Clare Gallagher brings a lot of talent and training to the CCC, which is part of the UTMB festival of races. In our first interview with Clare, she speaks about her background in running, what went wrong in her very late DNF at the Western States 100 in June, the respect she has for the CCC and this year’s competition, and the story behind her recent tune-up race in Latvia.
Clare Gallagher Pre-CCC Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Clare Gallagher before the 2017 CCC. How are you, Clare?
Clare Gallagher: Good, thanks. I’m excited to be here.
iRunFar: Welcome to Chamonix! Is this your first visit here?
Gallagher: Yeah, thanks. It is. It’s really hard to be tapering while here. I just can’t look up.
iRunFar: Please tell me you’re going to do that.
Gallagher: Oh, I am. I am. But it’s just impossible to look at these and not be running.
iRunFar: That’s exciting! Will this be your first time exploring the Alps? So race day is all new and…
Gallagher: Yeah, yeah. It’s going to be everything. Stoke will be high. My eyeballs are going to be very big.
iRunFar: You get some good views starting out over there in Courmayeur.
Gallagher: Yeah. I’ll be… I’ll feel like it’s my first day at summer camp. It’s just a different type of summer camp.
iRunFar: Longer, harder summer camp. This is our first interview.
iRunFar: So, for everybody who doesn’t know you, I’d like to know a little bit about your background in running and sports. How did you get into running?
Gallagher: I ran high school cross country and kind of did track meets, but mainly played lacrosse and swimming. I ran cross country and track at Princeton for four years. That was the collegiate scene.
iRunFar: You were all in on that—three seasons. What were you racing on the track?
Gallagher: I was racing mainly steeplechase.
iRunFar: Somewhat typical coming from…
Gallagher: My coach—God bless him—“Oh, you’re from the West. You can do steeplechase.” It’s just really stereotypical. I wasn’t that awesome at steeplechase to be perfectly honest.
iRunFar: Did you enjoy it?
Gallagher: Yeah, I did, but I definitely didn’t reach any goals in college.
iRunFar: You get done with college and you decide to just start ultrarunning right away? On paper it looks that way.
Gallagher: No, I know. I’m young in the sport. I moved to Thailand to teach English right after I graduated. I needed a goal and wanted to explore, so I signed up for an 80k in northern Thailand. This was six months after I graduated. I feel in love with it. It was really bizarre. We’re talking Golden Triangle, so like, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos. It was the first ever running of the race. The biggest issue was vipers, venomous snakes. If you get caught, stung, bit, you’ve got to take a picture, so they can identify which anti-venom to use. That was my intro. Then I was like, Wait… I’m kind of from the epicenter of ultrarunning. Maybe there’s something here (Colorado). So, yeah, I moved to Boulder after a couple years in Asia. Then, essentially eight months after being in Boulder, that’s when I ran Leadville.
iRunFar: You’d done one 50k?
Gallagher: Yeah, I’d done a handful. I’d done a random 50k in Cimarron, Colorado, and The North Face 50k in Park City.
iRunFar: Then Leadville happened, and all the sudden you went from no one would have had a clue who you were to you ran the second fastest time at Leadville. That’s a pretty quick transition to the top of the sport. What do you think you owe that to?
Gallagher: Yeah, well, that’s nice of you, but yeah, I think I had a lot of, like I said, unreached potential and stoke. I really wanted to do well in the collegiate scene and just never did. I just sort of found my element in the trails and in the mental game especially.
iRunFar: Do you think maybe not having that success in college left you with something to springboard almost when you found that in ultrarunning?
Gallagher: Yeah, totally, and finding a true element of being outside and in the mountains and not caring about splits or… it’s why we all trail run.
iRunFar: You can’t. If you’re watching splits, it’s not going to turn out very well. So you went from that to having another strong run at The North Face 50 Mile, the Black Canyon [100k], and you did some other race this spring, didn’t you? Quad Rock? You were fourth, but it was a crazy race. Then, Western States happened. How do you process that?
Gallagher: Yeah, States was a tough one. I was running well until 89 miles, and then I got what ended up being—it took me awhile to figure this out—a Baker’s cyst behind my knee which I’d been developing over the course of the race, I guess. It basically locked up my leg. I thought I tore my hamstring. My hamstring is fine. It’s a lot of knee stuff that made it not able to move. Long story short, my race ended at 93 miles which sucked because I was doing well up to that point. I was in third. I thought my season was going to be over for the year. Ten days after States, I was like, “I think I can go again.” I’ve had an insane summer.
iRunFar: How’s that?
Gallagher: Just I’ve been able now to train after being so devastated after this stupid DNF. It’s really aggravating to come so close and I didn’t even finish the race. I really think States, I already want to just nail it. It’s one of those. BUT, that being said, I’ve spent time in the mountains and Silverton and around the Sawatch Range in Colorado.
iRunFar: You’ve gotten your mountain on this summer. You’ve transitioned from Western States, which has mountains but also is speed-based…
Gallagher: Yeah, pure flat. Yeah, I’ve now been doing actual mountains.
iRunFar: You feel strong?
Gallagher: Yeah, I feel a lot stronger than I was before States, to be perfectly honest.
iRunFar: CCC years ago had a couple strong European runners, and that was it. Now, it’s one of the strongest races in the world this year. If you take UTMB out of the picture, it’s huge. Are you ready to face some really strong competition?
Gallagher: Yeah, I’m so, so ready especially after States. I’ve had a few smaller races, and my competitive fire is really here but also the respect for these mountains, because I haven’t experienced them yet. Like I said, it’s kind of the first day of camp where I feel like a little bit of an underdog in some ways, and I kind of like that. The American women in this race, it’s stupid how competitive it is. Then Nathalie Mauclair, and…
iRunFar: Maite Maiora and there’s a whole bunch of others. There are some Americans you’ve race, but there are a whole bunch of people… at Western States, you’d run against most of those women before, but here it’s…
Gallagher: Here, I’ll be like, “Ahh! Where are you from?” Yeah, I don’t even know what to expect other than I hope I get to share some miles with some girls.
iRunFar: You probably will out there. Stepping away from CCC for a bit, you just had a race in Latvia. How was trail racing in Latvia?
Gallagher: Trail racing in Latvia is really awesome. I will speak very highly of it even though you don’t know what’s going on at any moment. It’s actually a very flat country, but there are some little hills here and there, so I got in a pretty good 30k with punchy hills in the middle of nowhere Latvia. There’s this race series that travels around the country. To give you an idea, there’s less than two million people in Latvia. Two thousand people show up at this race. It’s like a huge party and then the party leaves, and then there’s no one.
iRunFar: Just piles of crackers.
Gallagher: Crackers and very nice beer. Yeah, that was a bizarre trip that really was a personal trip because I was supposed to be visiting my brother who didn’t happen to be there. It wasn’t a Latvian race director calling me up. They’re like, “What are you doing here?”
iRunFar: You just wanted an incognito tune-up.
Gallagher: Exactly! It was perfect!
iRunFar: Best of luck out there this weekend, Clare. Enjoy.
Gallagher: Thank you, Bryon. I appreciate it.