Meeting Nikki Kimball
While watching ultra running documentaries about a month ago, I was introduced to Nikki Kimball, an American ultra marathoner. Not only did she pick a doozy for her first 100-miler, but she finished as first female at that 2004 Western States 100 – no small feat. She was also the winning female at the 2006 and 2007 Western States 100’s.
From roads to trails, marathons to ultras, snowshoes to skis, Nikki has done it all while excelling at a national level. For seven years, she remained undefeated in the ultramarathon distance; and at 47 years old, Nikki remains competitive with a second place finish at this year’s Hardrock 100.
A physical therapist from Bozeman, Montana, Nikki often jokingly says that she does things in her quest for ultra excellence that she wouldn’t recommend to her patients. Watch the documentary and you’ll understand what she’s talking about…
About the Documentary, Finding Traction
Finding Traction is a documentary about Nikki Kimball’s attempt to beat the record of running Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail in 4 days, 12 hours, 45 minutes, and 58 seconds set by Jonathan Basham in 2009.
The documentary follows Nikki and her crew during the ups and downs of her attempt to run almost ten and a half marathons back-to-back on steep and treacherous trails both in daylight and darkness. During breaks, Nikki’s emotions ran from high to low in a matter of minutes as she dealt with sleep deprivations and exhaustion.
Nikki chose to have a crew of about thirty people as she began her quest to break the onerous speed record. Not only did she have a doctor, massage therapist, ultra coach, and her best friend/training partner along with her on the journey to help with logistics, but her friends also served as pacers for various legs of the run providing her with support and encouragement when times got rough.
Bacon, Bacon, and More Bacon
With a goal of running 70 miles a day, fuel was a major factor in her planning. When her childhood best friend, now doctor, asked Nikki what foods she needed, Nikki replied, “Bacon, more bacon, eggs, cheese, and cheeseburgers.” One of my favorite lines was when Nikki turned to leave a refueling stop and patted her shorts pocket as she said, “I have a bacon pocket.”
Raising Money for Girls on the Run
Nikki chose Girls on the Run as the non-profit she wanted to support because in Nikki’s words, “Girls on the Run gets girls exposed to running at an early age.” She wanted other women to be able to experience the joys she’s experienced while running, and bringing attention to a national organization seemed like just the way to do that.
Through her own attempt to break the Vermont’s Long Trail speed record, not just the women’s record, Nikki hoped to show that women can set their sights high and dream to accomplish great things.
When Nikki was facing a particularly challenging and emotional time during the later stages of her record-breaking attempt, a local Girls On the Run coach stopped by to thank Nikki for bringing attention to GOTR. That short visit was the motivation Nikki needed to get up off her chair and continue running.
How’d She Do?
Nikki finished the grueling 273-mile trek in 5 days, 7 hours, 42 minutes on August 18, 2012. She wasn’t able to break Basham’s record, but she was able to break the female record set by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2007. It’s worth noting the Jennifer set her record as a self-supported runner where Nikki had a full crew.
Records are Made to be Broken
On July 31, 2018, pro triathlete Alyssa Godesky broke Nikki’s record with a time of 5 days, 2 hours, and 37 minutes. Like Nikki, Alyssa ran with a crew supporting her along the way. Now that Vermont’s Long Trail is on my radar, it will be interesting following along and seeing how long it takes for another record to be broken.
Current Vermont’s Long Trail Speed Record Standings
- Supported Men’s Record – 2009 – Jonathan Basham – 4 days, 12 hours, 45 minutes, and 58 seconds
- Self-Supported Men’s Record – 2010 -Travis Wildeboer – 6 days, 17 hours, and 25 minutes
- Supported Women’s Record – 2018 – Alyssa Godesky – 5 days, 2 hours, and 37 minutes
- Self-Supported Women’s Record – 2007 – Jennifer Pharr Davis – 7 days, 15 hours, and 40 minutes
- Have you run an ultra? If so what distance? ~ I ran the JFK 50-Miler in 1997.
- Have you heard of Girls On The Run? ~ I ran as a GOTR buddy runner with my friend Craig’s daughter in 2009.
- New England readers – have you hiked or run on Vermont’s Long Trail?