Catching Up With Rory Bosio

Catching up with two-time UTMB champion Rory Bosio.

By on April 27, 2020 | Comments

“Running’s not actually my favorite sport,” Rory Bosio said, as if it was obvious. She’d just told me all about her Nordic ski set-up. The 35-year-old still lives in Truckee, California and has been taking advantage of the late winter conditions. “There’s still really good skiing–cross country and backcountry. Perfect corn conditions,” she gushed. I’m still confused by her gear, some combination of skate skis and a ski-mountaineering set-up being used outside of their intended use, but it must be ingenious. She was very excited about it.

Rory Bosio skiing. All photos courtesy of Rory Bosio unless otherwise noted.

Bosio won UTMB in both 2013 and 2014. Her 22:37 and 23:23 winning times for the three-country, 105-mile loop are the event’s best by over an hour (when skipping the years with shortened courses). But, she hasn’t reached that level of success again, and the winter-sports love was part of her answer why. She stepped me through the years chronologically first though.

In 2015–the year immediately after her last UTMB win–Bosio was part of the cast for Boundless. The TV show ran for three seasons and Bosio’s season was the last. It aired on the now-defunct Esquire Network, and if you missed it then, like me, there are some clips up on YouTube still.

“I’m so glad I did it,” she said with an elongated ‘so’ for emphasis on the fun. Bosio then starts to spring at the memories, and an occasional laugh pops in when she hits a good thought. “It was super-low budget. It was a Canadian production team on a shoestring budget, like Motel 6 when we’d stay somewhere. But the experiences were so varied, interesting, and fun.” She was partnered with obstacle-course racer Hunter McIntyre, and show regulars Simon Donato and Paul Trebilcock. Together they chased endurance challenges around the world. It was reality TV, but “it wasn’t sensational at all,” she described.

Rory and the Boundless crew.

Bosio rattles off some of the once-a-month adventures. “A cross-country ski race in Greenland. We ran 100 miles in the Atacama Desert. The hardest thing we did was a mountain-bike race in France [MB Mountain Bike Race Culture Vélo]. It’s called the ‘World’s Hardest Day.'” I don’t question her, but she thinks like I do and immediately clarifies. “I don’t know who gives out these titles. It was 90 miles, and I was so proud that I did it. I mountain bike casually, but this was the longest time I’d ever been on a bike.” I chase down the results, and Bosio was fourth woman, though it also appears that there were just four female finishers.

Other epics included sandboarding, the Spartan Race World Championship, and a swim-run contest in Sweden.

Typical Rory goofiness.

We skip to 2016 and Bosio quickly checks that year off, “kind of injured,” she explains. And in 2017, she ran across Corsica on the 125-mile GR20 trail. It was a The North Face-sponsored pet project, and unlike that mountain-bike race of two years earlier, she has fond memories of the French island. “I don’t love having to document it, but I was going to do it by myself anyway,” she said, pointing to family friend’s earlier travel to the island as inspiration. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. 46,000 feet of vert, just amazing singletrack trails. People backpack it, there’s jagged edges and mountains looking out over the Mediterranean Sea.” The 14-minute The North Face feature is called Running on Empty and captured the rocky trails and Bosio’s smiles and low points over the 50-hour trek.

She went back to UTMB in 2017 too, running the shorter OCC 53k race. Bosio was somewhat outspoken years earlier when UTMB only celebrated the top-five women, but the top-10 men, and she stretches her memory at the series of events. “I was irked in 2012. I was fourth, so I was happy, but then realized that only the top-five women were on the podium and the top-10 men. By 2015, it was kind of ridiculous and if I wanted to help grow the sport, I had to do something,” she recalled. She wrote a letter, and they wrote back. “They had a lot of excuses about the number of women in the field, but there were many voices and they got a lot of messages.” They made the change, and Bosio said, “there’s no bitterness.”

More recently Bosio was second at the 2018 TDS, also a UTMB sister race, won the Ushuaia by UTMB race in Argentina in early 2019, and and was eighth at UTMB itself in August 2019.

Looks just about normal for Rory.

She’s done all of this while working as a nurse, most recently splitting time between her longtime workplace, the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Medical Center in Sacramento, and a small adult ICU at a local hospital. Neither group has been too impacted by COVID-19. Children largely haven’t been affected by the novel coronavirus as much as older adults, and her adult ICU has just six beds and has seen a reduction in elective surgeries. The atmosphere at each hospital is completely different than before though, she said. Bosio’s a bit of a pro however, working the overnight shift at UC Davis for the past decade. “Running is solitary, but the night crew works more as a team,” she said of the nighttime appeal. She sometimes would work three shifts in a row, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, at UC Davis while commuting 1:45 each way from Truckee. I gasp, and she answers. “I know, it was cutting years off my life. I was living too much like a gypsy,” she said, though not sounding at all upset. It’s hard to believe that the typically cheery Bosio would ever be upset, but she’s part-time at UC Davis now while striking a better balance.

Rory (second from right) and other nurses at UC Davis.

There’s nothing on Bosio’s race calendar right now. She’s been working a lot, but hopes to explore her backyard more this summer and talks about the Sierra High Route. Further out, Japan, Norway, and a return trip to Ethiopia are travel targets.

We’re wrapping up and I remember that she used to tell jokes at aid stations, and I beg for one of her best. She pauses, checks her memory, and tells me that she has a good PG-13 one. She’s walking her mom’s dog while we’re talking, and it’s windy out. I have to ask her to repeat the joke a second time, and that makes it even funnier.

Sounding unusually serious, she goes, “What do a guy in skinny jeans and a cheap motel have in common?”

I give the only answer that you can here, “I don’t know, I give up.”

“Neither has any ball room,” she quickly answers.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Rory stories, comment with them! This is going to be good…

Rory on the women’s podium after winning the 2013 UTMB. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Rory more recently training in the Alps.

Rory and the Alps.

Justin Mock

Justin Mock is the This Week In Running columnist for iRunFar. He’s been writing about running for 10 years. Based in Europe, Justin has run as fast as 2:29 for a road marathon and finished as high as fourth in the Pikes Peak Marathon.