Liza Howard is a mother, an instructor at the Wilderness Medicine Institute of National Outdoor Leadership School, and a rock star trail runner. She's been the first female finisher and set course records in almost every race she's entered, including the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 mile and the Javelina Jundred 100 mile. By the way, she only started ultrarunning in 2008. Impressed yet?
For more about ultrarunning mom Liza Howard, check out our Q & A below.
Q: How did you get into ultrarunning? Was your first win a surprise?
A: A friend that I taught with at the National Outdoor Leadership School suggested we run the Zane Grey 50k. My son would be just about eight months on race day and it seemed like a good goal to keep me sane during the early days of motherhood. I loved the run and I actually managed to place – there were probably only three women entered -- and then it was just the usual story of falling in with the wrong crowd, peer pressure and a slippery slope. Before I knew it I signing up for my first 100-miler. Winning was a huge surprise and a wonderful treat in the midst of dirty diapers and a messy house.
Q: How do you train?
A: My son started kindergarten this year, so now I train while he is at school. I try to get all my training done during the week, so the weekends are free for family and my husband’s biking. Some weeks I'm more successful at that than others. Before Asa started kindergarten, he went to a day school three half days a week so I could run -- and shower regularly.
Q: Do you follow a special diet?
A: No. I’ve experimented with a number of different things from vegan to paleo. These days I find that “just” choosing foods that are minimally processed keeps me feeling energetic and strong. I do log my food daily to make sure I’m getting enough of what I need though. That also helps keep me away from the fourth cookie.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on minimalist footwear? What kind of shoes do you wear?
A: I am sponsored by New Balance and I wear their MT1010s. The terrain is rocky and technical where I live in South Texas, and more minimalist footwear doesn’t provide enough protection or cushion for runs lasting more than four hours. I think running barefoot or in more minimalist footwear is a good training tool and I would do more of it if our terrain permitted. It’s important to respect the terrain you’re running on. I try to balance going light with not wanting to worry about stepping on something sharp or starting to ache over the course of a 30-mile run.
Q: What motivates you to run?
A: Running makes me feel happy. I am more peaceful, more patient, more compassionate... more everything when I run regularly. The trails here in San Antonio are also an escape from the city. I’m very grateful to the trail running community for the friendships and adventures it’s given me. I’m constantly humbled and inspired by the people I’ve met through ultrarunning.
To read more about Liza Howard and her amazing running career, check out her webpage. And don't forget to watch for her at the Leadville 100 and the Western States 100.