Divas We Love: Ultrarunner Krissy Moehl

Mountain Diva interviews Krissy Moehl
Courtesy: Krissy Moehl

– Rachel Odell Walker

Ultrarunner Krissy Moehl (www.krissymoehl.com) is that rare hybrid of an athlete and an intellectual who can marry the physical with the cerebral and emerge strong and grateful. For more than 12 years, Moehl has circumnavigated the globe running in “short” races (40 miles) and “longer” ones (100). Her sponsors include Julbo [ed. note: Julbo is a Verde client] and Patagonia, among others, and her course records include an impressive array of accomplishments. Most recently she won the women’s race at the Patagonian With this kind of global street cred, she’s in a comfy spot to brag about her badassery? But that’s not Krissy. Instead, she’s more apt to blog from the perspective of a nine-inch puppet (Murray) or write a rhythmic poem about a recent half marathon.

Mountain Diva (MD): Have you always been a running phenom?

Krissy Moehl (KM): No. I ran through high school, and I went to the State Championships once. I was a walk-on for the University of Washington cross-country team, which means I wasn’t recruited or on a running scholarship. I always ran, but I wasn’t the best runner on the team.

MD: When did you realize you had talent and desire for running long distances?

KM: I lived in Ecuador for my junior year of college, and toward the end of my time, I began exploring Quito on foot and would run for hours. I was a white girl in a sports bra and shorts. It probably wasn’t that smart but it was the first time I could go out for as long as I wanted—back home, coaches didn’t want us running more than 90 minutes—without anyone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do.

MD: How did you choose to pursue a career of professional running?

Mountain Diva interviews ultra-runner Krissy Moehl

Photo: Fredrik Marmsater. Courtesy: Krissy Moehl

KM: It was less a choice and more that I was at the right time, the right place, and the right gender to get involved.

MD: Tell us more about that.

KM: Most people don’t start ultrarunning until they’re in their mid-30s. But for the first six years out of college I worked for a footwear company, and my job was sponsoring athletes traveling to races and promoting shoes. The athletes would go start the race, and instead of waiting around for them to finish, I jumped in, too.

MD: Aside from demonstrating that you had the lungs and the legs to compete, how did that experience and access impact you?

KM: What other 22-year old could fly around the world and build a running resume? It was amazing. I had been putting a lot of energy into the sport, and I found myself getting energy back—in the form of relationships, opportunities.

MD: What do you love about running?

KM: Wherever I go, I have running in common with people. It’s also given me this appreciation for where my two feet could take me.

MD: Over 100 miles, for instance.

KM: Yeah. But it’s more than just distance. When I was a kid, I looked at mountains and thought they were pretty. Now I look at mountains and see an opportunity to run up to the summit.

MD: In addition to the job, what were formative experiences in your 20s that pushed you into the direction of pro running?

KM: I was married and divorced in that period. And around the time my marriage ended, Montrail was bought by Columbia, and I decided I didn’t want to go corporate. Instead I went on a road trip.

MD: Where did you go and how did the trip change the course of your life?

KM: It was for six months and I followed the “great western loop:” Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, California. I thru-hiked the Colorado trail. The trip gave me the confidence to follow my wanderlust, to take the leap without knowing what was coming next.

MD: That sounds brave.

KM: I realize when I talk to other people that it’s unusual. But it doesn’t feel that strange to me. It would have been stranger not to go.

MD: If you could sum up your life philosophy, what would it be?

KM: Well, a lot of people say they want to live with no regrets, but it’s really hard to live it. And it comes with sacrifice. There’s a lot of instability and having to be comfortable not knowing the next steps. I have worked really hard and I have the life I want. But it’s not the life I expected I would have.

MD: What did that life look like?

KM: I always wanted what my parents had: to be married, have kids, live behind a fence, have two dogs. I wanted it all. I look at my parents now and I love what they have. But every time I was faced with decisions that would have led me to that path, I took the other option. It was a visceral response. My body put me on this path of self-discovery. If I had made decisions intellectually, I probably would have taken the other path.

MD: At age 32, you quit your day job to run full time as a sponsored athlete. How did you find the courage to forgo the safety net of a steady paycheck?

KM: I realized if I found myself at rock bottom, sleeping in my car eating beans and rice, that I’d be just fine. If that was the worst it could get, it wasn’t that bad.

MD: And did you have to sleep in your car?

KM: Nope. In fact I made more money that first year than I had at my old job.

MD: Tell us more about running. What’s one of your favorite races?

KM: I set the course record for the Ultra Trail Run of Mont Blanc in 2009. It had been a really rough summer for me, and I took all the hard and the lessons from the summer and piled it into one day of racing. I truly enjoyed every moment of the race. To do that and to have such success was transformative. I definitely took away some life lessons there.

MD: Why ultrarunning?

KM: With the 100-mile distance, the finish starts at mile 85. There are so many highs and lows and dealing with nutrition and hydration and interacting with so many people. You can live a lifetime in a 100-mile race.

Diva Rapid Fire Round:

  • Chapstick or lipstick? Chapstick
  • Coffee or tea? Mate
  • What is your absolute must-have in your pack for every adventure? My Patagonia Houdini jacket
  • Beer, wine or whiskey? Wine
  • AWD wagon or truck? Honda Element
  • Yoga or Pilates? Yoga
  • What’s your most diva-esque indulgence? Pedicures
  • Any addictions/guilty pleasures you’re willing to share? Dark chocolate

Thank you, Krissy. Our legs, hearts and minds are now stoked for our next run.