Ultra trail runner and adventurer Lizzy Hawker wins the holy grail of epic trail races for the fifth time. This girl has huge cahonas!!
When Lizzy Hawker first entered the famed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a staggering 103-mile race with 31,168 feet of uphill running—more than the equivalent of running up Everest—through the mountains of France, Italy, and Switzerland, it was a simple afterthought to a ten-day climbing vacation. Just ten days before the race, she decided it would be wise to purchase trail running shoes.
“It was my first mountain race,” says the 36-year-old Brit, who now lives in Switzerland. “When I entered in 2005, I had absolutely no idea whether I would even finish. I’d never done anything like that before.”
She did more than finish. She won. Since then, Hawker has won the UTMB an unprecedented five times—a feat that no man or woman has done in a sport where it is difficult to stay uninjured and continually run at the highest levels.
This year’s race was particularly stressful. Strong winds, heavy rain, and snow forced race organizers to shift the course from high passes and shorten the distance to 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) at the last moment. It meant for a faster race, where Hawker’s experience on the course wouldn’t be as much of an advantage. The second-place woman finished 45 minutes off of Hawker’s time. Still hungry to run the full 100 miles, she followed her UTMB finish with a decisive victory weeks later at Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Earlier in 2005, the same year she began making her mark as a top endurance athlete, Hawker was finishing up her Ph.D. in physical oceanography and working for the British Antarctic Survey. She deployed research instruments and conducted data analysis aboard a ship skirting the edges of Antarctica to study climate change, yet her love for mountains kept calling her away from the academic world.
“I realized that I wasn’t cut out to be a research scientist,” reflects Hawker, who altered her life to spend more time in the mountains, either running around them or climbing them. With more time to focus on running, backcountry skiing, and climbing, Hawker began to tap into her incredible endurance with victories at some of sport’s most difficult races. In 2007, she set the record time for running 199 miles between 5,361-meter Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu, Nepal, in a record of three days, two hours, and 36 minutes.
Hawker continued to grow as a runner even while fighting injuries. In 2011, she set the women’s world record for distance run in a 24-hour period with 153.5 miles in Wales. She also bested her time to set the overall record on the Everest run—this time with a time of two days, 23 hours, and 25 minutes. In the same year, Hawker attempted to run the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail only to be thwarted when she lost a pouch carrying her permits and satellite phone.
“I still feel like I have more potential to pull out of myself,” says Hawker. “I’m always thinking that I can do more. It surprises me when I look back at what I’ve done.”
Lizzy Hawker facts
Footloose in the Swiss Alps.
Best ever run
A run around Mont Blanc. 100km in Korea. A run from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu.
Any day I can run – wherever, however, whenever.
If I can – I will.
Favourite Place to Travel
In the mountains or wilderness … with friends.
Home-baked bread, some good cheese, some grapes, and a glass of wine.
How I relax
Losing myself in a good book. Going to the hills. Running.
In my bag
A good book.
Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis – memories of my very first long mountain ultra races
Dreams of a Journey by Nyman – it reminds me of the Antarctic
Where it all began
Falling in love with the Matterhorn at the age of six. It was the birth of a passion and I knew that the mountains and nature were ‘home’.
Little known fact
There is a small and beautiful wooden sailing boat named after me. The other ‘Lizzy Hawker’ lives in the waters of the San Juan Islands beween Seattle and Vancouver Island. She has an adventurous spirit that I only wish I could live up to!
Favourite Quote (one of)
It is easy in world to live after the world’s opinions,
It is easy in solitude to live afer your own.
But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd,
Keeps with perfect sweetness, the independence of solitude.
RALPH WALDO EMERSOM
DreamTo live and be in the mountains.
To share my love of endurance, nature and our envionment.
To try somehow to make a small ‘difference’.
To push myself to my limits and to find the ‘edge’.
To live simply; with humility and recognising our social and environmental responsibility.