The Heart of the Matter - Page 6
Photo by Justin Bailie.
It’s 4:45 in the morning. Inside the main lodge at the Willamette Pass ski area in the western Oregon Cascades, a tall woman with long brown legs and short dark-blonde hair, floppy like a boy’s, is standing at the top of the staircase talking into a walkie-talkie. She’s wearing a down puffy coat and a short white running skirt with the Waldo 100K logo printed at the hemline. A group of runners pinning on bibs and adjusting headlamps on the stairs catcall up to her, and grinning like an imp, she turns and lifts the back of her skirt to expose her butt clad in spankies printed with 100-dollar bills.
The hooting that follows carries all the way out to the start line of Waldo 100K, a race held in the Oregon’s rugged western cascades each august. The woman, Meghan Arbogast, laughs and runs down the stairs to hand out hugs and pep talks for the race, which, after having won it twice, she is now helping to organize.
Ken Ward who organizes the McDonald Forest 50K in Corvallis, Oregon, Arbogast’s hometown, calls her “The Queen” of ultrarunning. It’s a nickname that others in the ultrarunning community have adopted for the 51-year-old who continues to grow stronger and faster as she ages.
Arbogast began running after the birth of her daughter, ruby, in 1987. She ran her first marathon, Portland, in 1994 finishing in 3:10. She has since raced in the Olympic qualifiers for the marathon distance four times, and holds a personal record of 2:45:43 from the 2007 Cal international marathon in California. She ran her first ultra race, the McKenzie river 50K, in 1996, finishing sixth. Trail running has had her heart ever since.
“I’ve been fortunate. I have good genes and my body is holding up really well,” says arbogast. “I think we overestimate the effect of age, and underestimate our ability to control our overall health. For me, it’s become much more about paying attention to my body and how it responds to training and stressors.”