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Looking Forward and Staying Present

How ultra-runner and environmental activist Clare Gallagher looks ahead and while staying focused

Losing sight of goals when the days become darker is certainly a familiar feeling. Trialing strategies and methods for overcoming such feelings is a universal experience.

So, in search of advice for staying on track when the going gets ‘winter,’ we consulted a professional.

Clare Gallagher, ultrarunner, environmental activist, and Englewood native, is one of the many world-class athletes that call Boulder home. She competes in internationally recognized long-distance races and holds records for the fastest known time running trails like the Zion Traverse, 50 miles in eight hours in Zion National Park, and the Joshua Tree Traverse, 37 miles in six hours.  

Gallagher, like any of us, is affected by the changing of the seasons. When asked about how she chooses to use her downtime months to prepare for the competitive months ahead, Gallagher imparted holistic wisdom.

As it turns out, it all comes down to nurturing your mind, body, and soul. 

Gallagher continues to train, but for this part of the year, the focus is her mind – she treats it as a down period, mentally. She tells me that there are truly about two weeks out of the year that she takes “off.” 

When the season is over, it is important for people to experience and reflect on their achievements. 

She will continue to do regular workouts, guided by her coach David Roche, but it is always a priority to feel calm and low-stress. Activities like freediving and mediating are welcomed to maintain the balance. 

“I really try to do things like run in daylight hours, to feel the sun on my face. It’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves” says Gallagher. 

While finding peace during the winter months is critical, a training regiment is still a priority. But Gallagher finds herself exploring other ways of staying active in the winter and listening to her instincts. She diversifies her training by enjoying ski mountaineering, which requires high aerobic output, but also provides the opportunity to be outside in the mountains.

To be able to access the serenity and the wildness of the outdoors when she can’t be on the trails is critical for her mental sanity as well as her body. 

What her body is telling her it needs is also an essential voice. We so often push ourselves so far that we lose sight of what we are actually calling for. Gallagher listens. When she notices her body craving something, like more fat in the wintertime, for example, she will make stir fry with plenty of olive oil. 

Another big lesson from Gallagher on preparing for the future is the reminder that there is a reason to everything we do.

As a Patagonia-sponsored athlete and an environmental ambassador, she funnels her energy into fighting for climate-awareness. She works with non-profit organizations such as Protect Our Winters to use her platform to affect serious political change. 

It is certainly not an obvious answer to the original question regarding staying motivated during the winter, but it is clear that her commitment and passion towards these issues and the bigger picture is what feeds the cycle of her purpose, determination, and ultimate success. 

The take-away from Clare Gallagher is good news for us all: Our achievements do not need to be dictated by an unsustainable regime, but by finding happiness in the balance of life; nourishing the body, making room for passions, and doing what you love to do for the sake of feeling the sunshine on your face.