Clare Gallagher will represent the US at the 2018 Trail World Championships. In the following interview, Clare talks about where’s she’s been traveling, how she’s coming into the race “not overtrained,” and how she’s excited to be running for a team again.
Clare Gallagher Pre-2018 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar with Clare Gallagher before the 2018 Trail World Championships. How are you, Clare?
Clare Gallagher: I’m great, thanks Bryon.
iRunFar: You’ve been travelling around a lot this year.
Gallagher: Yeah, I have, but not necessarily for running the entire time. No, wait, it has been. A race in Italy, Cinq Terre – Sciacchetrail.
Gallagher: Very hilly, like 8,500 feet of gain for 50k. And then Ethopia for running.
iRunFar: What was that like?
Gallagher: Crazy, crazy. By far the poorest place I’ve ever been. I’ve spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia, but this was my first time in Africa. The running culture is so inspiring. Being in Bukoji, where the documentary, Town of Runners, is based after – it’s 9,000 feet above sea level, but it’s flat.
So these people, the runners, can just crush miles, it’s flat. Ethiopian distance running has a strong team ethic, so everything’s done as a group: drills, runs, everything. No one has running water, everyone eats two or three meals per day of injera and this shiro hummus stuff. They’re just like the fittest people on earth. They farm when they’re not running or in school [laughs], so it’s no wonder why they’re so fit. But the rest of Ethiopia that doesn’t have that luxury, they’re doing subsistence agriculture, they don’t have any wiggle room to run for recreation. It’s mind boggling.
On both levels – the absolute poverty and seeing these people train at the highest level on slightly more than nothing.
iRunFar: Was that inspiring?
Gallagher: For sure. It definitely made me see how soft I am, once again [laughs]. If anything, it’s more inspiring to think about climate change in a new way: how people are so, so vulnerable to climate change in places like northern Ethiopia, where they’re drought-prone.
iRunFar: Is that what brought you there?
Gallagher: It was actually with this organization, Girls Gotta Run. It’s a really sweet org that funds girls to stay in school and run. Otherwise, you get married as like a fourteen year-old – that’s very standard. You have a kid by the time you’re fifteen years old.
iRunFar: And now here you are in Valencia, on the coast.
Gallagher: I feel like we’re in The Strangera little bit. Have you walked down the boardwalk yet? It feels… I think The Stranger took place in Algeria, it’s a book by Albert Camus.
iRunFar: I’ve only been on the boardwalk at like two in the morning, running with Meghan Hicks, so it was fairly deserted then [laughs]. So, you’ve been travelling around a lot. Have you been able to train through that?
Gallagher: Um, yeah [laughs]. It’s May, it’s super early. I didn’t ski a lot this winter, because I just didn’t want to do competitive skimo. It’s not to say that I haven’t been running. I feel relatively ready, but I’m definitely not over-trained. I’m 100% undertrained. I just know I’ll be a little bit better at the end of the summer. But we’re here [laughs].
iRunFar: You’ve got the first 70k to train for the last 15.
Gallagher: Yeah, exactly. It’s definitely going to be one of those races [gestures at her head].
iRunFar: And how are you?
Gallagher: I’m psyched, I’m ready. The hotter, the better. I want it to be the worst conditions possible. That’s like a Ryan Smithstatement. He says things like, “it better be the worst year ever, because then we have a chance.” But I feel good. The uphill benefits my strengths, I actually feel really psyched.
iRunFar: Have you been able to see any of the course?
Gallagher: No. Nope.
iRunFar: I don’t think any of the U.S. runners have.
Gallagher: Zach Millerdid.
iRunFar: I mean in the past couple days.
Gallagher: No. Timothy Olson, but he’s not racing for the U.S. I actually haven’t even asked him what he thinks about it. I’m excited to see it on Saturday.
iRunFar: It’ll be an interesting challenge. So, there’s obviously the individual aspect of this race. Are you looking forward to getting back into a team aspect?
Gallagher: Oh, yeah. It’s so fun. Everyone I’m here with I’ve never met. I’m with Amy Leedham, Dani Filipek, and I’ve never met them before. We’re like, “well, it’s just like cross country again.” There’s six people on a team and we have two rooms for us girls. It’s like fun team bonding. We’re like washing sand off each other’s feet in the shower from the beach. It’s great.
iRunFar: It seems like there’s some good energy there. I saw you gals walk into the lobby and it seems like Dani has some spirit.
