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Trail running after 50: from tragedy to trails

Lessons from the inspiring trail and ultrarunner Lori Herron

Even though Lori Herron had run 18 marathons (including Boston), she felt intimidated by trail running. The trails were challenging, unpredictable, and involved venturing into the unknown. But when her father became terminally ill, she found the courage to explore the trails. She found the clarity, comfort, and connection she was looking for. In the last 13 years, Herron has  completed over a dozen 100-milers (160K) and over 40 ultras on the trails. A place that once felt intimidating, is now where Herron finds her strength. The 59-year-old continues to pursue endurance running challenges around the world.
Hurt 100 miler, 2014. Photo: Kalani Pascual

A place of understanding

“At first I was terrified. It was challenging, but I loved it immediately. For me, it seemed to be a very therapeutic place. It held the peace and serenity I needed to handle my Dad’s quick descent into the harsh world of terminal illness. It also was an opportunity to speak of my grief to my friends on the trails. The glowing green moss and beautiful old growth trees offered comfort and understanding.”

From ultrawalking to ultrarunning

In 1998 Herron completed The Great Walk–a 64.5K race where over 1,000  participants walk or run on logging roads from Gold River to Tahsis on Vancouver Island. In 2006, she raced Elk Beaver Lake 50K in Victoria, B.C. By 2011 she completed her first 100-mile race in Utah. (The first and only year of the Slickrock 100 race). “I didn’t feel trashed the next day. I felt pretty good.” 
Lori at an aid station racing Bighorn 100

Hooked on hundreds

After Slickrock, Herron was hooked on hundred mile races. Herron’s running resume looks like Jim Walmsley’s bucket list. She’s completing iconic races such as Western States 100, The Bear 100, Fat Dog 120, Cascade Crest 100, Hurt 100, Bighorn 100, Zion 100, and the list goes on. Although she just completed her first 200-mile race at the Tahoe 200 in September, 2018, 100 miles continues to be her favourite distance. 

Most memorable adventure

Despite her racing history, Herron’s most profound adventure memory was seeing the Grand Canyon while running the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim trail for the first time in 2012. The day stands out due to the beauty of the landscape, but more so as it was an emotional time in Herron’s life.  


Around the same time Herron ventured into the mountains and forests, she began her job as a letter carrier for Canada Post. Power walking 22K per day, carrying heavy weight, five days a week is her time-on-feet training for ultra races. On the weekends she runs longer distances in the trails.  
Lori at Fat Dog 120

Give more than you receive

If you’ve ever run an ultramarathon, then you’ve likely seen Herron either racing or helping you fill your bladder at an aid station. When she isn’t racing, Herron is crewing, pacing, and volunteering at races and events. She and her partner, Randy Duncan give back to the trail running community more than they race. The ultra-volunteers have done and seen it all, and always have time to share their wealth of knowledge.

The trails can change your life

In ultra distance trail running, it takes a village to get to the start and finish line. Over the last 13 years, Herron has proved her strength in the trail running community. Regardless of what challenges she faces from 10 to 400K on the trails, she overcomes them with her inner strength and heart. Her advice to others curious about the sport is just to “give it a try. It’s daunting initially, but it may change your life.” 

What’s next

May 20-24, Herron will be running the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race, which follows the remote and mountainous spine of Wales, UK from north to south over 315K and 15,500 metres of elevation. 

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