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Meg Morgan on mentorship, mindfulness and mountains

(Top photo by Mario Castaneda. Second photo and Golden Ticket photos by Mike McMonagle. Third photo by Tony DiPasquale.)

By Henry Howard

Growing up outside of Boston, Meg Morgan was destined to become a runner. Now at 25, she lives, runs and thrives in Boulder, Colo., one of the nation’s top communities for top trail runners.

Her journey actually started on her bike around age 10, following her mom, who ran a 5K every day. Eventually, around age 10, Morgan ran with her. That turned into running for her middle school and high school cross country teams.

“I was definitely the one on the team who loved the sport the most,” she says. “I was an OK high school runner. But I absolutely loved the sport. I loved my team. And that's something I did find through high school cross country, was I loved running, but I didn't know if I loved cross country. Cross country itself caused me some stress, so I didn't even consider running in college.”

She continued to run as a hobby in college, completing a marathon a year. After graduating, she challenged herself with the goal of running faster road marathons.

Then COVID hit. And like in so many instances of our lives, everything changed.

Finding fun in the mountains

Morgan made the best use of the extra time she had on weekends.

“I really had nothing to do, so I would just run all day, or my friends and I would drive up to the White Mountains to camp and mess around on the trails up there all day,” she recalls. “And that led to my introduction to ultra running, and specifically ultra trail running.”

When races returned, she tested herself.

“I started to experiment with races and found it was something that was really fun for me,” she says. “I felt like if I really dedicated myself to this, I could be good at this.”

But her passion was not just fueled by performance goals.

“What I found through running out in the Whites and the trails that I was having a lot of fun out there,” she explains. “I realized, and I make this joke a lot now, that there's no better way to spend a day than running an ultra, because it combines my favorite things. One, running. Two, being outside. Three, being with friends or with people. And then four, eating food. And you just get to do that all day. I just had so much fun with my friends out in the mountains that I developed this really positive association with running.”

That positivity remained even as her distance increased.

“When I was out in the trails, I just consistently had six-, seven-hour runs where I was just happy the entire time,” she says. “So I was so interested in what I can could do with this positivity and if it could translate over to racing, and if I would still be having fun if I moved to racing from these adventure runs. It definitely takes more intentional mental work to ensure that I can bring that fun over to racing, but it still exists there.”

‘Do I even belong here?’

Morgan proved herself by taking third place earlier this year at the Black Canyon 100K, finishing in 8:53, eight minutes behind winner Keely Henninger and six minutes behind Heather Jackson. Morgan received a Golden Ticket to Western States because Jackson was already in the race.

“I was really nervous going into the race because I really wanted a ticket,” she recalls. “That was my full motivation for doing the race. It was my No. 1 goal. And looking at the starting list build over the months before the race, I just got more and more nervous and found myself getting really bogged down in the credentials of these other women. It was just an incredible field of 20-plus women who all had a very plausible shot at getting a ticket.”

Impostor syndrome took hold.

"Do I even belong here?” she wondered. “Look at all these results of all these other women. Everyone knows who they are, no one knows who I am."

Morgan talked it over with her coach, Megan Roche, who helped her reframe that mindset. (Note: For full disclosure, I am coached by David Roche, Megan’s husband and business partner with SWAP coaching.)

“We had conversations leading up to the race, in terms of how to reframe that mindset and reinforcing my confidence that I do belong here,” she recalls. “At that point I just needed to rest and eat and trust the process, and really trust my racing capabilities and know that I have the legs under me to perform.”

She was physically ready and, with Roche’s guidance, she was mentally up to the task as well.

“It was a conscious effort on my part in the weeks leading up to the race to make sure I was in that positive mindset,” she said. “That's a real asset of mine in racing. If I 100% want to be there, then that positive mindset plays into my entire race as it prevents me from bonking.”

Mentor and mentee

Throughout her running journey, Morgan has been fortunate to have female mentors like her mom and Megan


“My mom was definitely the instigator there,” she says, recalling her introduction to running. “I did an after-school art program where I was really close with my art teacher there. And she was a big runner, too. She would always do this run in Boston that at the time was called the top 10K for Women. It's a massive 10K held in Boston in October with like 10,000 women running. So she encouraged me to sign up for that when I was in middle school. And she also trained for the marathon, as she had and survived breast cancer. And so was running for an organization for Boston. So she was always a role model for me in terms of running for women and women's health. And she definitely introduced me and inspired me to do the big races in Boston.”

Morgan’s older cousin, Sophie, was another inspiration. Then 14-year-old Morgan ran her first marathon with her cousin.

“Whenever we're together at family reunions, we go out for runs together,” she recalls. “But I would've never thought as a 14-year-old to even consider running a half-marathon. And she was said, ‘No, you can do it. I did it, and it'll be fun.’"

Other inspirations included role models on her high school cross country team.

“Assistant Coaches Diaz and Henderson, who were just amazing people, so motivational, so strong, really fast women themselves, and really knew how to encourage us to be our best without being negative,” Morgan recalls.