Gallagher: Oh, yeah. Dani’s hilarious. I think she’s like a total underdog/dark horse, because of her speed on the roads.
iRunFar: She has a lot of speed. There’s no question. Can you fill us in, has she talked at all about her trail running experience?
Gallagher: She’s hilarious. She’s like, “wait, how do you qualify for Western States?” She asking some super endearing questions. It’s clear she’s just getting into the trail scene.
iRunFar: So there’s a lot of wildcards.
Gallagher: Yeah, and she’s doing a lot more hills than she’s ever done. She used to be doing 120-mile weeks when she was training on the roads, which is crazy. I think she’s going to be way strong even though she’s self-deprecating and thinks she’s new to trails.
iRunFar: This being a team race, is there a way to have Dani run with you, or to give her advice like “don’t go out too hard.” Because it’s going to be tempting.
Gallagher: Totally. I think we’ll talk about it on Friday. It’s so hard to talk about specifics, though. Even though I feel like I’m not at my peak fitness, I don’t know where that is in relation to our teammates, which is fine. I don’t know if we have a team captain or anything, but I think we’ll have a little round table discussion just to get everyone’s – I guess I’ll lead it [laughs] – to get everyone’s sort of plan. I think we have a shot. I think we’re deeper than some may think.
iRunFar: There’s some depth there.
Gallagher: Yeah. We’re not Spain or France.
iRunFar: They do have really great teams. And there’s a big difference there. It’s hard to come over from the U.S., travel intercontinentally, and perform. I mean, there’s a cost involved. There’s a lot of support from the Spanish and French federations for their teams.
Gallagher: Totally. I’m still trying to figure out where trail running fits in USATF and I find it so confusing. And I should know this, right? It’s kind of my job. There’s a lot of U.S. runners who turned down this team in order to run in Transvulcania, which is something that should be noticed by our people.
iRunFar: Hayden Hawks is here, and he’s going to run in the Ultra-Trail World Tour. I’m sure he gets support for that.
Gallagher: And by support, we mean paying for flights and stuff.
iRunFar: It’s not a critique of the actual team leaders here at all. It’s a matter of how do the U.S. athletes and the U.S. fans influence getting that support to make it more attractive and make it easier for people who want to be a team member and come race.
Gallagher: Totally. The team element’s super fun. This would be a really fun race to spectate. Do you like watching team running?
iRunFar: I grew up running in high school and college and the most fun of anything was cross country because of that team aspect. To be an adult and be able to get back into that. Okay, I mean if you’re in a city there are cross country meets, but most runners don’t have that in any meaningful way. Not in a competitive sense. So having that as a runner is super awesome, and to watch it.
I remember being at the finish line two years ago in Portugal, adding up the times on the back of a notepad for the French women and the Spanish women. Or, a couple of years ago one of the races didn’t post the cumulative times so I went home and was adding up the men’s scores. You knew who the first- and second-place teams were, the French and the Spanish and the other one, but then adding up the minutes and figuring it all out. So having that team aspect definitely makes it interesting. Seeing the Spanish team go out really hard but then a couple of guys drop and then the French team moves ahead, or whatever. It’s fun.
iRunFar: So, folks who are thinking about it in the U.S., come on out for the team.
Gallagher: Is it ATRA? Or is it USATF selection?
iRunFar: It’s USATF. Now you know. So, it sounds like you’re ready to go and have some fun out there, Clare.
Gallagher: Yeah, it’ll be great. We’re going to have lots of fun. You guys better yell hard.
iRunFar: We will be yelling and cheering.
Gallagher: Are you using some locals, Spaniards, to help with your coverage?
iRunFar: No, but we have our Argentinian friend, Mauri Pagliacciout on the course. Otherwise it’s me, Meghan and Mauri. Go team!
iRunFar: So, there’s a pre-race bonus question for you. Did you travel with any kitchen appliances?
Gallagher: [Laughs] I did. This is a shout-out to Dylan Bowman, who told me he never travels without a rice cooker. I thought, “I should never travel without a rice cooker.” So I bought a personal-sized, little rice steamer.
iRunFar: So it’s you, Amy, Dani, and your rice cooker.
Gallagher: Exactly! And Valencia is home of this rice in Spain.
iRunFar: You’ve got some paella here, yeah.
Gallagher: So we can do hotel-room rice.