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SALT LAKE CITY — While many of us are busy making New Year's resolutions, Utah ultrarunner Jennilyn Eaton looks back at 2013 and asks, “When can I do that again?”
Eaton, a mother of two young boys, always knew she loved to run. Having begun running on her high school cross-country team, Eaton confesses that she was never very fast. Not being at the top of her team didn't deter her from the love of running.
“I’ve never liked running fast,” Eaton admitted, and went on to say that it was the continuous motion of running long distances that she loved.
This love of motion has suited Eaton very well in many athletic endeavors.
Also a rock climber, Eaton spent many years in the mountains. For nearly a decade, she spent much of her days hooked to carabiners and ropes, hanging on cliff faces and climbing unthinkable heights.
After years of being a devoted rock climber, Eaton described having an “epiphany one day at the crag.” She didn’t want to be there. “Why should I spend a whole day doing a sport I don’t want to participate in?” she asked herself.
I've never liked running fast, but I enjoy the continuity in motion; the imperfect redundancy of the same movement altered by the trail, the vertical gain, the mountains.
–Jennilyn Eaton, ultrarunner
“I didn’t want to climb anymore,” Eaton said. “Just like that I took off, rocking the jean cut-offs, and ran up the canyon as fast as I could. When the dirt road ended, I found a trail and kept climbing. After that the trails were all I wanted to do — it was free, private, fantastic. Even though I’d been running and climbing both for more than a decade, it was that day that I became a runner.”
And run she did, skipping casual running and going straight into ultrarunning.
When marathoners are crossing the 26.2-mile finish line, Eaton is just warming up. In fact, she joked it takes her 40 miles (not minutes) to warm up.
“I am stubborn, fierce and sometimes crazy. Ultrarunning suits those temperaments," Eaton said. "I’ve never liked running fast, but I enjoy the continuity in motion; the imperfect redundancy of the same movement altered by the trail, the vertical gain, the mountains. … I like to discover places, people, myself — ultrarunning also allows for that discovery and connection.”
Not only does Eaton run far, but she is also among the top in her sport. In 2013, she won first place in the Antelope Island 100K, with a time of 10:06, and now holds the FKT (fastest known time) for the Utah Triple Crown (31 miles of treacherous terrain) with a time of 8:46.30.
She and her husband, Ben, have even co-founded the Idaho Mountain Festival at the City of Rocks and Castle Rocks, Idaho.
Unlike many competitive athletes, however, Eaton doesn't run for first-place finishes, titles or even to compete against others. Eaton wants to push her own limits to see what she is capable of, and if that means running 100 miles just because she wants to, so be it.
In November, Eaton did something she promised herself many years ago that she would do; she ran the White Rim, which is a 100-mile loop in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park near Moab.
Along with her pacer, Craig Lloyd of trailandultrarunning.com, and her crew consisting of her husband, Ben, and friend, Matt Williams, Eaton reached her goal of completing the 100-mile distance in what is now the fastest known time by a woman: 21:52. This was done without signs, banners, bells or even cheers. In fact, the finish line was non-existent and was only marked by the crew car, with her husband and friend fast asleep, having accidentally slept through her arrival.
Eaton preferred it that way.
According to a race report published by Lloyd, he wrote, “For Jennilyn this experience was about something deeper than just a fastest known time, it was personal and defining ….”
As Eaton looks forward to 2014, she will be reminiscent of all that 2013 brought. And with a smile on her face and her motion-filled stride, she thinks, “When can I do that again?”
To read more about Eaton, you can visit her blog at http://jennilyneaton.blogspot.com.
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by Arianne, "like" her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @arimom5, or visit her blog, timetofititin.com. If you have a story to share, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org