Q&A with Ultra Runner Christy Mahon

Ted Mahon
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run and what are some of their running goals.

Christy Mahon, 39, is one of the most well-known outdoor adventurers in Aspen, whether she’s in skis or running shoes. Mahon talks to RootsRated about her favorite trails, dietary approach, and how she pushes through the tough parts of a long run.

How would you best describe your running philosophy?
When I was running marathons around 2000, that’s when I learned that it’s about setting goals for yourself; it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. And that’s a good metaphor to use in our lives as we move forward – you don’t have to be as good as your neighbor; you just have to be doing your best. That was a really big shift in my life, especially as a young woman getting older. That was also the beginning of how I started thinking about running and how it’s so similar to life in general.

Mahon can often be found in the Aspen mountains.
Mahon can often be found in the Aspen mountains. Steven Bratman

How do you get through the inevitable low points during an ultra or a hard training run?
I go to a good place in my head. If I do something big, I’ll buy myself a little reward or do something nice for myself. Just thinking about what you’re going to do when you’re done helps you get through the hard parts. I also think about how I would feel so much worse from quitting instead of just pushing though. It doesn’t matter how long it takes – you put your head down and just grind it out.

What sort of diet do you follow?
I try to eat as little processed food as possible, and I really focus on whole foods. At the end of the day, no matter what diet is popular, if you’re eating whole foods, you’re okay. On the trails, because I do eat a lot of real food, I have a lot of trouble eating Gu and sugary stuff. I try to take nuts and I make my own rice bars. I try to get in the calories without adding a ton of processed sugar, and that makes me feel healthier.

Have you done anything different to tweak your diet as an ultra-athlete?
As a runner, I always thought I had to eat a lot of protein. If I went to a restaurant, I would always get chicken on my salad. But after reading about some of the runners who are vegetarian, I’ve learned you can get a lot of the proteins you need from beans and veggies. I was able to make that shift pretty easily, replacing animal protein with plant protein.

Mahon has a diet rich in raw foods, including nuts.
Mahon has a diet rich in raw foods, including nuts. Kate Ter Haar

Any particular favorite foods?
I eat a lot of kale. For breakfast I do a kale-banana-almond milk smoothie with whey protein, for lunch I do a kale salad, and for dinner I do grilled veggies and quinoa. I snack a lot in between. I eat a lot of nuts, fruit, some cheese.

Where are your favorite places to run around Aspen?
I love Hunter Creek Valley. It’s right outside our door, and you can go up into the valley and go a couple of different ways. Trails like Tootsie Roll and Lollipop are as fun as they sound. You can do miles and miles out there. I can run that every single morning and do something different. Another one I do every year is the Four Pass Loop. It goes over four mountain passes for about 26 miles or so. A lot of people backpack it, but it’s also a super fun trail run. It can take anywhere from 7 hours to 12 hours. You can almost run/walk it in 12, so it’s a good run for everybody.

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