Kim Magnus may be new to trail ultrarunning, and this may have been her first 50 miler, but that didn’t stop her from winning the 2014 Squamish 50 Mile. In the following interview, Kim talks about Pacific Northwest trail running, her history with sports, what shoes she wore for Squamish’s technical trails, and her future racing plans.
Be sure to check out our results article for the full story on the Squamish 50 Mile and 50k.
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Kim Magnus, 2014 Squamish 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m here with Kim Magnus. She’s the winner of the 2014 Squamish 50 Mile. Congratulations!
Kim Magnus: Thank you. That actually sounds very big.
iRunFar: Well, it is very big. I got a taste of the course out there today and, I mean, that was a pretty rocky, rooty, slippery, muddy taste.
Magnus: That was a gnarly course. I think we got lucky that it wasn’t super dry. The fact that it was a little wet in sections probably was a better pay-off.
iRunFar: Gave it some tack? Gave it some traction? Cool.
Magnus: Yep. Yep.
iRunFar: Let’s start with some background on you. I’m not sure that the iRunFar community is super familiar with the Pacific Northwest aside from fans following from surrounding states. Let’s talk about your background. I believe you’re a road runner turned ultrarunner. Is that a fair description?
Magnus: Yeah, I would say so. I did my first road marathon two years ago or three years ago. So, I’ve had various knee injuries over the years. Just moving out to Vancouver actually made me start running again. I did some strengthening. I started with road and just started trail running about a year and a half ago.
iRunFar: Before your first road marathon, what were you doing for sports then?
Magnus: Volleyball, recreational running up to 10k maybe every once in awhile in a gym.
iRunFar: So you just decided one day, “I’m going to run a road marathon?”
Magnus: I’ve always loved running. I grew up running as a kid. You can’t run year round in Manitoba. Life and knee injuries and things kind of kept me from it. I think I just started doing it again and got stronger and it went well. So I just kept increasing the distance.
iRunFar: And increasing the distance, and increasing the distance, and a little bit more.
iRunFar: You’re now a North Vancouverite, is that right?
iRunFar: Originally hailing from out in Manitoba?
Magnus: Out in the prairies, yes.
iRunFar: Now you’re in the big city in a place that has a pretty stout road and trail running community. You’re surrounded by a lot of peers. In fact, you had a running partner who I think was with you most of the day today.
iRunFar: Talk about the running community that you come from.
Magnus: It’s incredible. I would not be here if it weren’t for the people that I run with. They’re amazing. My running partner today is quite well known in the ultra community, Sammy [Hassan] Lotfi-Pour. He kind of started as my coach mentor, and definitely friend. He’s been a really good support. The girls I run with, Kathy McKay, actually just was the first woman who’s doing the 50/50, so she’s doing the 50k tomorrow as well. There are various other people who are just such an inspiration.
iRunFar: I think Ellie [Greenwood] told me your marathon PR is around 2:56?
Magnus: Yeah, the last one, the Vancouver one, so around that. I can’t remember what it was.
iRunFar: So tell us about your transition from roads to trails. I think this maybe is your first 50 miler but you’ve run a couple ultras before.
iRunFar: 50k—so a couple 50k’s.
Magnus: Yes, the same one twice and then kind of an urban trail one.
iRunFar: So, the one you’ve run twice is the…?
Magnus: Knee Knacker, which is a pretty gnarly one.
iRunFar: And then the other one is?
Magnus: A club that does a New Year’s Day run on urban trails through Vancouver.
iRunFar: What brought you to the dark side… or I should say the bright side?
Magnus: Oh, gosh. I love it. Again, I did road for probably about a year and I just thought Well, trails are different. There are lots of trails. I like hiking, so why not give it a shot? So I took a clinic and I signed up for a 23k I think. I took the clinic through Mountain Madness. I remember my first trail run was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life, but at the same time, just the most incredible. I remember chasing guys downhills, and downhills are still not my forte. I had nightmares about it for weeks. Just the atmosphere and the attitude of trail runners are just different. Everyone is just happy. You get to see really incredible things.
iRunFar: Do you mean terrifying from the running technical surfaces?
Magnus: Yeah. That’s brand new. Running on road even if it’s hills and stuff I’ve always been… running up hills I quite like on roads or trails. But yeah, the technical downhill and the roots and rocks, I was obviously not used to. Yeah, the marathon shuffle is a lot different than dancing around on the trails.
iRunFar: Like night and day—especially the technical trails around here—so many rocks and roots with quick steep ups and quick steep downs.
Magnus: Yeah, the North Shore is something definitely that is very special in terms of technical stuff.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about your race today. You came into this race having just won another ultra about a month ago—the Knee Knacker[ing 30 Mile]. Did you come in here feeling… I mean, it’s your first 50, you were kind of riding the coattails of that experience. How did you come in here mentally?
Magnus: I had a foot injury, actually, after Knee Knacker, not associated with it but associated with not taking a rest afterwards. So, again it being my first 50 and only being on these trails a few times, I did not have expectations except that I wanted to be top 10 probably and I wanted to finish under 10 hours. My expectation was that I would like to finish. It’s my first 50. Respect the trail—that’s what a friend always tells me. Respect the trail and respect the distance because I’ve never run this far. I had no idea what to expect. My limits were definitely… I exceeded them I think.
iRunFar: Having said that you had sort of a conservative mindset going in, you did start pretty much in second place from the get go. From the first time we saw you at 10k in, you were in second place with a string of women pretty close behind.
