Amy Donaldson: Wasatch 100 provides beautiful, brutal challenge for runners

Published: Sunday, Sept. 8 2013 6:25 p.m. MDT

Instead, she battled cramps in her legs, abdomen and ribs.

“I got cramps in the weirdest places because it was so hot and I was so dehydrated,” she said. “I couldn’t take a lot of liquid in.”

Still, she was able to ingest enough calories and nutrition that she was able to finish the race, even if she did it slightly slower than last year’s 26:09.

Blackham’s introduction to running happened as she approached 30.

“I was a dancer in high school,” she said. “I did drill team. … I think I was terrified of 30, so I thought, ‘You gotta do something big.’ And a marathon seemed like something big. I just thought I’d check it off my bucket list. I don’t know. It seemed like a pretty tough goal to achieve.”

Turns out, she enjoyed the challenge.

It was her training partner’s husband who convinced her to take on an even bigger challenge than 26.2 miles.

“My first ultra was a 55K in Moab, and then I ran Squaw Peak,” she said. “I really enjoyed my experience in Moab.”

Running started out as a way to socialize, but soon she found herself training alone and getting faster. She ran a couple of marathons, but she quickly found that running on trails was more challenging with less wear-and-tear on her body.

“The road is so brutal on your body,” she said. “And the scenery (trail running) is beautiful; the community is amazing.”

While there is a lot of camaraderie among distance runners, there can also cut-throat competition among the fastest groups. The energy, even among the best ultra runners, manages to balance the competition with the camaraderie, she said.

“They’ll pick you up out of the dirt, give you anything off their back just to try and help you finish,” she said. “They’re just so great; I can’t say enough good about the people.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to push their body to the kinds of physical challenges provided by a 100-mile race through the rugged Rocky Mountains. But a quote on the race’s website seems to sum up why more runners every year look to this race and others like it for an experience that will challenge and change them.

“Wasatch is not just about distance and speed; it’s adversity, adaptation and perseverance.”

Twitter: adonsports

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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