Professional Trail Runner - #TeamYomi ambassador, Suunto multisport team member
What is your full name, age and where are you from?
Kelly Young, 27 - Philadelphia, PA
Did you always love running? What sparked your passion for pursuing a career in professional trail running?
My love for running has definitely evolved over the years. I grew up a multi-sport athlete focusing mainly on basketball, but I did run track and cross country in high school. So, while running has always been somewhat a constant in my life it wasn't until I moved to California in 2013 when I took a liking to trail running. I started hiking a lot and going on shorter trail runs which served mainly as a means of a good workout at first. A spark must have gradually grown over the next few years each time and time again I found myself on a mountain or trail. . it brought me so much joy so I naturally increased my time out there. I found out about ultra running through a friend and proceeded to watch a bunch of videos on the sport, casually stalk all of the elite runners, and finally volunteer at a race.. and then just sort of found myself fully emerged in the trail running community. And now I can't get enough. I think I have the people that make up this community to thank for that..they are absolutely incredible. It's safe to say my curiosity in what our human bodies can do and my love for competition played a huge role as well. I love the idea of covering a lot of miles and experiencing new places via my own two feet.
I feel like running is so physically AND mentally challenging. What is going through your head during long runs? Is there ever a point when you just want to give up? If so, what's keeps you going?
Oh man SO many things go through my head on a long run! Sometimes I actively practice mindfulness while on the trails (staying completely present and focused on each movement) but otherwise I just let my mind roam free. It's fun. But yes, there are definitely times when I need to dig deep for extra motivation to keep going. I'm lucky to have been on some pretty breathtaking trails so a lot of the time I remind myself to look around and genuinely take it all in. If this doesn't work I usually hope for a bear to come and end my suffering. Which never happens...Just kidding! Positivity is key. And thankfully, eating something (or looking forward to a post run feast!!!) almost always helps some.
Is there a specific challenge you've face in your career as a runner that you've overcome? And in the process, made you stronger?
Self-doubt and comparison have been two of the big difficulties I've faced since in the sport. I was finding it hard to not worry about what other runners were doing each week which became negative pretty fast because I would then compare it to my own training without putting things into perspective. It didn't matter that I had yet to run that distance or that so and so had been in the sport for 10 years more than me. At the end of the day, I was just adding unnecessary stress. I can compete and give my training and racing my best without obsessing over what other runners are doing. I also had to prioritize working on believing in myself more because as a human of course I found myself in times of doubting if I was fast enough or strong enough. What I was really missing was a radical acceptance of myself and knowing that no matter what - I am enough. Once this shifted I absolutely became stronger. I now have more time to focus on MY training and know I belong in the sport which has without a doubt made me a better runner.
I can imagine running for hours and hours on end, you have to get hungry and thirsty. What are some of your go-to snacks and drinks while running? What do you look for in a snack while during training and competitions?
Definitely..I'm going to go ahead and say that almost all of us ultra runners are hungry and thirsty at all times. I balance between plain water and Nuun tablets as my go-to drinks. The Nuun tabs go into water and are essential for me to keep a good level of electrolytes. It's crucial to properly fuel in sport and so I definitely put a large emphasis on what I eat. A lot of trial & error and everyone is different but for me I've found that foods that are going to give me energy are best. I do use gels made specifically for endurance sports but personally I get sick of those. I like to get down some solid calories vs the Gu's or liquid cals. Food is fuel and so I'm looking for healthy fats, carbs, protein. Chocolate Sea Salt Yomi Bites all day!!
What is your diet like off the trail?
I love to cook, so I typically eat a whole lot of homemade meals consisting mainly of plant based whole foods. Coffee and heaps of chocolate ice cream too, of course.
Being an athlete, I had so many superstitions and rituals that needed to happen before game days. Are you the same way? What are some of your run-rituals?
I can definitely relate to you there. I like to do some visualization, journaling, and meditation before a race. Like all sports, ultra running has a large mental piece and so those things definitely help to get my head in a great place. I don't typically listen to music on a run but almost daily I find myself putting on a few songs as I'm getting ready to head out the door. I might have a few lucky pairs of socks too.
Switching it up.. I love to ask this question. What are your biggest "old person" tendencies? I know I had A LOT as an athlete when I was in school.
I absolutely love this question and I have no shame in labeling myself a total grandma!!! Typically I'm going to sleep super early and waking up before the sun. I also am a huge tea lover.
What are you interested in that you think most people aren't?
The first thing that came to my mind was running 100 miles in one day...
What are some of your favorite ways to sweat besides running?
Nothing beats a heated vinyasa flow yoga class in my eyes. Basketball, weight lifting, spinning, and spending some time in the sauna post run are up there for me too.
If you could run any trail in the world, where would you go?
The Te Araroa trail in New Zealand hands down. It stretches 3000km across the entire country so it would certainly be my longest run if I ever do the whole trail...but, sign me up!
When, where and how long is your next race?
I'm super excited for the races I have lined up for the 2019 season. First up is PCT 50 miler in San Diego, CA on May 11 followed by SD 100 miler also in San Diego on June 7.
What is one quote that you live by everyday?
"Choose courage over comfort." - Brené Brown
I have it tattooed on my arm!