

Amelia Boone
DT - Are people asking you to endorse any of their products after you have been finishing so high at many of these events? No, I don't have any products to push on you by the way. I'm just curious.

AB - Based on the amount of money I throw at Under Armour, I'm watching my phone with baited breath (ha). Nah, obstacle racing is still pretty under the radar, so I'm not going to be hawking Rolexes or Chevys anytime soon. But Injinji and Smart Wool should be thanking me for all the business I'm pointing their way (proper socks is the most important thing!)

DT - What's the next challenge? Will you be at the Chicago Tough Mudder or the Wisconsin one in 2013? I'll probably be at both!

AB - Winter Death Race in February, and yup I'll likely be at both (for sure Chicago). I have grand ambitions of drawing up my race calendar by year end, but it's always a piece of work.

To keep tabs on Amelia, you can follow her on Twitter at @ameliaboone or read her blog at Race Ipsa Loquitur.



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Return from the Amelia Boone Interview to the Tips4Running homepage.

This article was written by David Tiefenthaler, the founder and main contributor for Tips4Running.com. In addition to running, he's also an author, and a full time teacher.

You can follow David on Twitter
@Tiefsa or visit his blog.

 

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