Magnus: Yeah, we were all pretty close in the first 10k.
iRunFar: But, you were in the second position where you pretty much stayed until you took over around the halfway point.
Magnus: Yeah, the three of us were very interchangeable for the first about half. We ended up at the aid stations together within a few minutes.
iRunFar: Was that you going out conservatively and that’s just how it played out?
Magnus: That was me going out too fast. Yeah, that was me not knowing what I was doing. “Oh, it’s fun! It’s wonderful! La la la!” That was me feeling rested from my injury and I was feeling pretty good. There was a few times when I mentally definitely had to say, “Dial it back because you have no idea what’s going to happen at 60, 70k.”
iRunFar: So what did happen at 60 or 70k? Did you dial it back actually and then you felt strong the rest of the way through?
Magnus: Oh, no. From Quest to the finish, so probably the last 25k or so, that was hard. Yeah. I seized a lot. Every incline was a mountain. Every downhill might as well have been running down the Chief. It was tough. Yeah, it was definitely tough.
iRunFar: Somehow you were able to keep your focus and stay ahead of the other women. So, what came into play that made things happen for you?
Magnus: I’m not sure. I think the struggles I had are the same struggles they had, so it just worked out.
iRunFar: You struggled maybe just a teensy bit less.
Magnus: Yeah, maybe. Maybe I was able to pull that out, but it was not easy. I don’t think it was anything special that I did. I think it was just we were dealing with the same elements and the same issues and it just happened to work in my favor today.
iRunFar: Gary [Robbins] just sort of likes to perpetuate torture in his runners over and over. There are various elements of torture.
Magnus: Yes, there’s a climb at the end. Oh, my gosh.
iRunFar: A climb at the end—what were you thinking when you know Squamish is just there.
Magnus: I had some choice words for that. There were some choice thoughts for Gary. I knew it was coming. People complained about it last year. Complained—you know what you’re getting yourself into. I knew it was there, but it’s special when you actually get there. Knowing it’s there and actually experiencing it is a little bit different.
iRunFar: It’s ‘special.’
Magnus: Yeah. It was ‘special.’
iRunFar: You had a pretty strong finish. Folks were talking about you coming down the runnable stretch at the very end saying you kept a good pace. You came over the finish line and were running quite strong-like.
Magnus: Yeah, that was a show. That was a show. I’m always surprised when people tell me I looked strong or I looked good. I must be a great actress because it’s always at the points where I’m in the most pain. I must just have a really good poker face.
iRunFar: So, this is your first 50 mile. You transitioned from recreational running to road marathoning and from there to 50k’s (trails) and today from 50k’s to 50 miles. Aside from rest and recovery and maybe a little bit of beer and pizza, what’s after that?
Magnus: Well, a shower first. I think just keep going. Do some more destination runs. I did say I’d never do anything twice because there are so many races out there. For awhile it’s just going to be some fun running but some more remote things. I did a little bit of training on Fat Dog course which is up in Manning Park and is a little more alpine running which I’m not used to. That was just something different. Every time I want to expand something I want to experience something a little bit different. That’s going to be my focus for a little while.
iRunFar: Cool. Any chance of racing outside of Canada?
Magnus: I’m doing an ‘iRunFar.’ I just can’t remember what it is. I signed up for it. It’s a new one. It’s in October or November. I think it’s just a 50k.
iRunFar: In the U.S.?
Magnus: On the West Coast. It’s in Oregon. I think it’s called Oregon Coast 50k actually.
iRunFar: Expanding your way down south.
Magnus: Yeah, I’ve heard just amazing things about the Rainshadow Runs, and he has various races, just a good atmosphere and I get to party afterwards which should keep me going. Yeah, beautiful terrain, so I definitely… the other thing I’d like to try is probably some multi-stage races.
Magnus: Yeah, if I didn’t do this one, I was going to give TransRockies a shot.
iRunFar: Well, it will be there next year.
Magnus: Yeah, exactly. There’s always something different for the upcoming year.
iRunFar: On the note of good after parties, there’s a pretty good after party going on over there.
Magnus: Oh yeah, it’s a great time.
iRunFar: Congratulations one more time on your win at the 2014 Squamish 50 Miler. Recover well.
Magnus: Thank you so much. Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you: what shoes did you wear today?
Magnus: These are actually fairly new. I’ve only worn them a couple of times. I did wear them at the Knee Knacker. They’re La Sportiva… I don’t know how to pronounce it… Bushido?
Magnus: Yeah, I really like them. I wouldn’t wear them for a short, fast race, but for a long, technical race—yeah, good shoe.
iRunFar: How did that traction do on the course?
Magnus: Yeah, good traction. Yeah, that was one of the main things that I need because, again, downhill and technical is not my forte; so I want to feel like I’m supported and comfortable and I’m not going to fall on my face because that’s also something I do a lot.
iRunFar: Well there’s no dirt there right now.
Magnus: I didn’t fall today! That’s actually the biggest accomplishment today—I did not fall!
iRunFar: Thank you, Bushido.
Magnus: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, they’ve been a really good shoe. I started with the [Brooks] Cascadia’s and those were good shoes as well. I wanted something a little different and a little more meaty for these longer distances. So, yeah, good shoes.
iRunFar: Congrats again.