The U.S’s Clare Gallagher returns to the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k after a five-year hiatus. In the following interview, Clare talks about how she’s feeling going into this year’s Trail World Championships, how she’s balancing a return to school and her running, and what her best memory is from her run at the 2018 Trail World Championships at Penyagolosa, Spain.
Clare Gallagher Pre-2023 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Clare Gallagher before the 2023 Trail World Championships. How are you, Clare?
Clare Gallagher: I’m great. How are you?
iRunFar: Welcome to Austria! I’m good.
Gallagher: It’s pretty sweet here.
iRunFar: It is pretty sweet here. I never would have figured I’d be in Innsbruck-Stubai. It’s wonderful.
Gallagher: Nice accent. [laughs]
iRunFar: Butchering German. Sorry.
Gallagher: I know! It’s so hard! [speaking German] That’s like hello.
iRunFar: There you go. I learned something. So, over the last year, you’ve won Leadville [100 Mile]. You won Chuckanut [50k]. Like, are you feeling strong these days?
Gallagher: I’m feeling present.
iRunFar: Okay. You’re here.
Gallagher: [laughs] Yeah, I think yeah, I don’t know if I would necessarily say strong but yeah, Chuckanut was amazing. Leadville feels like it was six years ago.
Gallagher: You know.
iRunFar: Ancient history.
Gallagher: Yeah. Great race, but it’s also tough because it’s not, you don’t get the depth you see in other you know, all the races you guys are covering, right. So, I had a decent time but um, yeah.
iRunFar: But Chuckanut is always like, it’s early season. It’s fast. It’s competitive. How did that feel this year?
Gallagher: Oh, amazing. Yeah, I ran pretty fast. And I wasn’t, I didn’t have any expectations. I’m kind of in focus on school and like not running as much as I have been in past years. And so, I was pretty glad, pleased with the result. But Chuckanut is a four-hour plus 50k. And this is a — we were just talking about like the time it’s going take to run this race — and yeah, it’s a crazy steep, long ultra.
iRunFar: Like you could have a good race and it could take you 12 hours.
iRunFar: If you have a great race.
Gallagher: Exactly. Yeah, you know, it’s running like a proper Alps race. And yeah, to be honest, like it’s been a minute since I’ve been out here, so your guess is as good as mine.
iRunFar: But I mean, toward the front of the women’s race, 12 hours is totally like — could win it.
Gallagher: Totally. Yeah, yeah. I think in years past when I’ve been over here in the Alps or the Dolomites I have had an understanding of where like, my legs are. And like, it’s, what do you call it? It’s not like a snow globe, but a mystery ball. What are they called?
iRunFar: We’re just going to leave it at mystery ball.
iRunFar: So have you done any, since Chuckanut, which you probably were able to run fast and flat like before the snow melts…
iRunFar: Have you been able to get up in the mountains since then, to get some vert in?
Gallagher: Here and there. I mean, you know, the snow line in Colorado is still pretty low, so.
iRunFar: Yep, tell me about it.
Gallagher: [laughs] Resident of Silverton. But, yeah, I mean, Boulder has amazing trails for this type of race. So, I’ve been running. [laughs]
iRunFar: So how, you hinted at it earlier, and I wanted to ask you about like how are you balancing everything? You’re in grad school now. You’re still running fast. You have the rest of life. How are you balancing everything these days?
Gallagher: I think, yeah, school is a nice balance with running in general. I mean, so many people like here at this race, and in our community in general, are balancing work or school with running. And so it’s felt relatively natural. But I think as I’ve gotten older — I’ve been doing this now for seven years, which is kind of surprising, I’m like, Wow, we’ve known each other for that long — I think I just started to really feel the weight of these heavy races. Like I don’t have that beautiful naive bliss anymore.
iRunFar: Oh, no!
Gallagher: Like it’s not necessarily a negative thing, but it’s like these are really hard long races. And so yeah, but the veil of ignorance has definitely been drawn. [laughs]
iRunFar: Yeah. On the opposite side though, I don’t know if your personality lends itself to maybe some of those big races early on — did you get nervous or more stressed out? And maybe that’s waned as well?
