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Alyssa Clark ran 95 marathons in 95 days. Her next challenge is to blaze a new trail.

Next challenge after 95 marathons in 95 days
Next challenge after 95 marathons in 95 days 03:17

This month, ultra-marathoner Alyssa Clark will attempt a 335-mile trek – with 50,000 feet of elevation change – on the Pinhoti Trail near the Appalachian Mountains. The feat seems harrowing – but Clark is no stranger to extreme physical challenges. In fact, she's a trailblazer in distance running.

Last year, Clark ran 95 marathons in 95 days – setting a world record.

She started her marathon quest in March 2020. At the start of the pandemic, countries were hit with strict lockdowns and Clark, who lived in Italy with her husband, had to stay inside. That meant running on a treadmill.

She not only ran daily – she ran 26.21 miles each day. "It just kind of became a part of my everyday routine," Clark said. "And with COVID, there was so much kind of disrupted by the every day routine that I think the marathons really gave me structure to my day, they gave me purpose."

Ultra-marathoner Alyssa Clark had to take a break from races when they were canceled during the pandemic. But she didn't stop running long distances. Alyssa Clark/@theory_in_motion

She said her indoor runs were fueled by binge watching mindless reality TV. Once she could run outside again, audiobooks became a go-to – as did Snickers bars. 

Clark had run a marathon every day for about 25 or 30 days when someone told her she was about halfway to the world record – 61 marathons in 61 days. That's when she realized maybe she could keep up the habit and strive to beat the record.

However, as she neared marathon 61, her plans hit a snag. Her husband, who is in the Navy, was being moved back to the U.S. Clark had to leave her job and make a transatlantic move – all while trying to keep up her running streak. 

But instead of adding stress, the marathons helped. "The marathons became a way to bridge that and for me to continue, I think, having some kind of stability and some routine in my life," she said. 

With no commercial flights out of Italy, the couple took a military cargo ship, first to Germany. They landed, Clark slept for a few hours and woke up to – you guessed it – run a marathon. She completed a marathon on a treadmill overnight.

Then, she got some more sleep before continuing the journey to the U.S.

On their way to their new home in Panama City, Florida, she and her husband made several stops in the U.S. – where she of course ran daily marathons. She finished marathon 61 in Charleston, South Carolina, officially breaking the record.

But when they got to Panama City, Clark did not stop running. "I was just on cloud nine, I was so happy," Clark said of surpassing the record.

"It was actually hard to stop the marathons because they were like a weird friend. It was just a companion," she said. "Quite a bit of the reason why I kept going was I wasn't really sure what was on the other side of stopping. Which sounds kind of silly, but also the known is sometimes a lot easier to keep than the unknown, especially when you're facing the unknown."

The marathons helped her through the start of the pandemic and a big move – and she ended up running 95 of them in 95 days, finishing in early July.

About a year later, Clark got some good news. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized her accomplishment. She now holds the record for most consecutive days to run a marathon distance by a woman. 

Clark originally started running the daily marathons because she had trained for races in 2020, and they were all eventually canceled due to the pandemic. Now that races are back on, so is she.

"I'm back to my ultra-marathon career. I did a 100-mile race in Colorado this summer," Clark said. "And actually on Sunday (November 21), I'm starting what's called a fastest known time attempt. It's something we have in the runner's world where it's basically [attempting] the record for a specific trail."

She's attempting a fastest known time for the Pinhoti Trail, which is in Alabama and Georgia, near the start of the Appalachian Mountains. 

"No woman has set a [supported] record on it, there's only men's times," Clark said. Only one woman has attempted the fastest known time for the trail, with a self-supported run lasting more than 10 days. 

A supported run means Clark will have no physical assistance, but can have a team to assist her with things like water. She hopes to complete it in six days, which is on par with many of the men's times. 

"I'm kind of hoping that we can get a woman's time up on the board, that I can encourage other women to go out and go after this record," she said. "That's kind of a big part of my identity as a runner, is encouraging women to go after these big challenges and to encourage them to take on the men's record, take on these challenges that may not seem the easiest."

Clark said that's why she loves ultra-marathons – women can be just as good as men, especially at longer distances. "Why do I think this limit exists? Why do I think I can't go further, I can't go faster? Why can't I be competing with the men? That is something we should be questioning," she said. "We should encourage each other and encourage ourselves to challenge those limits."

Not only is Clark hoping to inspire other women with her trail run, she wants to also help women and girls around the world. She's using her trek to raise money for Free to Run. The organization aims to develop women leaders in regions of conflict by giving women and girls the freedom to safely participate in outdoor sports and activities. 

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