Q&A with Ultra Runner Steve Szoradi

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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.

Aspen resident Steve Szoradi can usually be found in the Colorado backcountry, whether he’s leading tours for Aspen Alpine Guides or cruising along the trails. An accomplished marathoner who also has ultras like Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and the Leadville 100 under his belt, Szoradi talks to RootsRated about what motivates him to run, race highlights (and lowlights) and why PB&Js are one of his go-to staples in the mountains.

What’s your running philosophy?
For me, running has turned into an all-around element for fitness. I love cycling and skiing and all that other stuff, but running is the one thing that I get the most mental clarity from. Whether that’s the way my brain works or my body works, I just don’t know. But I get grumpy when I can’t run, and I think that’s just the chemistry of my makeup. And I’ve finished every race I've ever done, and that’s just part of my stubborn mentality. But I think it’s also why I’ve done well with ultras and working with mountaineering teams and mountain rescue.

Szoradi says the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc was one of his most memorable experiences on the trail.
Szoradi says the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc was one of his most memorable experiences on the trail. mako 10

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences in trail running.
At the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, you start at 4 in the afternoon and run into the night. That first night was really cool. There was this chain of headlamps just stretching up the mountain, and you could see this torchlight parade going through the middle of the night. Coming out that morning was awesome, uplifting and unbelievably motivational, just seeing the sunrise. But running through that next day was tough. You think about dropping out at the halfway point, which a lot of people do in that race. The depression starts when you start to run into that second night, and at some point my headlamp died. The whole experience was just under 45 hours, nonstop. Two of my friends said to me, “I got drunk twice while you were running.”

Do you place any particular emphasis on your diet?
Yes, I pay attention to diet, but I don’t let it govern every decision. I try to eat clean calories, but I’m not making any money [with running], so you’ve gotta just have fun with it. But when I’m up on the mountain [as a guide], carbs and protein are very important. I usually do a PB&J on whole wheat, because it packs well. I take a liter and a half of water on the mountain, and that can sometimes last me for 12 hours.

Did your diet change as you started doing longer endurance events?
When I was trying for speed and doing track workouts and tempo runs, my diet had very little fat in it. I was really conscious of everything. Everything I ate I made. On a night that I went out, it was one to two beers per night, and that was it. [Fueling up for] endurance training for me, since I’m not in the running to be the leader of the pack, involves some nice pasta, maybe with a good bolognese sauce.

How do you keep your fitness up during the winter?
I ski guide, and that’s important. I also do a lot of uphill skiing and skate skiing. Running is tough when it’s so cold out.

Do you have any weird running quirks?
I like doing back-to-back big runs, because running on tired legs makes you stronger. And, although I think other runners deal with this, I have ridiculously tight hamstrings. I’m the guy in the middle of the yoga class who can’t touch his toes, ever.

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