Up-and-coming ultra trail runner Emily Hawgood excited to make her Canadian debut
Zimbabwe native one of the headliners for Quebec's Ultra-Trail Harricana race
“Being out there is my favourite part of the day,” she says. “I feel like it is my sanctuary to be out exploring new places, with the ground under my feet, in the quiet and beauty of all the world holds.”
Although she’d always ran distance events in track, and cross-country throughout school, ultra trail running has been a fairly recent pursuit. And, apparently, it is a good fit.
“I always loved it, and then when I got the opportunity to race against some of the top trail runners from all over the world and didn’t just get left in the dust completely,” she says. “It was pretty fun to think I would be able to toe the line to test the limits until the very last second of a four, eight or even twelve-hour race.”
Currently, Hawgood is entering her second year with the Gauge 20 running team following a collegiate career at the College of Idaho.
She graduated from The College of Idaho in 2017 and then worked a year as an assistant coach as well as a chef and with a group called Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is currently on the road in exploration mode and will be heading to graduate school in September in pursuit of an Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Masters degree.
Last season, she raced in the Skyrunner World Series which is run mainly in Europe over a calendar year and consists of ultra trail running events of a very high calibre. She finished in the top 10.
“Skyrunning is the extreme version of trail running,” Hawgood explains. “Generally a skyrunning race will have a least one ridgeline, with varying degrees of exposure. They are technical, with lots of different types of terrain to run, climb, slide down. The changes in vertical gain and loss are significant over not very long distances. A few races include using chains and ropes, and I’ve even had the chance to cross a couple of glaciers! Skyrunning is a lot of fun!”
Her first ultra race was the Ultra Trail Cape Town 65km in South Africa, where she placed second. After finishing in the top 10 for the Skyrunner World Series in 2018 she finished off the year winning the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km in South Africa.
In America, she won the American River 50 Miler in California and finished third at the Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham, Washington just last weekend.
This summer, she will heading for Quebec. The Ultra Trail Harricana is a 125-km race at the Mont Grand-Fonds ski centre that features top international competitors.
“I have never been, but I have seen pictures and I can hardly wait,” she says.
She has come a long way quickly, considering she only started down this road in 2017 when she was living in Idaho.
“I ran cross-country and track all the way through school and college. I only started trail and endurance running in September 2017,” she says. “I have always loved running, and the possibility of exploring, training and racing in the mountains when I met my coach was just too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Hawgood says, she grew up in the flat farmland of Zimbabwe, Africa, about four hours from the nearest mountain. Her favourite place to run was at the bottom of the farm at the game fence where there were different types of antelope, wild pics and amazing birds.
“I also love running at a place called Lake Kariba, which is where my family and I like to go fishing, there are a few more animals to watch out for, but the islands are amazing to run around out in the middle of the lake,” she says.
But, there is something about running the ridgelines on mountain tops around the world that have won her over.
“I love the varying terrain, and the incredible places they take me, and the wonderful people I get to meet along the way,” she says. “It is a wonderful way to explore the world. Some of the places are remote, and you get to meet, eat and live in the local cultures for the time you are there. I’ve had the opportunity to see beauty in the mountains that I’ll never be able to find the words or take the perfect picture to capture it.”
Asked to name a few of her favourite spots, Hawgood says she loves the mountains in Idaho as well as the volcano and surrounding terrain of the Azores (Portuguese islands) as well as the Table Mountain area in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I travel and find mountains wherever I go! I love that it is always changing,” she says.