We chatted with Zimbabwe’s Emily Hawgood before the 2022 Western States 100, where she finished seventh last year. In the following interview, our first with Emily, she talks about her history with sports, what she learned from last year’s race, and why she’s looking forward to going into this year’s race fresher than last year’s.
Emily Hawgood Pre-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, I’m here with Emily Hawgood before the 2022 Western States 100. How are you?
Emily Hawgood: I’m doing really well. Yeah.
iRunFar: Enjoying some UTMB weather rather than some Western States weather?
Hawgood: Right. It’s a little different.
iRunFar: A little bit different, yeah, yeah.
Hawgood: A little wet. But that’s what we want.
Hawgood: It’s just training us for Saturday, right? It’s going to be wet all day.
iRunFar: Hope you brought your waterproof jacket.
Hawgood: Yeah, my skin.
iRunFar: There you go. So, this is a first time we’ve chatted on camera. I know iRunFar has profiled you, but I’d love to chat a little bit about, just like, what your athletic history is? With sports in general and with running.
Hawgood: Yeah, I grew up in Zimbabwe and played every sport in the book. Went to boarding school from the age of five so we are kind of born into that, like you do it for school. It was really exciting to do that growing up and then find this later in life.
Hawgood: Find trail running, specifically, after college.
iRunFar: And you found running while you were in university a little bit more, or?
Hawgood: Yeah, so I ran from the age of five for school and that was definitely my favorite sport — cross-country and track.
Hawgood: And then managed to do it in college too. But then, yeah, kind of when I graduated I thought my sport was going to be Ironman triathlons.
iRunFar: Yeah, nope.
Hawgood: Nope. Yep, I struggled on the bike sections just like, maybe the comfort zone of training on your own, with trucks flying by you at 100 miles an hour.
iRunFar: Not pleasant.
Hawgood: Yeah. So, I did my last, what ended up being my last Ironman, and met my coach and he said he ran in the mountains, and trained athletes to run in the mountains, and I was like, “Can I do that?”
iRunFar: And so you have.
Hawgood: And so I have, yeah.
iRunFar: And not only did you make that like a personal, one of your personal passions, you changed… I don’t know if you changed your education in that direction, but you definitely went in that direction with schooling.
Hawgood: Yeah, so I actually had changed earlier on, two years before I graduated, undergraduate, I had Matthew Lay teaching an exercise nutrition class. And I just loved it, I couldn’t wait for that class every week. Three times a week. And I changed my major. I walked out of class, I was like, “I’m going to change my major to exercise physiology.” Yeah, I just loved the stories he shared from his career, just the passion he had for all physiology and science and stuff behind what we get to do there.
iRunFar: And then you went on and got a Masters in sports physiology, right? High-altitude?
Hawgood: High-altitude exercise physiology.
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, you get to put a little bit of that to use on Saturday morning, but not so much. You ran Western States last year and had a strong run, I’d love to hear a little bit about that.
Hawgood: Yeah, I mean it was so special to be out here. That was the first time I’d ever been at the race. Even, I hadn’t had the chance to support before so it was real exciting to be out there and get a feel for the community and the vibe out here. And just why everyone is so excited about it. But also, being connected with Paul Lind as my coach, kind of just felt like I was running in history books.
iRunFar: Yeah, and that’s of the Lind family that goes back, long history here.
Hawgood: And so, since he started coaching me, that’s been a front panel of all his coaching so that’s really special to put it into practice on that course.
iRunFar: So that was your first time at the race, it probably didn’t feel, you felt like you had probably a connection to the event?
Hawgood: Yeah, for sure, yeah, a huge connection. Yeah.
iRunFar: So, having had that one Western States experience, did you change anything in your preparation or your approach to this year’s race?
Hawgood: I mean yes, because it was probably dictated for me that I could or had to because last year I took three 100ks to get into the race. So this year it just gave me a lot more time to put together the perfect plan and preparation.
iRunFar: For Western States specifically?
Hawgood: For Western States. Yeah.
iRunFar: So, I wanted to ask you about that. So fall of 2020 I believe, you ran your first 100 miler, IMTUF, yeah?
iRunFar: Then you ran three 100ks to get your Golden Ticket, which you did. Then you ran Western States, then you ran UTMB. Those were your first three 100s. All of this was in the course of a year?
Hawgood: 12 months. Yeah. [laughs]
iRunFar: Like honestly, how did you come out of that? Because that’s a lot, for people who have a lot of experience, it feels like less of a burden, but out of the gate?
Hawgood: Yeah, I couldn’t be more stoked with how my body felt at the end of that. I felt strong, I felt excited. But I had planned to specifically have a rest, because I don’t want to be burnt out at all. And then I actually got a concussion three weeks after UTMB, so it kind of helped. I pretty much had to take at least a month of like really downtime.
iRunFar: Probably not exactly your plan, but in the long run it might…
Hawgood: Maybe it helps and maybe kept me sitting for a little extra time. Yeah, but overall, I was really excited and, I mean, kudos to both my coaches, my strength coach and my running coach, Paul Lind.
iRunFar: You didn’t have any physical injuries, you weren’t mentally burnt out, your energy bounced back reasonably, a little while after UTMB.
Hawgood: Yeah, exactly. No, I never felt burnt out at all.
iRunFar: And coming into this season, just as excited as the last?
Hawgood: Oh yeah.
iRunFar: What do you hope to do this weekend?
Hawgood: I mean, definitely put my best foot forward. I’m just super excited to kind of take that confidence from last year, not just this race but the whole journey throughout all of those six races that you mentioned. And just take that to the line this time and just be more confident out there, like knowing I can compete.
iRunFar: Now does that give you more confidence in the beginning to maybe be more aggressive or is that confidence knowing you can run like the same sort of controlled race, but then maybe turn it on later?
Hawgood: Yeah. I think that obviously dives deep into like the racing plan, which is okay. [laughs] And I think there is like the confidence in both those fields. If I wake up on Saturday morning and I feel like I need to be more controlled at the beginning, I’m comfortable doing that. I know the end of the course, I know what’s needed from Foresthill so I understand how I need to, kind of what gear I need to shift into and can pay attention to what my body’s feeling on Saturday.
iRunFar: If you’re feeling good 20 or 30 miles in, you might not be afraid to roll with that a little bit?
Hawgood: Right, exactly.
iRunFar: Nice. One of the big challenges of Western States, not today, is the heat. Did you learn anything from actually experiencing racing through miles 40, 50, 60, 70 last year that maybe you’ll tweak your nutrition on or anything like that?
Hawgood: Yeah, so I feel like I’ve adjusted my whole nutrition plan, my whole hydration plan. But that knowledge has come through those last six races. Like I couldn’t even say like, “Oh, from Western States last year, I know exactly what my plan’s going to be.” No, because stuff changed at UTMB that I’ve now adopted to put into practice here, this weekend. So yeah, developing that whole plan last year.
iRunFar: Are there any like, just broad implementations there that you could speak to?
Hawgood: Maybe just starting my nutrition really early. That’s going to be, like taking calories in early is going to be key for me. I knew that last year but kind of have nailed in exactly what I need this year, which is good. And then hydration, I think when it’s hot, you need to drink more even than you think you do.
iRunFar: Right on, sounds like you have a great plan and a great attitude going into the race. Best of luck.
Hawgood: Thank you so much.