“At the Apex” is a blog series that strives to introduce you to the stories behind the inspirational people on the Topo Apex Crew — a small, yet powerful group of athletes whose outdoor passions intersect with their larger communities in new and exciting ways.
Today we’re chatting with Beth Whitman: globetrotter turned ultramarathoner. Beth walks us through what inspires her running adventures and what it’s like to be at the forefront of a rising trend in middle-aged runners experiencing a rennaissance.
How did you start running?
I first began seriously running in my late 40s after telling myself my whole life I wasn’t a runner. But I travel a lot and wanted a way to stay fit while on the road without having to rely on a hotel’s gym.
I did not enjoy it at all at first. I set a goal to run a marathon for my 50th birthday (Honolulu!) and with having a goal, it gave me a purpose to get serious. I got all the right gear, loaded up my iPod Shuffle with fun music and I was then somehow hooked.
Why do you keep running?
The experience of running that first marathon taught me that I had more fitness ability in me than I had ever imagined and wanted to see what else I was capable of. I ran five marathons that first year, the following year I ran a quadzilla (four marathons in four days) and then the next year I ran Epic5 (five 50Ks in five days on five Hawaiian islands). PS – I’m now the race director for the Epic5 Run!
What advice would you give others who want to start running in their middle age?
I would suggest that new runners of any age be careful and get into the sport slowly. However, don’t let those little niggles stop you. What I don’t think people realize is that you’re going to have some aches and pains to start with but with proper strength training and stretching, those issues don’t stick around for very long and soon you’ll be strong enough to up your distance.
Why do you think this is a growing running demographic?
It seems that running in general is becoming more popular. But I would think there are a lot of reasons for a slightly older demographic to get into it now. For example, as more older people start running, they become role models for those who never thought they could run so the community just keeps growing.
During lockdown, I’m definitely seeing more people talking about starting to run since gyms are closed. And then there’s the fact that many are now empty nesters and have more time on their hands.
What is your favorite running adventure?
Well, I’m a traveler at heart (I run a tour company called WanderTours) so am typically traveling abroad for many months out of the year. Running has given me an extraordinary opportunity to see new cities and villages all over the world by foot. That has been such a gift!
What is your next scheduled running adventure?
All of my races for 2020 have been rescheduled and now my next “scheduled” event is running a 250K seven-day stage race across the Namib Desert in Namibia in April with Racing the Planet. It’s one of four races called the 4 Deserts. After the Namib, I will be running 250K across the Gobi in Mongolia, then the Atacama in Chile and, finally, 250K in Antarctica. These will all take place in 2021.
How has the current pandemic altered your running lifestyle?
Like other runners, most of the events I was registered for in 2020 have been rescheduled for 2021. I didn’t want to stop training so I started making up my own local events.
Starting back in March when things started to shut down in Seattle, I began running every street and alley in my neighborhood of West Seattle. Using a website call CityStrides, I’ve been able to heatmap my runs and determine my routes and what streets and alleys I’ve missed. I know many other people are running every street in their own city but by adding the alleys it’s allowed for even more social distancing!
How did you hear about Topo?
My previous favorite running shoe manufacturer got out of the running business. I knew that I wanted to stick with a minimal, lightweight shoe and started asking my running friends what they recommended. Many of them suggested Topo!
Why do you like Topo shoes?
I’m all about minimalist shoes and Topo has the best variety that work for both road and trail.
What is your favorite Topo shoe model and why?
My favorite Topos are my ST-3s. Right now I’m running more road than trails and there’s nothing better than putting on a pair of these, with their slightly cushy footbed, and heading out on a warm Seattle day to run along the waterfront (or another set of alleys!).
Head over to @bethwhitwa on Instagram to learn more about Beth and follow her global ultrarunning adventures!