Of course, not every girl is as fortunate as Morgan to have such role models. It does raise the question about how the trail and ultra running community can help inspire girls to run.

“This is a really great topic and one that I'm really passionate about,” Morgan says. “A lot of people didn't know many people my age (17) who had run marathons. But I've had, over the last couple of years, friends or friends of friends reach out to me for advice on running. And typically, those are younger women and younger girls, which is really crazy to see. I think it makes me really happy that they look to me as someone who inspires them, who shows them what is possible.”

When she lived in Boston, Morgan coached for Girls on the Run. The curriculum empowers girls in terms of self-confidence and athletics.

“They're just incredible,” she says. “I saw the effects of the organization firsthand. These girls who came into it, most of them, their parents forced them to sign up for it. And they didn't really care about running. They were just there to hang out with their friends. And then by the end, they were begging us to run more when we needed to wrap up and have our debrief session. It was just so cool to see them all so excited for running.”

Trust the process

Just like all mentees, Morgan also needs some mentoring from a coach.

She started working with Roche in January 2022, after a disappointing race at the Bandera 100K. Not only was it a new race distance, the field was much more competitive than her previous ultras. The issues she experienced all came down to one thing.

“I was just riddled with anxiety,” she says. “And anxiety was something that was really prevalent in my life in high school, around running and around school. And that's why I stopped running competitively, is because it just became such a stressor for me. Up until this point running was no longer that, and I really enjoyed ultras. I was getting so nervous that running was flipping back into that negative corner of my mind.”

Initially Morgan hesitated about hiring a coach, admitting she’s “a pretty stubborn person.” But she knew it was the right move if she wanted to be competitive. “I needed to do these races with full confidence and knowing that I was fully prepared, and have the extra confidence of an expert backing me to aid me in the race.”

Morgan says being coached again was a learning process.

“I was learning how to be completely honest with my coach, how to listen to the training plans she gives me, to not overtrain, and to fully take advantage of her as a resource and all that she is able to offer,” she says. “I think we really have fallen into our stride in the last seven or so months, in really cultivating that strong communication, really believing in each other. And that's just led to stronger performances and a stronger relationship between us.”

Morgan notes two significant changes in the training that has led to her breakthroughs.

First, eliminating track workouts. “I used to do a lot of track work for my workouts, and I have not touched the track since working with Megan. We mainly do hill work. And I wouldn't say doing hill work was something I was hesitant about. I just hadn't really done much of it before. I really enjoyed that transition to mostly doing hill work, as I'm less anxious about workouts, because they can't not be effort-based, because every hill is different.”

Secondly, scaling back of mileage. “That was hard for me in the beginning. This stems towards maybe the impostor syndrome or the self-confidence issue. I've always known that speed wasn't really an asset of mine. So I thought that high mileage and long time on feet was where I could beat out the other women. And so when we started cutting down that mileage from what I was used to, it definitely made me nervous. That took some time to just trust, but it's gone well. And we definitely still do hit some pretty high mileage. Her methods have proven to do well for me.”

Looking ahead to Western States

So well that Morgan’s looking forward to Western States this summer.

“Oh, I'm so excited! It's such a wild thing to be a part of something so historic like that,” she says. “When I learned about it, it was something that I wanted to do, but I had no idea how I would get there, if I could ever get there. And so now having it actually be something that I see on my race schedule is just so crazy. And I've really only been following it for the last two years or so. I'm still pretty new to ultra trail running as a sport. But every time watching it, it's just amazing to be able to follow the strongest women in the country, running through these historic trails.”

Morgan rattles off some elites currently on the start list. Courtney Dauwalter, Camille Herron, Katie Asmuth, Marianne Hogan.

“It means a ton to me, seeing my name on a list with all these other women who I've seen just absolutely crush it over the last couple years,” she says. “I'm so excited to meet them, to line up against them. And I'm excited, too, to share it with my friends and family who'll be following along. I hope to have as much fun out there as possible.”

Speed drill

Name: Meghan Morgan

Hometown: Boulder, Colo., but born and raised in Needham, Mass.

Number of years running: 15

How many miles a week do you typically run: 60 to 90

Point of pride: “I can eat an entire pizza in one sitting without blinking an eye.”

Favorite race distance: 50 miles

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: “Rice with maple syrup — unconventional but perfect for a sensitive stomach.”

Favorite piece of gear: “Currently obsessed with La Sportiva's Jackal II boa shoes.”

Who inspires you: “My two sisters. They are the most generous, supportive, and thoughtful people I know. They inspire me to continuously push myself to become a better person.”

Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “Hahaha pt 2,” by Kishi Bashi

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “Chip away. One at a time.” (“I repeat this to myself often when doing intervals, ticking off miles in a run or race, or getting through strength reps. Any hard thing is digestible if it is broken down.”)

Where can other runners connect or follow you:

Instagram: @gomegmo

Strava: Meg Morgan


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