Q&A with Obstacle Racer Amelia Boone, the Modern Masochist

Photo: Chad Riley

Between her athletic prowess and her job as a corporate attorney for Apple, Amelia Boone is a quintessential competitor. The 32-year-old lanky blonde from San Jose, Calif., with a high tolerance for suffering ran her first Tough Mudder obstacle race in 2011 and was hooked. She won the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour race, in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Plus she was the Spartan Race World Champion in 2013, a three-time Death Race Finisher and recently placed second at the Sean O’Brien 100K, her longest ultra so far. These days, Boone says she is happiest when out on the trails.

You recently said you feel like you’re a runner. Why?

What I realized is that I loved obstacle racing, but my favorite part was the mountain courses and running up and down mountains. I like to run to see pretty things. Every run is an adventure to go see a sunrise or something fun.

What was your motivation for jumping into ultrarunning?

I don’t ever take the easy way. I’ve never been a person to want the participation trophy. If I’m going to push my body to those extremes, I want a carrot. Running the Sean O’Brien 100K, I didn’t know if I could qualify for the Western States 100, but I decided to see. Having that motivation is cool for me. If it means I fall flat on my face, then I fall flat on my face. I don’t want to play it safe.

What do you think about the growth of obstacle course racing?

Like any young sport that’s growing, it has an identity crisis, with people clamoring for standardization and pulling it in different directions. I got into obstacle racing because of the unknown component—I liked that every course and the obstacles were different. I don’t want that standardization. But some feel it’s necessary to make it a fully sanctioned sport.

Is your ability to suffer your best attribute?

I definitely think so. As races get longer, the mental part becomes more important than the physical part. There are certain people who have the ability to turn off that pain mechanism. That could be how I ran myself into a femoral stress fracture, because I don’t regulate the pain as well. There is a certain something special among endurance athletes and their willingness to suffer.

What’s the best racing advice you’ve received?

I don’t remember who told me this but it’s something I ask myself all the time. “If it’s not making you happy, why are you doing it? Are you enjoying this? Is this making you smile? Are you happy?” Especially for someone like me, with a full-time job outside of racing, this is supposed to enhance my life, not add to my stress. The moment I’m not having fun racing anymore is the moment I won’t.

Did you have any rookie mistakes in obstacle course racing?

The 2011 World’s Toughest Mudder was held in New Jersey in December. It was cold, and you basically end up running in a wetsuit for 24 hours. I had no wetsuit experience, and learned the hard way that you should never ever, wear a thong under a wetsuit if you are wearing one for 24 hours. I didn’t understand how bad chafing could be. The chafing is real. I also didn’t bother to lube anything. It was about a week before I could sit down.

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