Going the DISTANCE

Bayside woman runs in ultramarathons

April 18, 2007

For many runners, a half or a full marathon might be a distant goal. Even runners who have completed numerous marathons might be content with that achievement under their belts.

Not Beth Simpson.

Having completed many marathons, including the elite Boston Marathon, Simpson moved to ultramarathons, or any race longer than a standard 26.2-mile marathon.

"As you get older you don't get faster," said Simpson, a 48-year-old mother of three from Bayside. "I became more interested in going farther, distance-wise."

Emotional experience

Eight years ago Simpson started running in 50- and 100-mile races held around the country. Four years ago, she applied to be part of the regional Montrail ultra running team. She was accepted as one of 30 women on the team. Simpson has to apply for the position each year.

"I was honored they accepted," she said. "They recognize my ability as an ultra runner and they put their trust in me."

Simpson said there are many reasons why she runs ultramarathons, but the biggest is because she enjoys it.

"I love it," she said. "It's a passion of mine."

Simpson averages about 30 hours in an ultramarathon. Her best time is 21 hours.

"You experience every emotion possible," she said. "Each race you do, you learn valuable experience."

Throughout her ultramarathon career, she's learned what is best to eat during the race, what type of clothing to pack and at which leg to pack a headlamp.

"When you finish, it's quite a sense of accomplishment," she said.

A role model for runners

Simpson trains along the North Shore and averages 60 to 70 miles during the week. On the weekends, she heads to Kettle Moraine to run 20 to 30 miles, depending on the races she has coming up.

When she's not working out, she's training others at Mequon's Form & Fitness, where she is a personal trainer. She even trains clients to run marathons.

"It's an honor to be able to help these people," she said.

Ben Quist, Form & Fitness owner, said Simpson's lifestyle, determination and workout regime makes her a good personal trainer.

"I always feel one of the things that makes a trainer a good trainer is modeling good behavior (like) eating well, working out properly," he said. "Beth really takes it to the next level."

Quist added Simpson is the resident running expert for his fitness center.

"If anyone has a question, we have this very well-versed ultra runner to refer to," he said.

He said Simpson inspires clients to take on running and has seen her determination rub off on others.

"People (clients) who didn't work out at all will now run marathons," he said.

Student becomes partner

Kathy Maglio, of Mequon, has run a half and full marathon after training with Simpson.

Maglio started weight-lifting training with Simpson in 2002. The concept of long-distance running kind of snuck in, she joked.

"She started saying how much she loves long-distance running," Maglio said. "Like everyone, I thought, 'I could never do that.'"

But Maglio started off with the South Shore Half Marathon, and worked toward running the Lakefront Marathon.

In addition to preparing her physically, Maglio said Simpson helped her prepare mentally.

"She's so enthusiastic," she said. "It's almost infectious.

Simpson and Maglio have begun running together on weekdays, too.

"Her training is basically the same as mine," Maglio said. "Our paces are the same."

"Running with a friend, it's always so much fun," she added. "You're chatting, and then you're almost home."

"Quitting isn't an option'

This year, Simpson will compete in several 50- and 100-mile races - about once a month for the remainder of the year - including the Ice Age Trail 50 in Kettle Moraine, Big Horn Trail 100 Mile Run in Wyoming and the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado.

"When I complete a race, I realize I can do anything," said Simpson, who added she plans on running ultramarathons for the rest of her life. "Quitting isn't an option."

At a Glance

• An ultramarathon is any running event longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles.

• Several hundred ultramarathons are held annually in North America

• The world's oldest 100-mile run is the Western States Endurance Run in California's Sierra Nevada. It began unofficially in 1974.

• One of the first documented ultramarathons in North America was held in 1926, as part of the Central American Games.

• The Leadville Trail 100 Ultra-marathon, first run in 1983, is held annually on trails and dirt roads in Leadville, Colo. Runners climb and descend 15,600 feet and elevations range between 9,200 and 12,620 feet.

Source: Wikipedia

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