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35th Anniversary Q&A: 2013 LT100 Run Female Champion, Ashley Arnold

It’s the 35th Anniversary of the Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail 100 Run! Over the next few months, we’ll be catching up with former LT100 Run winners to get the inside scoop on the race, tips on training and how winning the Leadville Trail 100 Run impacted their lives.

This week, we are catching up with 2013 Leadville Trail 100 Run Female Champion, Ashley Arnold.

LRS: What inspired you to run the Leadville Trail 100?

When I first moved to Colorado in 2009, I paced Bryon Powell from Twin Lakes to, I believe, Half Pipe. Waiting for him to come through at Twin Lakes, the energy was contagious. The crowd and the excitement mixed with the expansive views of the mountains around us swept me away. I had just moved to altitude and was painfully out of shape so running even 10 miles with him was a challenge.

After pacing Bryon, I waited for another friend for several hours to run through the night all the way to May Queen. I think we walked the whole way. It was so hard and yet so exhilarating. It was my first summer in the Rockies and my first experience at a 100-mile race. I fell hard for Leadville then and I knew I had to run it. The thin air and the pain and the challenge and the beauty of pushing myself that far was overwhelming exciting.

LRS: What was the most memorable part of running the Leadville Trail 100?

That my sister was there. And Blair, my very best friend since I was 5. And literally all my closest friends. I was pretty sick leading up to the race and couldn’t stomach any food really for the first 40 miles. I think I ate one gel and a drank a little bit of Coke. Mostly I just went to the bathroom. A lot. By the time I got to Twin Lakes, I was so weak and dehydrated, I was sure I was toast. My friend Alex talked me off a cliff and told me he’d see me on Hope Pass. It was a sort of “I better see you” kind of nudge. It worked. I started eating and suddenly I felt great. I felt totally there. Just in it. I feel like I can remember almost every step of that race I was so present. It was the most magical and most fun I’ve ever had in an ultra!

LRS: What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone who is thinking about running the Leadville Trail 100?

Run. Leadville is a relatively flat course. You have to run. Despite the altitude, it’s definitely a course you can pretty much run all of (save Hope Pass; Don’t run Hope Pass). So, train for that and just go for it! 

LRS: How did winning the Leadville Trail 100 Run affect your life?

I think initially, it was a propeller for a lot of other things. It proved to me that no matter what I decide to do, if I decide I can do it, I will do it. That goes for everyone. That idea that you can do whatever you want if you just believe wholeheartedly in it. It opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about what I can achieve in life. 

LRS: What have you been up to since you won?

The year following my LT100 Run win, I more or less stepped away from ultra-running completely. I was training too much and put too much pressure on myself. I was out of balance and went into adrenal fatigue as I was training for another ultra. It took me a few years to recover so I haven’t really raced much at all since Leadville. Now, I am starting to get back in shape. This time, though, I’m working on developing speed for shorter distances to see where I can go with my body there. I’m sure I’ll go back to running longer distances one day, but for now, I’m doing a lot of work on the track and the roads. I also have been teaching yoga to runners and recently created a movement practice rooted in balance that combines yoga, running and dance. My website is: I’m excited because I’m planning a tour of workshops out west for later this summer. 

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