Faster with Age: Pamela Chapman-Markle Sets Another Ultra Record
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
Pamela Chapman Markle sets a USTAF record at the 2018 Kansas Rails-to-Trail 100 mile ultra
Photo courtesy: Pamela Chapman -Markle
Eight years after entering the world of ultrarunning, the 5' 6", 114 pound Pamela Chapman-Markle, 63, is not slowing down. In fact, she's getting faster. In November she placed 1st female and 5th overall in 20:58:24 setting a new USTAF record in her age group at the 2018 Kansas Rails-to-Trails 100 mile ultra.
In July 2018, Pamela shaved off 1 hour and 18 minutes from a course record she set in the 60-65 age group at the 2017 Badwater 135, where she placed 3rd overall female in 35:48:31. In 2018, Pamela placed 6th overall female and crossed the finish in 34:30:53 setting a new Badwater course record in her age group.
I first interviewed Pamela in October 2017. Here's the link to the interview.
In this interview, Pamela talks about her performance at the Kansas Rails-to-Trails 100, strength and speed training, running through fatigue, her first DNF at Leadville, advice for ultrarunners, competing with herself, and her sights on setting more records.
STRENGTH AND SPEED TRAINING
In 2018 she added speed training to her regimen. "I started to speed train which I had never done. I noticed that my mileage time was getting quicker." Her speed training proved not only beneficial at Badwater but also at the mostly gravel trail at 2018 Kansas Rails-to-Trail 100 miler. "It was flat. No elevation. But my one foot had blisters underneath my toenail because the foot was sliding on the gravel constantly."
Even though she placed 1st overall female and 5th overall, outrunning male and female ultrarunners almost half her age, Pamela feels she could have performed better. "I felt I could have done it a little bit faster. I slowed way down after 77 miles because I had not taken in enough sodium."
But her nutrition, consisting of 200 caloires per hour, natural foods, hummus and pita sandwiches, and Skratch hydration, kept her moving.
Pam speed training in Austin, Texas
Photo courtesy: Pamela Chapman-Markle
Pamela has no coach and speed trains alone once or twice a week. She'll speed train for 30 minutes on one day, and on the next speed train for 1 1/2 hours. She adds full lower body strength training on her speed training days. Pam also incorporates weight lifting and pilates at home to prevent injury. For cross training, her heart gets a workout on her bike.
When I interviewed Pamela in October 2017, she was logging 75 - 80 miles a week. "I'm now doing 100 - 130 miles a week."
RUNNING THROUGH FATIGUE
Fatigue slows down a lot of runners but not Pamela. "I've been fatigued most of my life because of being a a single parent and raising kids and having to work full time. My day starts at 4 in the morning. I deal with [fatigue] very well." She runs through fatigue. She runs through muscle cramps.
"Sometimes I do cramp up like when I'm in different cooler warm environments. I'm used to really hot heat. Anything under 50 degrees, I'm really cold."
Three weeks after setting another record at the 2018 Badwater she got out of her comfort zone and went on to tackle the Leadville 100, altitude, mountains, and climbing only to experience her first DNF.
"It was too quick [after Badwater]. I had a terrible cough. I had infected, big massive bites on my leg. I had gotten bitten by a recluse spider at Badwater. I went up to Leadville and got pulled off. I missed the cutoff by 10 minutes. I was so upset. I could have kept going and picked it up."
Running Leadville was a very different ultra event experience. "There were 800 people at the start. I had people digging poles in the back of my calves. It was awful." But a DNF is not failure. It's opportunity for success the next time. For Pamela, that opportunity was waiting for her in Kansas.
NOT AN AGED ATHLETE
At the Kansas Rails-to-Trails 100 Pamela set a new USTAF record in her age group and placed 5th overall outpacing much younger male and female runners. I asked Pam why younger runners can't keep up with her. "I compete against myself. I go into a race with competition for my own training. But I think younger people worry too much about winning instead of about achieving."
I asked Pam about her age and her advice for other female runners. “Well, I don’t’ look at myself as an aged athlete. And that’s the advice I give everybody my age. To just pretend that you are as good as everyone else. Believe that you are and go out and train like you are. Just stay consistent. I think that’s the good thing about aging. Consistency is the key.”
Pamela adds, “I would have the same advice [for younger female runners] except I think they’re more competitive than the older people are. Not that I’m not competitive. I can’t say that I’m not. But I don’t worry. My whole race is not to worry about what someone else is doing. My whole race is worrying about how I’m doing. All my goals are goals for me.”
At the 2017 Across the Year 24 hour ultra, Pamela set a USTAF record in her age group with 109.17 miles and placed 5th overall. She will return to Across the Years in December but this time to run the 48 hour event. "I'm hoping to get close to 180 miles."
Pamela will return to her third Badwater to compete against herself. "I think I can shave a little more time off. So I'm going to go back again next year. Badwater is probably my favorite. I don't have to worry about tripping and falling."
And she's thinking about Spartathlon - a 250km (155 mile) road race in Greece with a 36 hour time limit. "If I can get faster, for sure I'll apply."
Pamela, who is sponsored by Topo and UltrAspire, plans to achieve these goals with more road speed training and consistency. Her advice to ultrarunners - "Love the run." And I would add - age is only a number.
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