Ruby Muir, 2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champ Interview

While Ruby Muir has been making a name for herself within New Zealand’s trail running community for the past few years, she stepped out on the international stage with her dominant win at the 2013 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (results article). In the following interview, Ruby talks about her running history, running in Vibram FiveFingers (she wore them for the entire 100k!), what she does for a living, and where she wants to go from here.

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Ruby Muir, 2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar here with Ruby Muir, Champion of the 2013 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. How did it go out there, Ruby?

Ruby Muir: Pretty good. I was expecting it to feel a lot longer mentally. It was tiring, but none of the distance seemed to drag out, so that was good.

iRF: What was your longest run ever before today?

Muir: About 75-76k?

iRF: Not in races though, right? Just on tracks?

Muir: No, not in races. It’s one of my favorite loops around Ruapehu. It takes a long time. It’s really up and down.

iRF: Is that near where you live?

Muir: Two hours drive in the Central Plateau. It’s the biggest mountain on the North Island which isn’t saying much.

iRF: Is it a named track?

Muir: Yes, ‘ound the Mountain Ruapehu.

iRF: Have you done that a few times?

Muir: Yes. I love it there.

iRF: Rumor has it having hung out here for a couple days in Rotorua that you run all the time—you and your boyfriend. That’s what you do, right?

Muir: No, I have a full time job. I just fit running in.

iRF: What do you do?

Muir: I work at Hohepa, which is a community home for severely disabled children. I work in a house and I have a key child who is non-verbal autistic that I just try and support him through his daily life, and take him to school. It’s pretty intense. It’s probably harder than what we’ve just done.

iRF: Hearing some of the amount of training that you do and trying to fit that around a really intense job… do you find running is a release for you?

Muir: Yes, it’s always been a release for me to cope with some stuff that’s gone on in my life. It still works really well for that.

iRF: How long have you been a runner?

Muir: I guess since I was 17, but I didn’t really think of myself as a runner then. I was just someone who ran.

iRF: When did you start thinking of yourself as a “runner?”

Muir: I entered a run at Ruapehu, The Goat, and by chance I won it. I thought, Well actually, I’ll keep training and see where it goes.

iRF: When was that?

Muir: I’m not sure. I think I was still 17; it was in December.

iRF: You’ve progressed quickly. How old are you now?

Muir: 21.

iRF: This is a big step up. You’ve won a lot of races here in New Zealand, but a lot of great international runners were in the field today—not just women, but men. You are right up there with them. Does this inspire you to compete abroad at all?

Muir: I’ve always wanted to, but it’s a matter of finding a way. I’ve also got a partner who loves to run and it’s hard to see how we’d manage to run together. I wouldn’t really want to be long periods apart. We’ll see if we can work it out.

iRF: Any particular areas or races that you could in the next year or two go run abroad?

Muir: I know the names of a bunch of races, but of course I don’t know any of them well enough to know what would be best. There are so many out there. I love really technical mountain trails with a lot of climbing and descent. Things like the long skyrunning series sounds like the right stuff for me.

iRF: After your first 100k, the 80k-100k distance is something you’ll tackle again this year maybe?

Muir: There aren’t any other 100k’s in New Zealand. Well, next week there is one, but I’m not doing that this year. There are not a lot of big races. It’s kind of the end of the season here in New Zealand before winter. So I’ll just do some training races and then the next race is [the Kepler Challenge] in December.

iRF: You’re going to race that?

Muir: Yes, I want to get the record.

iRF: How far off are you? You’ve run it before right?

Muir: Yes, I ran it for the first time last year. I was about… I think I did 5:37 or 5:38 and the record is 5:24.

iRF: Had you run the track before?

Muir: No, and I’d just come back from knee surgery, and I wasn’t expecting to get into Kepler. I got a last minute entry two weeks before, so I was quite shocked to be able to do that.

iRF: That’s quite amazing. That’s a beautiful run, too.

Muir: It’s easy running. The track is a bit smooth for what I like.

iRF: Buffed out.

Muir: Yes, but it’s beautiful.

iRF: It comes over and comes down Harris Saddle—a little techy right there. I was amazed, in the US, we do have people run in Vibram FiveFingers. But I’ve not seen anyone run really fast for 100k in FiveFingers. How long have you been running in FiveFingers?

Muir: Well, I grew up in bare feet and ran around in bare feet a lot as a kid. When I started trail running, I think I had some big shoes—Scott or something—and they worked on and off for a year or two. Then I got pain and it was time to take them off. So I got contacted by Vibram because I’d done a couple of races in bare feet (no shoes) and I had a talk with them. A lot of their shoes didn’t fit because their toes are different lengths than mine. So it was a long time before I found some that worked. But since my surgery which was around the 4th of July last year, I’ve really only been wearing these. They’ve really helped with my rehab and stuff. The ones that I wear right now are the SeeYas, which are 5k road running shoes. They’re the least you can get, and I guess they don’t hurt my feet at all because there’s just nothing there.

iRF: They’re like 100 grams of a little bit of rubber and a mesh upper. That’s truly amazing. Aside from your speed…

Muir: Different things work for everybody. I look at people wearing Hokas and think that’s amazing.

Bonus Question

iRF: Yes, but it is what works for different people. Congratulations on your win. Thank you so much for chatting. One quick bonus question: When I chatted with Anna Frost, your fellow Kiwi, she suggested a couple runs on the South Island. What are one or two can’t-miss runs on the North Island?

Muir: The Kaweka Challenge (now, the BCR Kaweka Mountain Marathon)—it’s been going for more than 20 years now and it stopped about a year ago. My partner is trying to bring it back. It’s brutal. I can’t actually remember how much climb it’s got, but it’s a record for how long it is in NZ. The Kawekas are out of Hawke’s Bay where we live and we do a lot of running there. They’re really rugged and just straight up and straight down. I think that’s the best.

iRF: When is that going to be run? What time of year?

Muir: Around February—the beginning of February.

iRF: Cool, we’ll keep our eyes out for that one.