Olympic marathoner Magda Boulet looks to dominate at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc
One of the hallmarks of champions is their insatiable quest for a challenge.
Magda Boulet, a 2008 Olympic marathoner and team bronze medalist at the World Cross Country Championships in 2010 and 2011, is enjoying a successful second act in the world of ultrarunning.
Her sights are aimed squarely on the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, taking place Labor Day weekend in Chamonix, France. Widely considered the crown jewel of ultrarunning, the 171-kilometer UTMB circumnavigates the famous mountain. Conditions can include heat, snow and rain.
"She's the only one I'm paying attention to," says Mario Fraioli, running coach and writer behind, "The Morning Shakeout." "She's looking healthy, running well and is an experienced champion of the sport."
This year, nobody would be surprised to see her take the top spot.
Boulet certainly has the goods to do it, says legendary coach Jack Daniels, who worked with her for about a decade in the early 2000s.
"She has an inherent ability," he says. "She's built for endurance sports. She also has the motivation, and both have come together well for her."
Boulet got her athletic start as a swimmer in her native Poland before immigrating to the United States in 1991. An All-American career on the track at UC Berkeley set her up for success on the roads and in cross-country after graduation. She still brings that experience to her training, even in prep for ultras.
"I don't say no to any surface," she says. "Plus, roads and the track can serve as an avenue to get to trails."
While she's a fierce competitor, Boulet, 45, is also someone who appreciates the process as much as the outcome. Finding herself burned out on road racing in 2013, she turned to trails.
"I knew it was time for a change and that I needed more excitement in my training and racing," she says. "I dove into ultras and fell in love. I've never looked back."
She proved herself a good fit for the sport early on and signed with Hoka One One, an athletic shoe company with a focus on trail running, in 2014.
A year later she served notice by winning her debut attempt at the Western States 100-miler, after having served as a pacer the year before.
"The race wasn't perfect -- I went off course at Mile 31 and fell from second to sixth. But my competitive experience helped me focus. The longer I ran, the better I felt," she says.
That win gave her a confidence boost.