Q&A with Ultra Runner Molly Freeman

Freeman racing in the Bryce Canyon 100.
Freeman racing in the Bryce Canyon 100. Molly Freeman
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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.

Molly Freeman got her start in running as a means to stay in shape during graduate school. Although Freeman calls North Dakota her home, she has made a name for herself in Atlanta’s running scene, where she has built a network of friends through GUTS (Georgia Ultra and Trailrunning Society).

How does running fit into your life now? What benefits does running deliver?
Running provides more benefits that I can count. It’s been a coping mechanism for me throughout work. Physically, it's wonderful to feel fit and healthy. But the mental benefits are bigger, and it helps me stay centered and maintain my sanity. I’ve met a community of supportive friends who have given me some of my fondest memories.

Would you classify yourself as a solo or group runner?
I’m a little bit of both. Most of my training during the week is early in the morning, so solo runs work best, but some of my most memorable long runs in the mountains have been with groups of friends.

Where are your favorite trails?
The first place I ran on trails was at Kennesaw Mountain, and it was a great introduction into trail running. I thought it was so hard, until I went to North Georgia. The Kolb Farm loop gets in a solid 9-11 mile run. On weekends I go out to Gainesville to run around the Chicopee trails. They are well maintained because they're meant for mountain biking and you’ll rarely encounter many other runners.

You’ve paced friends in races. What made those experiences memorable?
Two 100-milers I paced ended in tears of happiness. I paced a woman, Cari Smith, whom I had only met once before, to a finish at Cruel Jewel 100. This was her first 100-miler and one of the hardest 100s I’ve done. We ran through the night, through storms, and overcame hallucinations, blisters, you name it. Last year, the person I was supposed to pace at Pinhoti 100-miler dropped out mid-race and I waited at an aid station to pace someone else. My friend Lisa Sherak Martin (who finished the Western State 100 earlier that year) came through alone and I offered to pace her to the finish. She had incredible energy the entire time.

Racing always includes a roller coaster of emotions. Can you describe a race that didn’t go so well?
I hit a low point during Bryce 100 in 2013 that I still haven’t recovered from. The last 14 miles of that race were the slowest, most painful miles I can remember. Physically, yes, everything hurts, but mentally I had given up. I did not want to be there and stopped enjoying the experience. I was a miserable person to be around and I still feel bad for my pacer Hoa and friend Pete as we were all walking together. I will always reflect on that and use that as a reminder in future races to avoid getting that low - every race will have to end better than that, right?

Any essential running gear for your long runs?
I'm not that into gear - I don't like to be too dependent on any one thing because I don’t want to freak out if I don't have it. I started training with heart rate last year after reading Dr. Phil Maffetone's book, “The Big Book of Training and Racing.” I use my Garmin to track heart rate now, but sometimes I need to run more by feel and just for a run.

What nutrition carries you through your training runs and races?
I drink Elete for short runs. For longer runs I drink Infinit and I love the natural energy of dates with almond butter (and maybe dark chocolate chips) if I’m in need of a snack on long runs. They are easy to chew, and provide concentrated calories.

Who are your trail running icons?
On the elite level, I strive to be as happy as Rory Bosio during races. I’m looking to find balance between running and working, like she does. She works just enough to support her adventures and always seems bubbly and fast and keeps it all in perspective. I wouldn't say Killian Jornet is my icon, but he's an icon to the sport.

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