This Female Ultra Running Coach Will Teach You How To Finish What You Start

It’s super important to be able to finish what you start. To be able to keep going when things get hard and all you want to do is go home.

In this interview, running coach Meghan Arbogast shares how she learned to keep going and finish what she start.

Meghan also shares her best tips on how to become a better ultra runner, her favorite trail shoes, her future plans, and inside tips on how to reach that finish line!

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast
Photo credit: Shiran Kochavi

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a running coach, primarily for ultra runners. I grew up in Oregon but live in Northern California now, close to the Western States 100 trail. I am newly married to Mark Laws, and my name has changed to Meghan Laws. I was married before and have a 30-year old daughter.

Before I became a coach, I have been a number of things like a plant pathologist, a computer programmer, and a massage therapist! I started running in my 20s as a way to get fit after having my child. I did not run in college, and dabbled with hurdles in track. I was more into ball sports, volleyball, and basketball.

Favorite activities are running/hiking, gardening, farming, taking care of our donkeys and goats and cat, and playing flute.

How and why did you get into ultra running?

I started with 5ks as an outlet for my desire to play competitive sports after high school. I preferred to keep going longer and longer rather than try to get faster at the short stuff. I eventually learned about trail running and ultras while running marathons. I gradually increased the distances over the years. In high school, I played volleyball and basketball, and I jumped hurdles in track.

Running didn’t require much equipment or other participants. I could put on my shoes and go. Over time, it became what I loved the most.

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast
Photo credit: Brian Beckstead

Why is ultra running important for you?

Running is my physical challenge and mental nourishment. I love being outside and I love the movement of running. For me, it is important to feel connected to the earth and to other beings.

I think where I live in Northern California is the best. Not only is the Western States trail practically in my back yard, but there are numerous trails to choose from. Before I lived here, there was great running up in Oregon as well. Outside of the US, I love running in New Zealand and in France in the mountains.

How do you train and become better at ultra running?

I run outside on the trails near where I live. I write my own program and coach others. I think my running helps my coaching more than the other way around.

As for my training program, I generally follow a hard/easy plan – easy days MWF, Tuesday is a long run, Thursday is a speed day, then Saturday and Sunday are usually both long.

What are the hardest parts of ultra running?

I think just the overall volume of training leading up to a 100 mile race feels hard by the time it’s time to taper. I have the mentality to keep going until you hit the finish line, no matter what, provided I’m not physically in any danger.

I think I was taught and rewarded from an early age that you finish whatever you start. A tip is – keep moving. Unless you don’t make a cut off, or you are in serious trouble, keep moving. You can! It may not be fast or pretty, but not finishing when you could have stinks.

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast
Photo credit: Ardis Bow

How do you prepare for events and races?

I don’t cross train other than my farm chores. I do practice with different hydration systems as they come out as well as nutritional products. I really plan for Western States every June, and any races before or after are because of the allure of place or history of race.

How do you eat and sleep?

I eat everything. Okay, I don’t have any banned foods, but I do eat very healthy. Whole foods based, animal proteins and fats, big salads, lots of veggies, some fruits, beer and wine. I sleep 8-10 hours a night. I travel well enough. I take iron and Maca root.

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

I’ve been pretty injury free for about nine years. I have a good physical therapist that helped address issues that brought on injury and through her and her educating me I’ve stayed healthy.

I have a little trigger point ball in my car that I sit on when I’m driving to loosen up tight hips or hamstrings.

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast
Photo credit: Jeff Kozak

What is your best advice people new to ultra running?

I see people signing up for too many races and going up in distance too quickly and getting injured and or burned out.

I would recommend that people should increase distances only as fast as there bodies allow – they need to be aware of how their body is responding to training and be able to back off if things start hurting.

I’d say the recommended number of races for new runners would be two in the first year if they are ultras, and those should only be 50k.

Best advice for people who have been ultra running for years?

I guess, don’t close your mind to new science or new products or different races.

How do you balance normal life with ultra running?

10-20 hours per week. I’m in my 50s so have lots of freedom and I don’t have a 9-5 job and I don’t have to commute. I’m semi-retired so money isn’t an issue and I don’t have to work full time to support myself. I don’t really miss anything because my life is centered around this sport.

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast

What kind of running shoes, vest, and clothes do you use?

Altra Superior is my favorite trail shoe. I have two pairs of Altra Superior, two pairs of Lone Peaks. 1 pair of Escalante. In the winter, I wear tights or capris and long sleeves and jackets. In the summer, just shorts and sports bra. I have a Nathan VaporHowe vest. The fit is really comfortable.

Ultra Runner Meghan Arbogast
Photo credit: Caren Wick

What will the future bring?

I’m Western States centric. My running life centers around this one event. All the others are fun, etc., but they are not my main event. However, I am going to New Zealand to run in the Kepler Challenge 60k this December. I would like to get back into some cross country skiing next winter so I spend more time at altitude.

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