Pam Reed and her 100 100-milers
It was only fitting that Pam Reed wore bib number 100 for the recent Grandmaster Ultra 100-miler.
For Reed, it was her 100th 100-mile race, which at age 59, she finished as the top woman with a gigantic belt buckle, thematic cake and bubbly champagne.
On the cake was Reed’s mantra, “Keep putting one foot in front. Never stop.”
After her celebration and a visit with her sister who lives in Arizona, Reed was considering a side trip on her way back home to Jackson, Wyo.
“One of my absolute favorite things in the world is to go to the Grand Canyon,” she says, five days after the race. “I've only done the Rim to Rim to Rim three times. I might just go over and do the Grand Canyon. Because I just I love it.”
And she sure loves running, which she started as a way to build fitness for tennis.
An intro to running
But it didn’t start out that way. She admits she hated track.
“It was less of a choice,” she says since the coach ordered the team to run two or three miles. I'm the kind of person that I don't like to be told what to do. I don't listen very well.”
Reed, who played No. 1 singles in high school tennis, competed on the college team at Michigan Tech. There, she also began teaching aerobics to the men’s hockey team. “I tried to kill them. We would do pushups, sit ups and all this stuff.”
Then the team came up with an idea for a 10-mile run. That stirred Reed’s competitive juices. She vowed to “beat you guys but, of course, I got dead last.”
Still that sent her on a journey to 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons and ultras.
‘Who would do that?’
Reed first learned about 100-mile races when one of her husband’s clients was training to do the Leadville 100. "Oh, that's ridiculous. Who would do that? How do you do that?" she wondered.
But things changed when the friend, Bennie Linkhart, took her on a 17-mile run in Sevino Canyon. “We climbed, we went up, up, up, up, and he told me, ‘You should be walking on the up hills.’ Of course I didn't listen to that, because I do my little jog thing on the uphills. But that was my introduction.”
Soon Reed and her husband, Jim, signed up for their first 100K. They ran and finished together at the Elkhorn 100 in Montana. Then they attempted their first 100-miler, which Pam finished but Jim dropped at 50 miles.
“I just kept going,” she recalls of her first of 14 Wasatch races in 1992. “I finished the race, and it was so cool. I got totally sick, threw up, and slept for a couple, three hours, and was able to finish.”
Quite the resume
Whether Reed is playing high school tennis, challenging guys to a 10-mile race or facing long odds in a grueling race, her competitive nature shines through.
“I've always been really competitive,” she says. “When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader. It was not easy to get on the squad. But I was the captain, and I was the number one tennis player at our school. I worked really hard at these things.”
That hard work has paid off with a long list of achievements in ultra running, including becoming the 17th known person to finish 100 100-mile races. Among her other career highlights (so far):
• Reed has run more than 100 marathons (with a 2:59 PR) and finished more than 170 ultras, winning at least 25.
• She won her first 100 in Tucson with a time of 21:30.
• At her first Badwater in 2002, she as the overall winner of the 135-mile race in just under 28 hours. Overall, she finished Badwater 11 times, always on the podium.
• She has completed 58 Ironmans.
Reed already had an impressive ultra resume well before Born to Run was published and triggered the boom in ultra running that we see today.
“People would just say. how crazy I was,” she recalls. “I guess I didn't talk to a whole lot of people about it, mostly my kids' coaches. Because I would go to their games or when they were practicing, and I would just run, and run and run.”
Getting to 100
In 2019, ultra-race historian Davy Crockett did some research and published a list of runners with 100 100-mile finishes. Reed was surprised she wasn’t included.
“That was not on my radar. I thought I had done it already,” she says. So Reed went to work, knocking off the 11 she needed at that point, including IMTUF, Bryce Cannon 100 and Grandmasters.
“It was cool because my friend, Ernie, has a house in St. George, so I was able to stay there at his house,” she says.”It just all turned out really well. Plus, I love the desert. I could drive there. It was nine hours from Jackson. So, it was perfect.”
You might think that Reed has checked everything off her bucket list.
She would like to run Comrades Marathon, Spartathlon and Vol State – “that Tennessee thing sounds intriguing to me.”
‘You got to have a why’
Reed, who is about to turn 60, encourages other masters athletes and others to chase their dreams.
“You got to have a why,” she says. “I know this comes up a lot but it's true. For instance, doing my 100th 100-miler, right? That was a great why. So, you don't even have to think about it because you know you're going to finish this because you have to. Having a why will help you train.”
She epitomizes an active lifestyle. Just five days after finishing her most recent 100-miler, sheIran five miles in the morning, did hot yoga, took her sister to the airport, swam 2,000 yards, rode her bike and planned a second round of hot yoga in the evening. “That’s my idea of the best day ever.”
Turn back the clock and what would teenage Pam think of what her older self has accomplished?
“Gosh, I would be amazed I guess. But on the other hand, I've always been competitive and I’ve always wanted two things: to be outside and to just keep moving and moving.”
Just like her mantra “Keep putting one foot in front. Never stop.”
Check out this video of Reed’s 100th finish of a 100-mile race.
Name: Pam Reed
Hometown: Palmer, Mich.
Number of years running: 45
How many miles a week do you typically run: 60 to 100
Point of pride: “Last year at 59 doing 10 100s and winning the women’s race in Arrowhead 135 and The Drift. Very proud of that.”
Favorite race distance: 100 miles
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Steak, salad and baked potato.
Favorite piece of gear: “Camelbak fanny pack. It holds my water and a few nut butters.”
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “I like fast, upbeat songs but can’t really think of one special one.”
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “Keep putting one foot in front. And never stop until the finish.”
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Website: Pamreedultra.com
• Twitter: @pamreed
• Instagram: Pamreed100