“Growing up, for me running was punishment,” says Erika Edmiston. “I played volleyball and basketball in high school and college; running was what you had to do when you did something bad.”
Today, Erika is 35 and mom to two kids, Jack, 6 and Maslyn, 4.
Her opinion on running is now decidedly different. Erika began running 5ks shortly after college and since 2012, she’s been on a tear through some of the mountain west’s best half marathons and trail runs. “A bad run is still better than no running,” she says. “Running makes me happy and it keeps me healthy. The happier and healthier I am, the better my family is.”
Erika grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming on the eastern side of the state and in the shadows of the Bighorn Mountains. She began changing her opinion about running after college. “My father and coaches always tried to get me to run track in school, but I guess I had to find the sport on my own,” she says. “After college, when you don’t have your teams any more, you have to find your own ways to be active. Running was the easiest thing for me. It would keep me fit and get me outside.”
Since Jack was born, Erika says her running has changed. “I really got into distance running after he was born,” she says. “It became my ‘me’ time. I don’t think I realized how important some time to myself was until after I had kids.”
Erika ran her first half-marathon, the Horsetooth Half, when Jack was a year old. A point-to-point race in northern Colorado, Erika says it is still her favorite half marathon, even though she has since raced five more.
“It is so fun at the end. The race ends at New Belgium Brewery. You cross the finish line and you’re given a pint glass and a finisher medal. You can fill the glass with water first and then with beer,” she says.
Erika also loved the race because it was hard. “The course is really steep and difficult,” she says. Erika ran the race with her best friend. “She told me to run up some hills for training,” Erika says. “I didn’t realize she meant I should run up a ‘hill’ like Teton Pass.”
Erika hasn’t done the Horsetooth since, but it’s on her calendar for April 2015.
“Even though it was really hard, it hooked me on longer distances,” she says. Closer to home, she’s run the Jackson Hole Half for several years in a row. “It is mostly downhill,” says co-race director Pam Reed about the JH Half course. “So it is a great half marathon to do. It is at elevation, but with the downhill people didn't notice it as much as they might on a different course.”
This past June, Erika ran one of the most popular long trail races in the region, the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run. The race has 30k, 50k, 50-mile and 100-mile distances. Erika did the 30k. She says the course—winding through the Bighorn mountains—was beautiful. She felt the finish left a little to be desired though. “It was so anticlimactic,” she says. "The start times for the different distances are set so that all runners are finishing at around the same time; Erika was finishing alongside runners who had done 100 miles. “There should have been a ticker tape parade for those guys and I didn’t even hear their names announced,” she says. “But it is such a cool race. The Bighorns are beautiful mountains and the course really gets you up in them. I was on cloud nine the whole time.”
Erika had heard so many horror stories about the race: runners getting bitten by rattlesnakes or having to be helicoptered off the course. “It’s a true backcountry race—although the support and aid stations are amazing,” she says. “You are truly in the mountains of Wyoming.” Heading into the Bighorn race Erika wasn’t only leery about the possibility of running into a rattlesnake. It was her first race since suffering a stress fracture of her cuboid bone in her foot last winter.
“I probably should have done an easier race for my first race back, but I had already signed up for the race before I got the stress fracture,” Erika says. “It went fine.” The cuboid fracture is the only injury Erika has had since she began running in earnest. “I hurt my knees and ankles a lot in volleyball and basketball,” she says. “Running has been good to me.”
Erika runs with the Teton Trail Runners, but not as often as she’d like. “Six o’clock on a weeknight is tough with kids,” she says. “Still, I think I’ve made it to three runs this summer. Every time, it’s been great. You jog/run along and chat with whoever is running your pace. Or you challenge yourself and try to hang with people who are faster. You can run as far or short as you want. This town has lots of cool runners and these runs are a great place to learn from them. It’s not competitive at all. Everyone is happy to see you and is very welcoming.”
Erika recently ran the Epic Cache-Teton Relay with other Teton Trail runners. The course is nearly 205-miles from Logan, Utah to Teton Village. “I like that kind of race a lot,” she says. “It takes me back to being on teams like I was when I played volleyball and basketball—those friendships and camaraderie. And the support. Having people yelling and cheering for you always feels good and being able to cheer them on is good.”
“For me, only about five to ten-percent of running is about racing,” Erika says. “The races help me stay motivated and give me something to look forward to and to focus on. I’m goal-oriented and I like being accountable to a race. But that’s not why I run. I run because I love it.”