Gallagher: Yeah, definitely. Like, which is almost concerning. Like you’d think I would be like a little more nervous, but I don’t know.
iRunFar: No big deal. It’s only like 21,000 feet of climbing in 54 miles.
Gallagher: Yeah, it’s just like, it’s absurd. I’m just here to like, call it out that this sport is absurd, in every way, shape, and form. And even though we love it, and we do it, it’s like, totally monumental, right?
Gallagher: And I’m aware of like the scale of what we’re doing. But yeah, I don’t have those nerves that I had years ago.
iRunFar: And then so, you know, you probably came into the sport, working or doing other things full time and doing it on the side, and then kind of concentrating it on for some years, and then going back to having a big pursuit in other worlds.
iRunFar: Have you found that that has balanced out your running at all, or maybe, has there been benefits to not thinking about training or whatever it is all the time? Having running not be the be all and end all?
Gallagher: Yeah. I was talking to Eric LiPuma about that, you know, amazing runner from Vermont. And to be honest, I actually haven’t felt that much of a difference. I think because I’m such a low mileage runner to begin with. So, when I was doing it more full time and working in the running industry, like the outdoor industry, it feels pretty similar to be honest.
iRunFar: You didn’t have the compulsion to just, I have an open day I’m going to train.
Gallagher: Yeah, yeah. I mean sometimes I think it would benefit me to have a little more compulsion to run. [laughs]
iRunFar: Nah. You’re still here seven years later.
Gallagher: Ask my coach what he thinks. [laughs] God bless David Roche.
iRunFar: Seven years later you’re still here at the top level.
iRunFar: And there are people who are not.
Gallagher: Right. Yeah. I’m very aware of the threat of burnout. And I think that’s just kind of what I’m internalizing and now vocalizing is like finding that balance. And for me, it has shifted a little bit, where I don’t know if it’s necessarily good for my running yet. That’s what I haven’t figured out yet. We’ll see at the end of the summer.
iRunFar: We can talk about that on Saturday or the end of the summer. Yeah.
iRunFar: So, this is not your first time running for the U.S. You ran the Trail World Championships in Penyagolosa in 2018. What’s your best memory from that — just the whole experience, not just the race.
Gallagher: Yeah. The international field is so phenomenal and it being a team race, right. This is the only race in our sport that has this team element, let alone we’re representing our country. There’s just this weight and pride to this event that other races don’t have, because you’re just running for yourself or maybe your sponsors, but that’s like, meh. Kind of like, it doesn’t have the same weight as like, oh these girls are relying on me to like not be a little bitch, you know, and like, quit or whatever.
iRunFar: Or give up and just walk it in.
Gallagher: Yeah, and I’m not saying that that’s, you know, the default for individual races. But there’s just this really amazing camaraderie to this race.
iRunFar: I don’t know if you know anybody who’s raced cross country running as a team sport has felt that.
iRunFar: And as adults we don’t very often get that.
Gallagher: Yeah, yeah. So Penyagolosa had so many good memories.
iRunFar: Like the finish line of the three of you women.
Gallagher: Yeah. Sabrina Little and Kaytlyn Gerbin and I all came in really close together, and we got third for the women and it was yeah, it was like, Oh! Chills! We were all dying.
iRunFar: It was one of those where it wasn’t a pretty third place.
Gallagher: [laughs] Definitely not pretty.
iRunFar: The smiles and like, oh my god, we came out the other side. It’s pretty cool.
Gallagher: Yeah. So it’s really fun to be back with a cool, very deep team I think on the women’s side. You know, these other countries are pretty hard to compete with. I mean, you look at France, and you’re like, Oh, my God. [laughs]
iRunFar: A French woman could possibly place in the men’s team podium.
Gallagher: Yeah, absolutely. So, but that’s the, you know, the beauty of it. Yeah, I’m glad to be back — really, really honored.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well best of luck and have fun out there, Clare.
Gallagher: Thank you.