We caught up with Alyssa Clark, the official women‚Äôs consecutive marathons world record breaker, to learn about her move from Italy back to the United States and her ongoing streak of running 100 marathons in 100 days (and about her cats named Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute).
Read on to find out how and why someone would run 2620+ miles in 100 days and how to fuel and recover during so many running miles!
Editorial update: Due to COVID-19 concerns in Florida, Alyssa put her streak on pause at 95 marathons. It¬†remains an incredible accomplishment and we wish everyone safety and wellness during these times.¬†
Photo: Chuan Napolitano
What was the inspiration behind running 100 marathons in 100 days?
When we first began to go into the stages of self-isolation, I did not foresee we would be prevented from running or walking outside. As Covid progressed and devastated northern Italy, the Italian government took fast and necessary measures to keep the rest of the country safe and shut down the whole country. We went from being able to travel, run, walk, etc. freely, to being confined to our homes and only able to travel to and from work, the grocery store, or hospital. We had to carry papers with us to justify our movements and could and were often stopped by police. If we were found to be breaking the rules, we could be fined or arrested. We followed the rules though! I never thought I would live in a place where I would not be able to run outside.
At that point, I was also in the midst of having my spring and summer races cancelled. I had been training for these races all winter and felt very prepared to compete, so I felt I needed something to test the fitness I had developed. I tossed around a few ideas with my coach including the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, a 24 hour treadmill run, and a 48 hour treadmill run. Somewhat out of the blue, I mentioned to my husband, what would you think about me running a marathon everyday until we‚Äôre allowed to run outside? He thought it seemed pretty feasible. At that point, it was March 30th and I started the following day. We were supposed to have some restrictions lifted on April 14th, so I thought I would do about 15 marathons. Well, when it was extended to May 1st, the game was on :)
What has kept you motivated to keep running?
I never really have given myself an out. Every day I know I am going to go out and continue to work until the marathon is done. I do not take any one of the marathons for granted, but I believe I can accomplish each one. I also try to celebrate hitting milestones within the marathons and milestone marathons. I take a lot of motivation from hearing about others being inspired by my marathons. That has been incredibly motivating for me to continue and is the extra little voice that helps me when I am tired or having a tough day.
What has your fueling strategy been to keep you going day after day, marathon after marathon?
Fueling is definitely a challenge. These marathons require a lot of calories. Luckily, I have Honey Stinger waffles with me during each of the marathons and generally eat one or two of them per marathon. I also use the Chews during the run. I always eat breakfast before I run, generally peanut butter and banana on a rice cake. Then immediately after, I will have a protein shake and then a decent size lunch. I try to snack during the day and have dinner with quality protein, complex carbs, and some fat. Sometimes I‚Äôll have a bit of dessert of some cereal after dinner. I am gluten free so it is a bit more challenging but doable. Hydration and taking in enough electrolytes is also massively important.
How do you recover between marathons?
I try to keep on top of my hydration and electrolytes as much as possible. I always have a bottle of water near me at all times. I use a muscle recovery/rehydrating lotion called Amp PR Lotion before and after every run. I also try to keep my feet up as much as possible to prevent swelling. If I‚Äôm particularly stiff I‚Äôll stretch a bit. I also try to sleep at least 8-9 hours per night as sleep is key to recovery.
What‚Äôs been your biggest challenge in completing the marathons each day? And overall?
There are some days I am just tired. Physical and mental fatigue can definitely add up over time. The heat has also been very difficult to contend with here in Florida. It adds a level of challenge that is tough to contend with.
Photo: Codi Clark
How have you overcome the challenges?
I break down the marathon into parts and never think about the entirety of the distance or the marathon the next day. I stay focused on what I can control and leave the rest behind. In terms of heat, I have run some marathons inside to give myself a break from the heat. Florida summer heat is no joke!
What has been your biggest surprise fitness/training-wise while tackling 90-plus consecutive marathons?
I‚Äôm surprised at the ups and downs. There are some marathons even later on, that feel spot on and like I‚Äôve been tapering for them. And then the next day can be incredibly difficult. I am proud of my body for staying healthy throughout this and hope it continues for the next week.
What have you found to be a successful strategy while running 26.2 miles back-to-back for several months?
Never think about the whole marathon or it will be completely overwhelming. I always break the marathon down into parts and celebrate reaching these milestones. I also listen to books on tape and podcasts during my runs.
Do you have plans to celebrate when you‚Äôve finished?
My friends plan to have champagne for me when I finish which I am excited about. With Covid we are being pretty careful about the celebrations, but there will be a few people there for the end.
How does it feel having broken the female world record for running the most consecutive marathons?
So, I want to clarify the record a bit. When I researched the record many times, I came across only Alice Birch‚Äôs official record of 60. It has very recently come to my attention, that a Danish woman, Annette Fredskov, unofficially set the record for consecutive days running 366 marathons in 365 days. I am choosing to try to make mine official through Guinness (still waiting to hear back from them on my application) but it would be remiss of me not to mention Annette and her achievement. I do believe my record is an unofficial American record and I hope it will be the official record soon.
Photo: Teresa Lucas
More about Alyssa!
How long have you been running?
I have officially been running ultras since I was 22 so 5 years, but unofficially I have been running since I was about 10.
What are your long-term running goals?
My long-term goal though and where my heart is, lies in being the most badass 100+ mile technical mountain runner I can possibly be. The gnarlier and longer the race, the better. I truly love distance, technical terrain and the mountains more than anything and I think this is where I can really excel.
What‚Äôs your biggest accomplishment (aside from running 90+ consecutive marathons)?
My biggest accomplishment is coming back from a life-threatening disease when I was 14 and emergency surgery, to being an ultrarunner who can challenge herself to long and difficult races. I am proud I have chosen to live each day to the maximum amount that I can.
What‚Äôs one thing most people don‚Äôt know about you?
My husband is obsessed with the TV show The Office, so to convince him to get cats, we named them Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute.