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Confessions of Ultra-Distance Runner Lizzy Hawker…

The total ascent is higher than reaching the summit of Everest from sea level…

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is a mountain running race that winds 103 miles (165km) through France, Italy, and Switzerland.

In 2005, British ultra-distance runner and newbie Lizzy Hawker attempted the race and shockingly won!

But she didn’t stop there…

Lizzy Hawker won the UTMB five times and crushed the women’s world record for running 153.5 miles in 24 hours… that’s 6.4 miles per hour!

Learn more about Lizzy Hawker’s passion for mountain running, how she pushes her limits, and the greatest lesson she’s learned from traveling the world in this interview…

Interview with Lizzy Hawker 

Where does your passion for alpine running stem from?

It is just something that was there for me, once I discovered it!

I love the mountains, I love to run, and I love to make a mountain journey.  If the truth of our running is that in our ‘moving’ we find ourselves, then running is the gift that allows us to know ourselves deeper.

Ultra running can give the opportunity to try to push my limits (mentally and physically), to learn more about myself, to feel rawness and vulnerability and yet feel strength in body, mind and spirit.


This image and the featured image of Lizzy Hawker are by Alex Treadway.

What was the most memorable moment out of all the UTMB runs you’ve participated in?

Each UTMB has been different, and each has had its own challenges.

For me, the special thing is realizing how through every race we have the opportunity to learn so much and to grow. We have to savor every moment, realizing that the prize is not a ‘position’ or a ‘time’, instead it is that the ‘getting to know ourselves’, the work and the training must be their own reward.

What was your overall experience winning your first UTMB?

An unexpected privilege that taught me how our limits are never where we think we are, and sometimes we just have to have the courage to try something new.

What goes through your head when you’re running?

Thoughts come and go while you run – sometimes your mind wanders – and sometimes you are fully focused on ‘the moment’!

Image of Lizzy Hawker by manaslutrailrace.org.

Do you have any running technique tips for our readers?

Some mental techniques:

  • keep in the moment; whether in a race or in training, keep your focus
  • believe in yourself;
  • be light; focus on running lightly (less strain & tension reduces the physical impact), and positivity keeps your motivation …

How do you mentally get past any pain while you’re running?

Stay in the moment, literally taking it moment by moment, step by step.

And it is one of the truth’s about life that nothing lasts forever … so with running you have to hold the trust that the hard moments will also pass.

You’ve traveled extensively for running. What is your favorite country and why?

There are many, many areas of the world that I have never visited and would love to. But the Nepalese Himalaya have a special place in my heart.

Image of Lizzy Hawker by manaslutrailrace.org.

What country would you say is the most misunderstood and why?

I don’t think I have traveled widely enough to make a judgement.

What I would say is that when we are traveling it is easy to create our own impression of a country, and not really understand the complexity of the issues lying beneath the ‘surface’ that we experience.

So, it is always important to try to question, to listen and to learn about the places we travel through.

What was the greatest lesson you’ve learned on your travels?

To be in the ‘moment’, not to judge, and to take each experience on its own.

Image of Lizzy Hawker by manaslutrailrace.org.

What’s something unexpected you can share about yourself?

There is a small and beautiful wooden sailing boat named after me. The other ‘Lizzy Hawker’ lives in the waters of the San Juan Islands between Seattle and Vancouver Island. She has an adventurous spirit that I only wish I could live up to!

How does it feel to be recognized by National Geographic as an Adventurer of the Year?

I was honoured and very humbled by the recognition.

Can you tell us a little about your alpine running camps?

I work with my co-partner, Franzi Gissler, in the Laufschule Scuol to offer alpine running camps (throughout the year). We have a wide variety of possibilities from introductory trail running weekends, to hut-to-hut journeys in the high Alps preparing for races like UTMB.

Where do you want to be in the next five years?

At different times during our lives, our motivation and intention in life will have a different expression, we will find different ‘edges’ to explore.

The pursuit of excellence, of mastering our craft (whatever it might be), will be realized in a different way. This can take us from passing exams, to being buried in work, to winning races, to climbing mountains, to nurturing relationships, to sustaining friendships, to creating community, to giving, to taking ….

So, all I hope in five years time is to be living in the moment, and doing what I do with love, passion and integrity, so that it is the full expression of who I am.

You live in the Swiss Alps. What three things would you recommend a visitor do there?

Running, hiking, climbing, skiing, exploring … the list can just go on! But, also just taking time to ‘be’ in the mountains – that is also important.

What advice would you give women to be happier, resilient, and empowered?

To find something that gives you motivation and inspiration. To work out what means the most to you and what you can do without, and then not to be afraid to make the sacrifices needed to follow your dream.

Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?

The most important thing in the first place is to dream, to have a goal that you want to work towards and then to give yourself the chance to start to explore that dream. The important thing is to try to work out what means the most to you and what you can do without.

Start with small steps that you can easily incorporate into your life as it is now, and each step will lead on to another until you are ‘living’ your dream.  After all; A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ (Lao Tzu)

Whatever your goal is – take the challenge and enjoy your journey – whether it is to take up a sport, run a race, travel, or something in your work or family life.  Focus your energy on finding the way to live your dream ….. and enjoy the journey because always, always it is the journey that is the important thing, not the destination.

Thank you Lizzy for participating in this interview and Alex and Richard for providing the photography.  For more info, please visit lizzyhawker.comalextreadway.co.uk/lizzyhawker and manaslutrailrace.org.

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