Meet Devon Yanko. On August 19, 2017 she won the Leadville Trail 100 – a race where 9,200 feet altitude is the lowest you’ll experience on the course.
She finished in 20:46:29, averaging 12:28 per mile – a half hour ahead of her nearest competitor.
With nearly 16,000 feet of elevation change through Colorado’s gnarliest mountain terrain, the course is so difficult that in most years, less than half of the field finishes the race.
Having run in similar places, I can vouch for how strenuous this terrain can be (even for experienced runners). With precious air at a costly premium, the steep grades and uneven footing make traversing these trails a form of slow-motion torture.
Going uphill burns the lungs after just a few steps. Each muscle contraction seems to draw double the amount of oxygen to fuel their movements.
Running downhill isn’t much better. The rocky terrain is a nightmare for those with weak ankles.
Try running fast on a technical downhill trail after running for 3+ hours (in the dark, no less). It’s terrifying.
To win Leadville is like single-handedly winning the World Series or the Superbowl.
With a course and altitude like this, it’s not hard to imagine why:
Leadville is one of the top ultramarathons in the world. Winning it is a career-defining moment for trail runners.
But for Devon, it’s just one more race on her long list of achievements:
- 3 time member of the USATF 100k National Team including 2009 Gold Medal winning team in Belgium
- 2007 RRCA Marathon National Champion
- 2010 50 mile road National Champion
- 2012 Olympic Trials marathoner (PR of 2:38:55)
- 2011 100k National Champion
- Set Fastest Known Time on the Grand Canyon R2R2R trail with Krissy Moehl in April 2011
- 3rd place at the Two Oceans Marathon (56k)
- 5th in Comrades Marathon (89k, as well as first novice and first American)
- Ran the 3rd fastest trail 100 miler ever for a North American running 14:52 at the 2015 Javelina 100
Not to be outdone, she’s also the owner of M. H. Bread and Butter bakery in San Anselmo, CA with her husband.
Strength Running readers will also be familiar with Devon – she joined eight other elite athletes in sharing her best injury prevention and recovery advice for The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery (it’s free – download it now).
You’re going to love my conversation with Devon – but not just because she’s one of the best long distance runners in the world.
She’s also hilarious.
It doesn’t matter if she’s talking about hitting her head on a rock or playing HORSE, she’s laughing about it.
Devon is a force to be reckoned with and I’m excited to share our interview with you.
Don’t forget to download Devon’s best injury prevention advice here (she’s only had one major injury… ever).
Show Links & Resources
- Devon on Twitter and Instagram
- Devon’s bakery, M. H. Bread and Butter
- The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery (free)
- Devon’s recommended book on sports psychology: The Brave Athlete
- SR Podcast #30 with Leslie Patterson and Simon Marshall, PhD
- Devon’s race report from Leadville
- An iRunFar interview with Devon after the 2016 Western States Endurance Run
Please join me in thanking Devon for sharing her journey at the Leadville 100 this year!