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Stephanie Case on Hardrock 100: “I loved the camaraderie between the female athletes”

Case finished as 2nd woman and 19th overall

Photo by: iRunfar

Canada’s Stephanie Case was on everyone’s Hardrock 100 watchlist before the race had even started. The accomplished athlete finished Hardrock 100 in 33:52:40, second woman to Courtney Dauwalter, who set a course record in 26:44:38; Case was 19th overall. She says she is drawn to “see what her absolute limit is” and in 2021 she was the first woman to finish the 450km Tor des Glaciers race in Italy (and third overall).

An elite ultrarunner, human rights lawyer and advocate for gender equity, Case is also a North Face Explorer. We caught up with her to hear about her Hardrock experience.

You balance a busy career and advocacy work with your training: what is a typical training week for you like? 

To be honest, my training really wasn’t what I had hoped, but that is pretty normal for me! With starting a new job in March in the Middle East, work had to take priority, and I was travelling quite a bit in the region.

There were some weeks when I barely got in a run or two inside on a hotel treadmill in Beirut or a short run dodging traffic in Amman, but I was grateful to get a full two weeks in Chamonix before the race. That period was critical for reminding the legs how to climb and descend! I also did a 4,000m peak for acclimatization, which in the Alps involves crampons and ice axes, and stayed up high at a refuge.

Photo: Instagram/theultrarunnergirl

What kind of fuel did you use to get through Hardrock 100?

I’m not sure I should be a model to follow on the nutrition front, but happy to share (ha!). I always buy tons of food and pack lots of variety in my drop bags, and I barely touch it. I like to eat real food during races–like avocados, pizza and bacon–but they are obviously hard to digest when you are really working hard at altitude.

For Hardrock, I tried to eat as much as I could (which wasn’t a lot) at aid stations in the valleys, as I wasn’t really able to stomach anything above about 3,400m. For the high sections, I sucked on a lot of ginger candies and tried to get calories through my drink.

Stephanie Case
Photo: Instagram/theultrarunnergirl

I know you’ve run some very long races: how did Hardrock compare?

OK, it might sound arrogant, but I really didn’t find it that hard. My last race, Tor des Glaciers, was 450 km and 6.5 days long, so in that respect, 100 miles and 34 hours really isn’t bad! What I loved about it was the camaraderie between the female athletes. I really got the sense out there that we were all pushing and supporting each other, and that we really wanted everyone to succeed.

Best parts of the race?

Is this a trick question? Finishing? Kidding. I have a few moments: taking a shot of ‘special sports drink’ (mezcal) from the aid station at Kroger’s, watching Hannah Greene bomb down the descent from Grants Swamp Pass, making it over Handies, and running through town at the finish.

Most challenging moments?

Getting over Handies Peak, the highest point on the course at 4,300m, was brutal. I had already been vomiting, so I was going into it depleted. And the mountain had the nerve to make us climb, descend into a basin, and then climb again, which wasn’t apparent against the dark silhouette of the mountain under the moonlight. I will never forgive it!

Stephanie Case
Photo: iRunfar

What’s up next for you?

I will be crewing a friend at Tor des Géants, who will be attempting it for the first time! She has crewed me and so many others every year in that race, and it will be an absolute privilege to help her get to the finish line, so that she can experience it herself.

You were on the Hardrock equity committee that tackled the traditionally low numbers of women that get into Hardrock, and created a new policy. What can you tell us about that?

It is no secret that Hardrock has a history of being male-dominated, and that the lottery system has been criticized for maintaining the “old boys'” club. However, it is critical to recognize the willingness on the part of the board of directors to consider other perspectives, opportunities for change and policies to promote growth. The policy put forward by the equity committee, which the board approved, contributed to the highest number of women in the race this year.

Women runners in Afghanistan Photo: Stephanie Case

We need to celebrate and encourage that, and find other opportunities to keep the positive momentum going. Some might prefer to boycott the race over its policies, but I feel it is counterproductive to do so when we are seeing change in the right direction.

The issues with gender equality (and other equality issues) are not unique to Hardrock–they are endemic in our sport.  The best way to make progress is to listen to one another and work together to promote understanding and inclusivity.

During Case’s Tors des Glaciers race, she was raising money for her charity; called Free to Run, its mission is to enable women and girls to safely and boldly engage in outdoor activity in conflict-affected regions. The North Face has a recently released film about Case organizing an all-women running expedition in Afghanistan.