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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Diaz-Gilbert

Pamela Chapman Markle Sets World & USATF Records at Six Days in the Dome & the Icarus Ultrafest

Updated: Jan 19

Meet the Woman Whose Mission is to Become the Most Accomplished Ultrarunner Over 60

Pamela Chapman Markle running the 2019 Icarus Ultrafest 48 hour ultra.

USATF and World Record ultrarunner Pamela Chapman Markle never ceases to amaze in the grueling world of ultrarunning.

Pamela continues to set records in her age group. Her most recent records took place in 2019 at Six Days in the Dome 24 hour indoor track ultra in Milwaukee last August and at the Icarus Florida Ultrafest 48 hour last November.

I asked Pamela, 64, to share her experience at her first 24 hour indoor track ultra at the Dome and her experience at her first 48 hour ultra at Icarus.

Making Adjustments at the Dome

For the veteran of over 40 ultramarathons, including Badwater 135 a few times, running in the Dome was tough.

"This was the hardest race I have done. The pounding on the same muscles for 24 hours was really hard. I am going to strategize and figure how to change my pace to save my muscles for a repeated track race."

Accustomed to heat and humidity, running on a track around an ice skating rink in the cold Dome presented some challenges.

"I love heat and humidity. I was cold from the start to the finish. I think I will dress more appropriately next time. Breathing was harder for me and I was constantly cold. I wore layers but not enough."

But Pamela made some adjustments.

"Every race involves adjustments. Like George Patton once said, the battle plan goes out the window once the shooting starts. In this particular race, due to the constant and unremitting cold (55 degrees), continual adjustments were made like adding jackets, heat packs, and electrolytes, which was difficult. The air quality was very cold. You could hear noisy hockey players practicing through out the day."

I asked Pamela what she enjoyed the least and most about running on an indoor track, the toll it took on her body, and if she slept.

"The indoor track is a controlled environment. There is no rain, no wind. I enjoyed knowing I could eat when I wanted and use the restroom anytime. The difficulty is that the track surface was extremely hard. I did not nap or sleep at all."

For Pamela sleep is not part of the equation to her success.

"In a 100 mile/24 hour/135-mile race, sleep never happens. When chasing national, world, and course records, sleep is a luxury that I cannot afford. Sleep is what happens when the race is over and hopefully the record has been captured. So, of course, I did not sleep at all. I was extremely nauseated around 90 miles and sat down for about ten minutes."

Sleep-deprived and Setting Records

Despite being cold and sleep-deprived at the Dome, Pamela went on to place first female and set an USATF age record, and to place second overall with 118.7622 miles in the 24 hour event at the Dome.

She also set a few other records. She ran 100K in 10:47, a new USATF age record. She ran 70 miles in 12 hours and set a USATF and world record in her age group.

Pamela crossing the finish at Six Days at the Dome 24 hour
indoor track ultra August 2019.

"I was so surprised when I finished 1st place female. I did not keep track of where I was during the race in comparison to the other runners. I was focused on chasing and trying to break my own all-time USA 24 hour record. I knew I had done extremely well once I hit 50 Miles. I PR’d with my 50 Mile, 100K, 12 Hour which I won a World Record, 100 Mile, and then 24 hour winning the USATF Record and pushing it up by 10 miles."

Pam, who trains on roads, never trained on a track for this event and her body paid a physical price,

"The toll was enormous. That race killed my body. I had horrible back and hip pain from using the same muscles over and over. I never have been so sore."

In Her Element and a USATF Record at Icarus

While her recovery from the toll of setting multiple records in the Dome was tough, she didn't slack off and take it easy.

Instead Pamela went out to run 80—100 miles a week to train for her first 48 hour ultra at the Icarus Florida Ultrafest two months after her triumphs at the Dome.

Last November at the Icarus 48 hour ultra in Florida, Pamela was in her element - heat and humidity. And running circles around a .621-mile loop was fun.

"It was a very beautiful loop and it had trees and monkeys and wildlife. We saw coyotes and the weather was in the 70s which is my favorite."

Her goal was to reach 200 miles but blood pressure medication she'd taken seven days prior made her sleepy. But not sleepy enough to stop Pamela was logging 185.97 miles and setting a new 48 hour ultra USATF record in her age group.

At the awards ceremony at the Icarus Ultra Fest November 2019

Her record setting miles at Icarus also took a toll on her mind and body but, like the Energizer bunny, she just kept pushing through.

"It took a huge toll! My body hurt badly but I flew home and worked the next day! I could hardly move! I remember whining a lot because of the pain! My pain was not gone for a week. My mind was so fuzzy. I had a tough time sleeping and recovering for sure."

During the race at Icarus her husband Spencer stepped in.

"My husband pulled me off the course and made me sleep for 45 minutes on the second night. I was so behind on food and hydration and I was a little crazy."

Pamela offers the following advice for anyone thinking of running a 48 hour ultra.

"Run easy your first 24 and keep it up! Don’t forget to fuel and nap if your brain starts to get crazy!"

On Her Way to Becoming the Most Accomplished Ultrarunner Over 60 in History

Pamela, who is also a grandmother, is definitely not slowing down. She's getting faster, covering more miles, and setting more USATF records, and on her way to setting more world records in her age group. What's her secret?

"I don’t know that I have a secret that nobody knows about. I just feel very blessed to do what I believe is my ultimate purpose in life at this stage of my life. I train hard, do the work, push through pain, and try to live a healthy life every day, consistent with my goal of becoming the most accomplished ultrarunner over 60 in history. No matter what, I just keep moving forward, rest, have good recovery, and keep moving forward! Those are my secrets."

Her faith and thinking about her blessings as she logs grueling record setting miles keeps Pamela putting one foot in front of the other.

"My strong faith keeps me going and I think about how grateful I am for all the blessings I have in my life."

Pamela has a busy ultrarunning schedule in 2020.

"I plan to run Jackpot 100, the three Badwater races - Cape Fear, Salton Sea, Badwater 135 and Keys 100. I am looking for one in June. I am applying for the Spartathlon in Greece, maybe the Dome and Icarus again."

Pamela is taking a little break from running and will be speaking at the National Running Show in Birmingham, UK January 25 - 26.

"I am speaking two days and am so excited! My one lecture will be about the aging athlete and the other is about running Badwater 135."

All photos courtesy of Pamela Chapman Markle.

Copyright 2020

Visit Pamela's website

I am the author of Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. You can order the book here from from the publisher, Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble.

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