Eight Minutes with Ultra Runner Darcy Africa

Darcy_a-photo-2[photo: Owater]

Some days, just getting out the door for a run or a mountain bike ride seems like as much of a grind as going to the office. Throw a kid into the mix and it can feel like a feat of Herculean proportions. As parent-athletes, we know exercise is good for us—we know we need it—but how to squeeze it all in? Sure, you could buy a treadmill and tick off your workouts while watching “Mad Men” (yawn). Or you could take a page from elite ultra runner and full-time mom Darcy Africa, 36, who somehow squeezes in enough trail time each week to prep for 100-mile races—with a three-year-old in the house. If anyone can teach us a thing or two about time management, it’s Boulder-based Africa, who finished second at Colorado’s infamously brutal Hard Rock 100 the past two years and blasted the women’s record in running rim-to-rim-to-rim at the Grand Canyon last April (time: 8:25:26). Below, her secrets for crushing the competition—suffering, strollers, and lots and lots of hand-offs—in eight minutes or less. Because, hey, she’s a busy person. 

How on earth do you find time to train for ultra marathons with a toddler underfoot?
It’s hard. My husband does these thing as well, maybe not as many races, but he does train quite a bit. So it’s tough because we have to do a lot of tag-teaming. That’s really all it is. You go in the morning on Saturday. I’ll go in the afternoon. And you can go in the morning on Sunday. 

How many miles do you run in a week? 
I don’t keep track of anything. Generally. I just get in an hour to two hours a day. I tend to do it by hours. In the heat of training, I’ll do my long runs on weekends, pretty typical to most runners, six or seven hours. I try to do races as training b/c I don’t go out and run 50 miles on my own, so throughout the season I’ll start with a 50K and then build up to two or three 50-milers before a 100 mile race. It’s hard because I sort of I know what type of weekly mileage my competition is doing, and I can’t even come close. They’re getting in 100 mile weeks, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten in 100 mile week. My training is almost similar to someone who’s training for a marathon—only my weekend runs are longer. I’m not able to put in 15 miles on a weekday. I don’t train at that intensity, ever. There’s always that thing in my head where I wonder if I slept less and trained more, maybe I could do better, but I’m not willing to sacrifice certain things—sleep. [Laughter.] It’s all about priorities, and right now my daughter is totally my priority, and I’m totally OK with that. 

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