In the past 18 months, Magda Boulet has won at least three ultras — the Leadville Trail 100 Miler, Pikes Peak Ultra 50k and Marathon Des Sables 250K. Additionally, the 46-year-old elite ultra runner tried to set a Fastest Known Time on the 172-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. She came up a little short, finishing in 50 hours, 40 minutes, behind the record of 47:29, set by Krissy Moehl.
While Boulet has been a competitive runner for a while, it was only fairly recently when she discovered the ultra distance. “I didn’t even know what ultra running was when I was 27,” she says.
Boulet had a successful road racing career, winning both the Pittsburgh Marathon and Oakland Marathon in 2002. She says representing Team USA at the 2008 Olympics in China is her biggest point of pride.
Her transition to trails and ultras was as rapid as it was successful. In 2015, Boulet won her debut at the 100-mile distance at the Western States Endurance Run. She finished second at Western in 2017.
On Sept, 11, 2001, Boulet became a U.S. citizen after immigrating with her parents from Poland. Before her marathon career, she ran track at the University of California at Berkley. Boulet works full time as vice president for innovation at GU Energy Labs. She is married to Richie Boulet and they have a 14-year-old son.
Learn more about her secrets to success, balancing training with family life and her job, and ideas on getting more women involved in running in this question and answer with RunSpirited.
Question: What is your 'why' for running now?
Answer: I really just love running itself, the freedom it allows me to explore and the time I get to spend on the trails. For racing, I still love getting to see new places all over the world.
Question: In the past 18 months you have won Leadville, Pikes Peak and Marathon Des Sables. This is pretty atypical for a 46-year-old. What do you credit for your ability to stay at an elite level?
Answer: I listen to my body, and focus more on recovery than I do on training. I find I'm most successful in ultras when I focus more on health than on fitness.
Question: Let's talk about women in running. First, how do we encourage more women (and girls) to try the sport without going overboard?
Answer: I think a big part of it is spreading the word that they are not only welcome to do it, but more than capable. There are so many women out there of all ages, sizes and walks of life. It truly is a sport that anyone can do, provided they have the desire. Instilling the desire for ultra and trail racing is harder to do. I think having races that focus on the women's experience would be great. Training programs designed specifically for first time women ultra runners would be a step in the right direction, as well. HOKA's Women Who Fly program is an awesome initiative that I had a great time being a part of last year, although it's focused on just running instead of specifically trail running.
Question: As women's performances in races continues to improve, what's the best way that we can promote these achievements?
Answer: I think we just need to report and write about women's performances right alongside the achievements of the men in the same races. Also, the women making these performances need to do a better job of promoting themselves. Fortunately, social media has made that easier for us all!
Question: What should male coaches know about the women athletes they work with?
Answer: I think no matter who a coach is working with, that athlete should be treated as an individual, not as a member of a specific gender necessarily. As a coach myself, I've worked with plenty of athletes that don't fit in with the typical gender stereotypes that many coaches and athletes talk about. I try not to make assumptions before I really get to know what works or doesn't work for them.
Question: Let's talk about family life. As a mother and wife, what's your secret to balancing all your commitments — family, work, training and more?
Answer: I have a really supportive family and employer, and they all take part in my training and racing as much as they can. My husband was able to become a stay-at-home dad about a year ago, and that's helped us keep things at home from falling through the cracks. But mostly it's still getting up super early to get some work in, or being creative about incorporating training into my commute.
Question: What's your best advice for someone (say a young mother) who wants to get into running but doesn't know where to start?
Answer: First of all, running is the most natural sport in the world to do. Just put one foot in front of the other and head out your front door. Head into your local, independent running specialty store and get the shoes you need, plus find info there about training groups or at least group runs to help get you started. Also, I tell people all the time to find a race or event that seems on the upper end of your comfort zone, maybe a 5K or 10K for new runners, and sign up for it. Pay your money and put it on the calendar, hopefully four to six months from now. Recruit a friend, coworker, or family member to do it, too. Having something that you've committed to will help get you out the door for each run, and having someone to do it with just makes it more fun!
Name: Magdalena Lewy Boulet
Hometown: Oakland, Calif.
Number of years running: 27
How many miles a week do you typically run: 60 to 80
Point of pride: U.S. Olympic Marathon Team, 2008
Favorite race distance: 100 miles
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: GU Roctane Summit Tea
Favorite piece of gear: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Final Countdown (Europe)
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Live it up
Where can other runners connect or follow you: @runboulet on Instagram